Can Placental Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone Inform Timing of Antenatal Corticosteroid Administration?

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Antenatal corticosteroids are commonly administered to pregnant women at risk for delivering between 23 and 34 gestational weeks; they provide crucial benefits to fetal lung maturation and reduce risk for neonatal morbidity and mortality. Corticosteroids are maximally efficacious for lung maturation when administered within 2 to 7 days of delivery. Accurately identifying the timing of preterm delivery is thus critical to ensure that antenatal corticosteroids are administered within a week of delivery and to avoid unnecessary administration to women who will deliver at term. A plausible biomarker for predicting time of delivery is placental corticotropin-releasing hormone (pCRH).


To assess whether pCRH concentrations predict time to delivery and specifically which women will deliver within a week of treatment.


pCRH concentrations were evaluated before administration of the corticosteroid betamethasone, and timing of delivery was recorded.


A total of 121 women with singleton pregnancies who were prescribed betamethasone.


Elevated pCRH concentrations were associated with a shorter time from treatment to delivery. Receiver-operating characteristic curves revealed that pCRH may improve the precision of predicting preterm delivery.


In the current sample, pCRH concentrations predicted the likelihood of delivering within 1 week of corticosteroid treatment. Current findings suggest that pCRH may be a diagnostic indicator of impending preterm delivery. Increasing the precision in predicting time to delivery could inform when to administer antenatal corticosteroids, thus maximizing benefits and reducing the likelihood of exposing fetuses who will be delivered at term.


This article was originally published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, volume 104, issue 2, in 2019.


Oxford University Press