Premature baby cerebral palsy risk could be reduced with use of epsom salt

Donald Saiontz

By Donald Saiontz
Posted February 5, 2008


A new study indicates that giving an infusion of Epsom salts to a pregnant woman who has gone into early labor could greatly reduce the premature baby’s cerebral palsy risk. Cerebral palsy is a serious disorder which could permanently impact movement control and muscle coordination throughout a child’s life. While cerebral palsy could be caused by a medical mistake which results in damage to the child’s brain during, before or after birth, premature babies generally have an increased risk of cerebral, so the breakthrough research could help many children avoid the devastating disability.

>>INFORMATION: Cerebral Palsy

The results of the study were presented last Thursday at the annual meeting of the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine. Research conducted by John Thorp, a professor of obstetrics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, looked at 2,241 women who went into early labor between week 24 and week 31 of the pregnancy. A full term pregnancy lasts about 40 weeks and a baby born before 37 weeks is generally considered premature.

The study found that for women who received magnesium sulfate, commonly known as Epsom salts, the premature baby’s cerebral palsy risk was nearly half that of those born to women who received a placebo. Magnesium sulfate is an inexpensive and widely available treatment that has been safely used for years to prevent high blood pressure and preterm labor in pregnant women.

Among women who were given the magnesium sulfate, only 4.2% of the babies developed cerebral palsy, compared with 7.3% of the premature babies born to women who received a placebo. About 1.9% of women in the treatment group that received the Epsom salts had babies who developed moderate to severe forms of cerebral palsy, compared to 3.5% of women who did not receive the drug.

Researchers also indicated that the use of magnesium sulfate did not alter the premature baby’s risk of death and it was not associated with any serious side effects. Similar results were reported in a 2003 Australian study, but the confirmation provided by this more recent data gives hope for a safe, easily accessible medication that can help reduce the cerebral palsy risk in premature delivery.

It is not known exactly how the magnesium sulfate works to prevent cerebral palsy. Researchers have hypothesized that it may open up and stabilize the blood vessels in an infant’s brain, making it less vulnerable to damage caused by insufficient oxygen. The researchers are recommending that doctors consider the use of Epsom salts for women who are about to deliver a premature baby, but it is unclear whether the current study will produce an immediate change in common medical practice.


The cerebral palsy lawyers at Saiontz & Kirk, P.A. investigate potential legal claims on behalf of children who have been diagnosed with cerebral palsy which may have been caused by a medical mistake. While not all cases of cerebral palsy are tied to an error, in many cases if a doctor, hospital or medical provider fails to follow the proper standard of medical care, the baby could suffer brain damage during birth resulting in cerebral palsy.

If your child, a friend or family member have been diagnosed with cerebral palsy or another birth injury, you can review the circumstances surrounding the pregnancy and delivery to help determine if financial compensation may be available for the child. There are no fees or expenses unless a recovery is obtained for the child. Request a free cerebral palsy claim evaluation.

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