There is no evidence that corticosteroids result in an increased incidence of congenital abnormalities, such as cleft palate / lip in man. However, when administered for prolonged periods or repeatedly during pregnancy, corticosteroids may increase the risk of intra-uterine growth retardation. Hypoadrenalism may, in theory, occur in the neonate following prenatal exposure to corticosteroids but it is usually resolved spontaneously following birth and is rarely clinically important. As with all drugs, corticosteroids should only be prescribed when the benefits to the mother and child outweigh the risks. When corticosteroids are essential however, patients with normal pregnancies may be treated as though they were in the non-gravid states.
Adrenal insufficiency can be difficult to diagnose. Your doctor will begin by asking about your medical history and about any obvious symptoms you are experiencing. Tests that measure the levels of cortisol and aldosterone are used to make a definite diagnosis and include the following:
ACTH Stimulation Test: This is the most specific test for diagnosing adrenal insufficiency. Blood cortisol levels are measured before and after a synthetic form of adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH), a hormone secreted from the anterior pituitary, is given by injection.
The clinical presentation of adrenal insufficiency is variable, depending on whether the onset is acute, leading to adrenal crisis, or chronic, with symptoms that are more insidious and vague. Therefore, the diagnosis of adrenal insufficiency depends upon a critical level of clinical suspicion. Adrenal crisis should be considered in any patient who presents with peripheral vascular collapse (vasodilatory shock), whether or not the patient is known to have adrenal insufficiency. Likewise, isolated corticotropin (ACTH) deficiency, although rare, should be considered in any patient who has unexplained severe hypoglycemia or hyponatremia. (See "Clinical manifestations of adrenal insufficiency in adults" .)