Dr Cardwell, from the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, said: "This study revealed a consistent 20 per cent increase in the risk of Type 1 diabetes. It is important to stress that the reason for this is still not understood. It is possible that children born by Caesarean section differ from other children with respect to some unknown characteristic which consequently increases their risk of diabetes, but it is also possible that Caesarean section itself is responsible.
“Type 1 diabetes occurs when the immune system destroys the insulin producing cells in the pancreas, and one theory suggests that being born by Caesarean section may affect the development of the immune system because babies are first exposed to bacteria originating from the hospital environment rather than to maternal bacteria.”
Diabetes is a serious condition that, if not managed, can lead to fatal complications including heart disease, stroke, kidney failure and amputations. There are 2.3 million people in the UK diagnosed with diabetes and 250,000 with Type 1 diabetes. In Northern Ireland over 62,000 people have diabetes, 6,000 of them with Type 1 diabetes.
Around one in four babies in Northern Ireland are delivered by Caesarean section, which is significantly higher that the World Health Organisation’s recommended rate of 15 per cent.
Iain Foster, Director of Diabetes UK Northern Ireland, said: "Not all women have the choice of whether to have a Caesarean section or not, but those who do may wish to take this risk into consideration before choosing to give birth this way.
"We already know that genetics and childhood infections play a vital role in the development of Type 1 diabetes in children, but the findings of this study indicate that the way a baby is delivered could affect how likely it is to develop this condition later in life. Diabetes UK Northern Ireland would welcome more research in this area."
Andrea Clements | alfa
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