Paediatric Drugs

, Volume 3, Issue 9, pp 629–637 | Cite as

Management of the Extremely Preterm Infant

Is the Replacement of Estradiol and Progesterone Beneficial?
Current Opinion


This review presents data to suggest that postnatal estradiol and progesterone replacement therapy may be beneficial in preterm infants. During pregnancy, maternal plasma levels of estradiol and progesterone increase up to 100-fold compared to the nonpregnant status. The fetus is also exposed to these increasing hormone levels. After delivery, estradiol and progesterone levels drop by a factor of 100 within 1 day. Whereas this is a physiological condition for an infant born at term, preterm delivery means withdrawal from the placental supply of these hormones at an earlier developmental stage. Seventy years ago, the idea was raised that preterm infants may benefit from the replacement of estrogens. Studies in which estrogen was injected subcutaneously showed only a slightly better bodyweight gain compared to placebo-treated controls and therefore routine use was not established. The effective treatment of postmenopausal osteoporosis with hormone replacement therapy led to a pilot study of estradiol and progesterone therapy to prevent osteopenia of prematurity. The highest median bone mineral accretion rate was found in the replacement group when the supplementation with calcium and phosphorus was also sufficient. None of the previous studies dealing with estrogen replacement controlled for achieved plasma levels of estradiol in the infants. In our controlled randomised pilot study with 30 preterm infants (15 in each group), we aimed to maintain intra-uterine plasma levels of estradiol and progesterone. Preterm infants with replacement of estradiol and progesterone for 6 weeks postnatally showed trends to higher bone mineral accumulation. In addition, a trend towards a lower incidence of chronic lung disease was found. Neurodevelopmental follow-up showed normal psychomotor development in infants given estradiol and progesterone, whereas the untreated infants (controls) showed a trend towards delayed development. Recent research emphasises that estradiol and progesterone may be important for brain development. Thus, while there is data indicating that postnatal estradiol and progesterone replacement therapy may be beneficial in preterm infants, experience with this new therapy is limited and extensive research is needed to address the potential benefits and to rule out adverse effects.


Progesterone Estradiol Preterm Infant Stratum Corneum Uterine Volume 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Adis International Limited 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Section of Neonatology and Paediatric Critical Care Medicine, Children’s HospitalUniversity of UlmUlmGermany
  2. 2.Clinical PharmacyUniversity of UlmUlmGermany

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