(NaturalNews) Injecting women with magnesium sulfate during a premature birth can reduce the infant's risk of cerebral palsy by nearly 50 percent, according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine.
"This is a real breakthrough," said co-author John Thorp. "These are children who have their whole lives in front of them."
The term cerebral palsy describes a group of movement disorders caused by damage to the brain. While the damage that causes cerebral palsy can occur up to the age of three, it is most common at or around the time of birth. Roughly two or three out of every 1,000 children over the age of three suffer from the condition; nearly one-third of these cases can be attributed to damage caused by premature birth.
Researchers studied 2,241 women whose water broke between the 24th and 31st weeks of pregnancy, qualifying their births as premature.
A full-term delivery is considered to occur after the 36th week of pregnancy.
Magnesium sulfate is a common treatment often used to halt contractions in premature labor, and costs only pennies per dose. The researchers randomly assigned some of the women to receive intravenous magnesium sulfate, while the others were treated with a placebo instead. They found that while the rate of moderate or severe cerebral palsy was 3.5 percent among children of women who received the placebo, it was only 1.9 percent among the magnesium sulfate group - 46 percent lower.
The results were consistent with those of a similar Australian study conducted in 2003.
There were no significant side effects observed among the women taking magnesium sulfate, although some of them did get flushed or sweaty, and experienced a temporary blurring of their vision.
Although it did not occur in the study, some women do experience sever reactions to magnesium sulfate that can lead to respiratory problems.