Cesarean section delivery may be a risk factor for developing type 1 diabetes in children, say Canadian researchers. The autoimmune disease is the most common chronic condition in children.
"These findings may have an impact on health practice, health care planning and future research related to type 1 diabetes mellitus among children," write the authors, who published the study in Journal of Environmental and Public Health.
To investigate maternal and infant risk factors for diabetes, the researchers collected health information from 266 diabetic children, from birth to 15 years of age. They statistically compared data from the Newfoundland and Labrador Diabetes Database (NLDD) to data from registered live births in the province. The NLDD contains majority of type1 diabetes cases in Newfoundland since 1987.
Compared to controls, children born by C-section were almost 1.5 times more likely to develop type 1 diabetes. This statistically significant finding supports previous studies linking C-sections to diabetes.
However, the reasons are not entirely clear. Scientists have speculated on possible theories, which include:
- Lack of exposure to beneficial bacteria in the vagina. Previous studies show children born vaginally carry different types of beneficial bacteria (probiotics) in their gut compared to those born via C-section. The higher incidence of diabetes may be related to a different composition in gut bacteria.
- Not being exposed to infections early in life. Children delivered by C-section are not as well exposed to infections compared to children born vaginally. This "hygiene hypothesis" may explain a child's proneness to developing diabetes, however the link remains controversial.
- Stress during the period immediately before and after birth (perinatal stress).
The rate of C-section delivery in Newfoundland and Labradore is 33%, higher than the national average of 26%. The province also has one of the highest rates of type 1 diabetes in the world.
Nira Datta, @NiraDatta
J. Phillips, N. Gill, K. Sikdar, S. Penney, and L. A. Newhook, “History of Cesarean Section Associated with Childhood Onset of T1DM in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada,” Journal of Environmental and Public Health, vol. 2012, Article ID 635097, 6 pages, 2012. doi:10.1155/2012/635097