Having a baby with low birth weight may increase dementia risk

A premature infant's hand held by an adult's

June 21, 2024 – Women who deliver infants with low birth weight may have a higher risk of dementia later in life, according to a study by researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and collaborating institutions.

The study, published in the journal Neurology, was featured in a June 13 HealthDay article.

The researchers evaluated more than 15,000 female participants from the Nurses’ Health Study II, with an average age of 62, who had at least one birth. The women completed tests that measured their thinking speed, attention, learning, and working memory. Women who had given birth to a low-birth-weight infant—under 5.5 pounds—performed worse than those who had delivered normal-weight infants. The decrease in cognitive skills was equivalent to one to two years of aging. Additionally, the more low-birth-weight infants that a woman had, the lower her test performance was.

“If confirmed, our findings support future investigations into the value of early preventive efforts targeting women with a history of [low-birth-weight] delivery to reduce the burden of cognitive impairment in women,” the co-authors wrote in their study.

Harvard Chan School co-authors of the study were Diana Soria-Contreras, Jiaxuan Liu, Rebecca Lawn, Siwen Wang, Emily Oken, and Jorge Chavarro.

Read the HealthDay article: Could Moms of Low-Birth-Weight Babies Face Higher Dementia Risk Later?

– Jay Lau

Photo: iStock/Wirestock