Epsom Salts for Preterm Infants

three assorted-label bath bombs with boxes

New Report shows Decrease in Cerebral Palsy in Preterm Babies

The use of Epsom salts in a warm bath has long been a favorite treatment to relax those with sore or damaged muscle tissue. Other uses of Epsom salts (known chemically as magnesium sulfate) include use as a fertilizer for plants, as a laxative or treatment for indigestion as well as an exfoliant to cleanse and purify the skin.

During pregnancy, magnesium sulfate is a common treatment given intravenously (IV) to the mother to stop preterm labor. Since magnesium sulfate is a muscle relaxant, it can cause the mother’s uterus to relax and contractions often slow down. Unfortunately, along with its beneficial properties, magnesium sulfate can also cause some disturbing side effects for the mother such as rapid heartbeat, slow respiration, decreased blood pressure and drowsiness.

However, a new study shows another beneficial use for Epsom salts for laboring women. Over two thousand mothers across the United States participated in the research study that took place at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

All of the participants were identified as at risk for giving birth prematurely. Mothers were selected randomly to receive a dose of magnesium sulfate at the end of their labor or to receive a placebo. Mothers who were given an IV dose of magnesium sulfate before they gave birth to their preterm infants reduced their babies’ risk of cerebral palsy by 50%.

Since magnesium sulfate is already being used on expectant women and is readily available on labor and delivery units throughout the world, the particular treatment does not require FDA approval, according to the researchers.

This is truly an exciting treatment in the prevention of cerebral palsy in preterm infants! In fact, the physician responsible for this research, Dr. John Thorp, calls the use of magnesium sulfate during preterm labor one of “the most promising breakthroughs in the management of high-risk pregnancies in more than 30 years.”

If you have had a history of preterm labor or are currently on bedrest, be sure to talk to your care provider about this exciting new treatment. Treatment and dosage information are as follows:

  • IV infusions were started when the baby was about to be born at a rate of 6 grams infused over 20 to 30 minutes
  • A follow-up dose was continued at 2 grams per hour.
  • If the baby was not born within 12 hours, the infusion was stopped and then re-started when birth was imminent.

Please see your own care provider for more information about this exciting new treatment.

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