Magnesium may protect against cerebral palsy

Schendel DE, Berg CJ, Yeargin-Allsopp M, et al. 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; 276:1,805-1,810.

This study examined the relationship between prenatal magnesium sulfate exposure and the risk of cerebral palsy (CP) or mental retardation (MR) among very low-birth-weight (VLBW) babies. The investigators also determined the effect of prenatal magnesium sulfate exposure on VLBW infant mortality. Magnesium sulfate often is given to prevent seizures in preeclamptic women to halt preterm labor.

Study examines sulfur exposure

The cohort study looked at the relationship between prenatal magnesium sulfate exposure and risk for CP or MR among 1,097 VLBW infants born between 1986 and 1988 in Georgia and followed up among 519 VLBW children in the Atlanta area who survived infancy.

The authors found that in Atlanta-born survivors, prenatal magnesium sulfate offered a protective effect against CP and possibly against MR. Only one of the children exposed to magnesium sulfate had CP, and only two had MR, which was about a 90% lower prevalence of CP and about a 70% lower prevalence of MR in children exposed to magnesium sulfate compared to unexposed children.

In addition, among the entire group of VLBW children, prenatal magnesium sulfate exposure didn’t increase the mortality risk.

"A reduced risk for CP, and possibly MR, among VLBW children is associated with prenatal magnesium sulfate exposure," the authors conclude. "The reduced risk for children CP or MR does not appear to be due to selective mortality of magnesium-sulfate exposed infants."