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Calls for hospitals to implement cerebral palsy guidelines

The risk of cerebral palsy could be minimised in up to 147 Australian babies a year.

Leading obstetric and neonatal specialists are calling on Australian hospitals to implement new guidelines to minimise the risk of cerebral palsy in Australian babies.

Specialists say the guidelines have the potential to save the lives, or minimise cerebral palsy risks, in up to 147 Australian babies each year.

The guidelines, which are the focus of discussion this week at the Perinatal Society of Australia and New Zealand (PSANZ) Conference in Sydney, recommend the administration of magnesium sulphate to pregnant women immediately prior to a very premature birth (22 – 30 weeks) to help prevent cerebral palsy.

Professor Caroline Crowther, Director of the University of Adelaide’s Australian Research Centre for Health of Women and Babies, said despite its potential, the therapy remains underused.

“This is the biggest breakthrough in world cerebral palsy prevention research in the past 50 years and has come via research throughout the world with Australian research teams and funding leading,” said Crowther.

Macquarie Group Foundation Chair of Cerebral Palsy, Cerebral Palsy Alliance, Professor Nadia Badawi, said the therapy should be implemented in specialist hospitals around the country.

Currently South Australia is leading the nation in implementing the guidelines which have been endorsed by the Royal Australian and NZ College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

“More work needs to be done to ensure that all expectant Australian mothers have access to it in case they go into very preterm labour,” Badawi said.

Every year, over 1500 Australian women give birth to very premature babies, between 22 and 30 weeks’ gestation. 15 per cent of these babies are at risk of dying in the first weeks of life or later having cerebral palsy.

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