A study done in 1996 to 1998 in Georgia examined the correlation between prenatal exposure to magnesium sulfate and a reduced risk of cerebral palsy. This correlation was being studied because of other prenatal uses for magnesium sulfate. During my MAT program, I remember taking the required special education class and learning about all the different ways children can be affected prenatally. Besides environmental factors and genetics, one of the biggest risks to unborn children is maternal illness.
Magnesium sulfate has been used to treat neonatal brain injury associated with maternal inflammation or maternal infection. However, further investigation by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine found that more could be done with magnesium sulfate and they released the opinion that "available evidence suggests that magnesium sulfate given before anticipated preterm birth reduces the risk of cerebral palsy in surviving infants." In the study done in Georgia, it was found that prenatal exposure magnesium sulfate did indeed decrease the risk of cerebral palsy in the infants born with very low birth weight and with the risk of mental retardation.
Another study was done by the New England Journal of Medicine also studied the effects of magnesium sulfate when it was used to stop preterm labor. What they found was that mothers who received magnesium sulfate through an IV to stop preterm birth didn’t form any negative side effects. The children were not at risk of stillbirth or infant death before the age of one. They also found that magnesium sulfate was linked to a 45% reduced risk that a child would be diagnosed with moderate to severe cerebral palsy by age two.
Half of the mothers in the study were given placebos instead of magnesium sulfate and the results were that most of the children didn't develop cerebral palsy, no matter what group. However, 1.9% of the children in the magnesium sulfate group did eventually develop CP, compared to 3.5% of the children in the placebo group who did develop it by the age of two. Though the percentages are low, they do show that magnesium sulfate can be used to prevent the chances of cerebral palsy in children with very low birth weight and risk of MR by prenatal exposure.
Schendel DE, Berg CJ, Yeargin-Allsopp M, Boyle CA, Decoufle P. Prenatal magnesium sulfate exposure and the risk for cerebral palsy or mental retardation among very low-birth-weight children aged 3 to 5 years. JAMA. 1996;276(22):1805-1810. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03540220029026.
Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (2011, February 15). Magnesium sulfate may offer protection from cerebral palsy, study suggests. ScienceDaily.