Study Finds Preterm Cerebral Palsy Risk May Be Reduced With Magnesium Sulfate Use During Pregnancy

Researchers suggest that magnesium sulfate taken by expecting mothers may prevent preterm cerebral palsy by stabilizing blood flow to the fetus's brain.

The findings of a new study indicate that infants born to women who take magnesium sulfate during pregnancy face a lower risk of developing cerebral palsy, which is a life-long disability that impacts movement, muscle tone and posture.

In a report published in the journal Cochrane Database for Systematic Reviews, Australian researchers found that magnesium sulfate not only reduces the risk of cerebral palsy, but also decreases the likelihood of brain bleeding in newborns.

Magnesium sulfate is widely used to prevent cerebral palsy during pregnancy, both in the U.S. and internationally. But there’s no research to indicate specific benefits, dosing and timing, so many patients may not be taking the vitamin or at the best dose to protect the fetus.

In this new study, team of researchers led by Dr. Emily S. Shepherd, from the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) in Adelaide, Australia, focused on reviewing studies from the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirths Trials Register and the World Health Organization’s International Clinical Trials Registry.

The review included randomized control trials conducted since 2009, when an earlier study suggested magnesium sulfate helped prevent preterm cerebral palsy.

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The new research includes six studies conducted in high-income countries with more than 5,900 women and 6,700 fetuses. They tested different treatment groups, where the mothers were given different amounts of magnesium sulfate at different weeks of pregnancy. It also included school-age follow-up data for children.

The study concluded that taking magnesium sulfate during pregnancy may decrease the risk the infant is born with cerebral palsy and help reduce the risk of brain bleeding in the infant.

Magnesium Sulfate Side Effects

Despite the positive protective benefits with helping prevent preterm cerebral palsy, researchers determined that magnesium sulfate may increase the risks of certain side effects in some pregnant women, which may be severe enough to stop treatment.

The side effects included high blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, warmth over the body or body flushing, nausea, vomiting, sweating, and dizziness. However, the side effects did not include a risk of severe complications, such as death or cardiac arrest.

“The currently available evidence indicates that magnesium sulphate for women at risk of preterm birth for neuroprotection of the fetus, compared with placebo, reduces cerebral palsy, and death or cerebral palsy, in children up to two years’ corrected age, and probably reduces severe intraventricular haemorrhage for infants,” Dr. Shepherd and the researchers reported. “While magnesium sulphate may result in little to no difference in severe maternal outcomes (death, cardiac arrest, respiratory arrest), it probably increases maternal adverse effects severe enough to stop treatment.”

A prior study published in the journal Implementation Science indicated magnesium sulfate helped prevent cerebral palsy in children when given to pregnant women just before delivery. If given to the mother between 32 to 34 weeks, it helped decrease the risk of cerebral palsy by 32%.

Yet another study published in 2021, also by researchers from SAHMRI in Australia, indicated that magnesium sulfate could begin providing protective benefits as early as 30 weeks into gestation.

Dr. Shepherd indicated magnesium sulfate may work by stabilizing the blood pressure of the mother during pregnancy and helping with blood flow to the brain of the fetus.

However, Dr. Shepherd and her team indicated more studies are needed to determine exactly how magnesium sulfate works to help prevent cerebral palsy in preterm babies, as well as the long-term benefits or side effects for mothers and children through school-age, adolescence, and adulthood.

Cerebral Palsy Birth Injury Lawsuits

Cerebral palsy is a neurological disorder that may be attributed to brain damage suffered before, during or shortly after birth. If the child’s brain is deprived of oxygen around the time of birth, it can result in irreversible damage that leaves the child with developmental problems, loss of motor functions and other life-long injuries and disabilities.

In many cases, cerebral palsy is caused by a medical mistake, where the child’s brain was deprived of oxygen at, during or before birth, as the jury determined happened in the case of the Drake family.

While cerebral palsy may occur without an error, when the exercise of the proper standards of medical care could have prevented the child’s brain from being deprived of oxygen, parents may be able to obtain financial compensation through a cerebral palsy lawsuit, including benefits to provide life-long treatments required by the disability.

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