Women who deliver low-birth-weight babies could be more likely to have memory and thinking problems later in life, a new study warns.

As seniors, these women had brain test scores that indicated one to two years of additional aging in their memory and thinking skills, compared with women who delivered normal-weight babies, according to results published June 12 in the journal Neurology.

And the more low-birth-weight babies a woman had, the lower her test scores were, results show.

“Previous research has shown that people who have had a low-birth-weight delivery have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure,” said researcher Diana Soria-Contreras, a postdoctoral research fellow with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston.

“Our study found that a history of having a child with a low birth weight may also be a marker of poorer cognition later in life,” Soria-Contreras added in a journal news release.

The study involved more than 15,000 women with an average age of 62. About 8% had delivered a baby with low birth weight, defined as less than 5.5 pounds for pregnancies lasting more than 20 weeks.

The women completed a series of thinking and memory tests, and also filled out a questionnaire about their pregnancy history.

On average, women who had babies with low birth weigh scored lower in tests of thinking speed, attention, learning and working memory.

The difference was comparable to that of one to two additional years of age, even after researchers adjusted for other brain health risk factors like age, smoking and high blood pressure.

“Future research is needed to confirm our findings and to look at whether screening women with a history of low-birth-weight deliveries for cognitive issues and taking steps to promote their brain health could help prevent or delay cognitive impairment and dementia later on,” Soria-Contreras said.

More information

Harvard Medical School has more on the lasting health effects of pregnancy.

SOURCE: American Academy of Neurology, news release, June 12, 2024

Source: HealthDay

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