Giving birth to low-weight babies raises women's risk of developing dementia later in life, a study revealed.

In the latest study published in Neurology, researchers found that individuals who give birth to infants weighing less than 5.5 pounds are at a higher risk of experiencing memory and cognitive problems later in life, in contrast to those who deliver infants without low birth weight.

"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. 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," study author Diana C. Soria-Contreras said in a news release.

The researchers used data from the Nurses' Health Study II, an ongoing longitudinal cohort of female nurses enrolled in 1989. There were a total of 15,323 participants with a mean age of 62.

For cognitive assessment, the researchers conducted a series of memory and thinking tests on the participants. Participants were asked to complete a questionnaire about their pregnancy complications, birth outcomes, birth weight, and other information.

Around 8% of the participants (1,224) had low birth weight deliveries. Higher scores in cognitive assessment show that the participants had greater memory and thinking.

"On average, the difference in scores between those with and without a low-birth-weight delivery was -0.06 for speed and attention tests and -0.05 for learning and working memory. This is comparable to the difference associated with one to two additional years of age in this population," the news release stated.

The findings revealed that women who had previously delivered low birth-weight babies had lower scores in psychomotor speed/attention and learning/working memory compared to women who delivered normal-weight babies. They also observed that with an increasing number of low birth weight deliveries, there was a gradient of lower z-scores.

However, the researchers caution that the results show an association between the two but not a causative link. Since most of the participants were non-Hispanic white people, the findings may not be generalizable to other populations.

"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.