Mothers' birth choices linked to rise in childhood diabetes

For further information, contact Melissa Maimann at Essential Birth Consulting. Article

The increasing trend for Caesarean births may be linked to a rise in diabetes cases.

The increasing popularity of Caesarean births and having children later in life are contributing to a dramatic rise in cases of diabetes in young children.

The number of children under five with Type 1 diabetes is likely to double by 2020 and there are 'substantial' increases among older children, say researchers.

Modern lifestyles are partly to blame, with children born to older mothers and by Caesarean section being at greater risk, while reduced exposure to germs is also a factor.

Doctors say all these factors reflect the fact that Type 1 diabetes and the development of a child's immunity system are linked.

Increased height and weight among infants, and rapid growth during the first year of life are also contributory factors, says a report published on the The Lancet medical journal's Online First website.

It looked at data from 17 European countries from 1989-2003 when there was an overall rise of almost 4 per cent a year in incidence of Type 1 diabetes, with the biggest rise of 5.4 per cent among 0 to four year olds.

... About 250,000 people in the UK have Type 1 diabetes, many of whom are children and young adults. Most need insulin injections daily to control the illness which, when poorly managed, can lead to long-term complications such as blindness, kidney failure and heart disease. There is no cure.

Dr Chris Patterson of Queen's University ... said the increasing number of cases over time was so rapid that it cannot be related to genetic factors alone.

'Environmental factors are driving this,' he said. 'We know children born to older mothers, for example, are more at risk. There is a 20 per cent extra risk for babies born as a result of Caesarean section, while those putting on weight rapidly during the first year of life are also at increased risk. Breastfeeding reduces the risk.

'In addition there are other environmental issues behind the rising trend, such as children being exposed to fewer germs.

'Type 1 diabetes is very much involved in the development of the immune system - which, in the case of Type 1 diabetes, turns on the body and stops it producing insulin. But it is still a rare disease.'

Dr Iain Frame ... said: 'This evidence that children are developing Type 1 diabetes at an increasingly younger age is worrying.

'Parents have the task of giving their children or babies insulin injections several times a day.'

He said their children would be at risk of short-term complications such as hypoglycaemic episodes - where the brain does not get enough energy through blood sugars - or diabetes ketoacidosis - where the blood can become dangerously acidic - both of which may require hospital treatment ...

So, having a caesarean is a risk for children developing diabetes. I wonder if women are told this as part of the informed consent process that needs to occur before a caesarean is performed? I am also puzzled by the article's title, "Birth Choices Linked to ...." because caesarean is rarely a birth "choice". Most women prefer a natural birth. And they can achive it with the right support! The title of the article seems to shift blame for a child's development of Type 1 diabetes onto the child's mother. This displacement of blame is unnerving. Women only ever want the best for their children, and they make decisions based on their information they receive from their care providers.

Melissa Maimann, Essential Birth Consulting 0400 418 448