Treating expectant mothers with magnesium sulphate in a bid to stop them going into premature labour could cut the chances of babies being diagnosed with cerebral palsy, according to a US study.
Researchers from the University of Alabama studied 2,241 women at risk of going into premature labour between their 24th and 31st week of pregnancy. The women were given either magnesium sulphate or a matching placebo.
Magnesium sulphate is used to slow down the contractions of the uterus and thereby delay labour.
The researchers followed the surviving babies for two years, recording the number of stillbirths or babies that died before reaching one year and the numbers of incidence of moderate or severe cerebral palsy at two years of age.
The study, published in the the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), showed that moderate or severe cerebral palsy occurred significantly less frequently in the magnesium sulphate group.
The risk of death was not significantly different between the groups.
The researchers, led by Dr Dwight Rouse, wrote: "Fetal exposure to magnesium sulphate before anticipated early preterm delivery did not reduce the combined risk of moderate or severe cerebral palsy or death, although the rate of cerebral palsy was reduced among survivors."