U.S. researchers found that magnesium sulfate injected into pregnant women can pretect premature babies from cerebral palsy by the rate of 50 percent, media reported Friday.
Researchers gave either magnesium sulfate, popularly known as Epsom salts, or a placebo to 2,241 women going into early labor or with ruptured membranes. The women's pregnancies were at between 24 to 31 weeks -- a full-term pregnancy goes 40 weeks.
Babies born as prematurely as that can suffer brain damage and other problems including cerebral palsy, a range of conditions that affect control of movement and posture.
The magnesium did not prevent any deaths among the premature babies. But 4.2 percent of the babies born to women given magnesium developed cerebral palsy, versus 7.3 percent of those born to women who got the placebo.
"It is not clear how the magnesium works but it may stabilize the blood vessels, prevent the damage caused by having oxygen cut off and also help prevent immune system damage to the brain,"said Dr. John Thorp, a professor of obstetrics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
One question he had was why magnesium sulfate could protect against cerebral palsy but not the other brain effects of being born prematurely.
(Agencies via Xinhua News Agency February 1, 2008)