Treating women who are at risk of delivering prematurely with magnesium sulfate reduces the risk of cerebral palsy, according to a study performed by Dr. Caroline Crowther.

“The new Cochrane review shows there is now evidence to support giving magnesium sulfate therapy to women at risk of very preterm birth to increase their unborn baby’s chance of survival, free of cerebral palsy,” She said.

Using information from five clinical trials that involved 6145 infants who were randomly assigned to treatment of magnesium sulphate or placebo around the time of delivery, they found that magnesium sulphate lowered the risk of cerebral palsy by 32 percent. Treatment was also tied to a 39-percent drop in the rate of major movement disabilities.

Magnesium sulphate therapy did not affect mortality or development of other neurologic impairments in the first years of life. Low blood pressure and rapid heart beat were found to be more frequent in magnesium-treated mothers than in those who were administered a placebo.

According to Lex W. Doyle of the University of Melbourne, magnesium sulfate therapy was associated with a 1.7% risk reduction in cerebral palsy.

“There is now enough evidence to support giving magnesium sulfate to pregnant women at risk of very preterm birth as a protective agent against cerebral palsy for the baby,” Dr. Doyle said.

Preterm infants very often have neurological damage that shows up as cerebral palsy, blindness, deafness or physical disabilities, however, past studies have shown that magnesium sulfate prior to birth might be protective for the fetus.

Research that began in the 1990s showed that the therapy, although not always well tolerated, reduced cerebral palsy in preterm infants, and some studies showed that it reduced the risk of intraventricular hemorrhage and perinatal mortality.

Researchers involved in a study of magnesium sulfate for cerebral palsy showed that complications when administering it as a therapeutic agent were rare. Side effects included flushing, sweating, nausea, vomiting, headaches and palpitations.

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