Glucocorticoid exposure of sheep at 0.7 to 0.75 gestation augments late-gestation fetal stress responses

Matthias Schwab, Turhan Coksaygan, Florian Rakers, Peter W. Nathanielsz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Objectives: Exposure to glucocorticoid levels inappropriately high for current maturation alters fetal hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPAA) development. In an established fetal sheep model, we determined whether clinical betamethasone doses used to accelerate fetal lung maturation have persistent effects on fetal HPAA hypotensive-stress responses. Study Design: Pregnant ewes received saline (n = 6) or betamethasone (n = 6); 2 × 110 μg/kg body weight doses injected 24 hours apart (106/107 and 112/113 days' gestational age, term 150 days). Basal adrenocorticotropin (ACTH) and cortisol and responses to fetal hypotension were measured before and 5 days after the first course and 14 days after the second course. Results: Basal ACTH and cortisol were similar with treatment. HPAA responses to hypotension increased after the second but not first course and ACTH/cortisol ratio increased indicating central HPAA effects. Conclusions: Results demonstrate latency in the emergence of fetal HPAA hyperresponsiveness following betamethasone exposure that may explain hyperresponsiveness in full-term but not preterm neonates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)253.e16-253.e22
JournalAmerican Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2012


  • fetus
  • hypotension
  • hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis
  • lung maturation
  • prematurity
  • prenatal glucocorticoids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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