An exhaustive study that spanned the globe reveals an increased risk, by 20%, a child born by Cesarean section (C-section) will develop type 1 diabetes before turning 15. Headquartered at Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland, the research team reports 2.3 million United Kingdom (UK) citizens are diabetic, 250,000 of whom have type 1, or the most common form of childhood, diabetes. In Northern Ireland, there are 6,000 people diagnosed with type 1 diabetes among 62,000 total diabetics nationwide.
Leading the team, Drs. Chris Cardwell and Chris Patterson analyzed data from 20 published studies submitted from 16 countries. The test group consisted of 10,000 children diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and the control group numbered more than a million.
Analysis revealed a 20% increase in the likelihood of developing type 1 diabetes when birth was via C-section. Other factors, including mother’s age and gestational diabetes status and baby’s birth weight and birth order, were factors applied to the data but the 20% increased risk remained the same when C-section deliveries were performed. Another factor, the extent to which a child is breast-fed, was considered as well but, again, with no statistical difference in outcome.
The research team is uncertain why C-section deliveries are linked to childhood diabetes but one theory questions the effect of the C-section delivery upon a baby’s immune system. When a child’s immune system wages war against the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas, type 1 diabetes is diagnosed. When a C-section is performed, the baby’s first contact with bacteria is of the hospital’s environment, not the maternal bacteria to which the child would have been exposed in a more natural birthing procedure.
In Northern Ireland, an estimated two of every 1,000 children is expected to develop type 1 diabetes before the age of 15, a number low enough to make even a 20% increased likelihood of diabetes seem small. The rate of C-sections in Northern Ireland, however, is very high.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has established a 15% threshold of acceptability for C-sections in a given country. More C-sections than 15% of all births is cause for concern, according to the WHO. In Northern Ireland, one of every four births (25%) is a C-section delivery.
Without losing sight of the increased risk of diabetes that comes from childhood infection and genetics, the research team urges a little deeper consideration when contemplating a voluntary C-section delivery. Not every C-section is a matter of choice but, in those that are by choice, the researchers urge parents to consider the long-term risk that is associated with this method of delivery.
Source: Queen’s University, Belfast
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