Epsom salt prevents cerebral palsy

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: April 10th, 2008
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Pregnant women have enough to worry about as their due date approaches. And those at high risk for going into labor prematurely face the added worry their newborns will suffer dangerous complications.

But a new study shows giving women magnesium sulfate… better known as Epsom salt… just before delivery can halve the rate of one of those complications… cerebral palsy, or C-P.

C-P is a group of physical disorders caused by a brain problem or injury in utero, at birth or within the first three years of life.

Nearly twenty-three-hundred women across the United States participated in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study. All were at high risk for giving birth prematurely.

A full-term pregnancy is forty weeks. Participants were between twenty-four and thirty-one weeks. Just before they delivered they were randomly given I-Vs of either magnesium sulfate or a placebo.

The results for magnesium sulfate were impressive. Severe or moderate C-P occurred half as often in the newborns whose mothers received the compound rather than the placebo. Even though they’re not sure how it works, scientists believe magnesium sulfate affects blood flow in the fetal brain and prevents brain damage.

Researchers who led the study said it’s one of the biggest breakthroughs in managing high-risk pregnancies in more than thirty years. And there’s more good news. Magnesium sulfate is inexpensive and, because it’s given to pregnant women during childbirth for other reasons, it’s readily available in most delivery rooms throughout the United States.