C-sections and Type I Diabetes

In an article titled, “Mothers’ birth choices linked to rise in childhood diabetes,” the author linked C-sections to increased rates of Type I or childhood diabetes. Since this disease can cause serious problems, especially starting so young, it is something to be concerned about. The article said that about 700 children in the UK were diagnosed with this disease in 2005, and approximately 250,000 people have Type I diabetes in the UK. (For perspective, the estimated population is 61.6 million.)

Dr Chris Patterson of Queen’s University, Belfast, one of the report’s authors, 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.’

So, children not being exposed to enough germs is a risk factor, as is being born by C-section. There is a lot I could say about this, including that perhaps there is a correlation, rather than causation with all the C-section talk — for instance, older moms might tend to choose a C-section for their “premium baby” that they had a hard time conceiving, and they might also tend to overreact a lot little bit with their babies being exposed to all the “nasty” germs (which may actually help to strengthen and build up the immune system). Also, women who do not choose a C-section, but need one (or think they need one) may also be overprotective of their little baby who “almost died” during childbirth. Plus, babies born by C-section tend to have more problems breathing, needing to spend time in the NICU and all of that, so their moms may be a bit overprotective due to that. (And I’m not saying that this is necessarily a bad thing, nor that all protection is overprotection — babies who are already sickly for whatever reason probably should be kept away from the general germy public who may give them pneumonia, the flu, RSV or something. But I have seen some mommies that made me roll my eyes with how overly zealous they were about their healthy kids not coming into contact with any germs, but the kids seemed to be constantly sick anyway; whereas I don’t think I’ve ever wiped down the handle-bar of the shopping cart, and my kids are pretty darn healthy.)

However, I can see a possible causation of C-section along the lines of germs, and that is that babies who are born vaginally are colonized by bacteria in the birth canal, and babies who are born abdominally simply do not get this. Also, babies born by C-section are less likely to breastfeed than babies born vaginally, so then they also do not get the normal bacteria from their mothers’ breasts nor antibodies in the milk that also serves to strengthen the immune system. So, in the absence of normal and healthy colonization, that leaves the baby’s system wide open for colonization by possibly unhealthy bacteria, which can set up a whole load of problems.

Hmm, I wonder if moms are told of these potential problems as part of their informed consent before signing up for an unnecessary and possibly completely elective C-section?

One Response

  1. I think we really underestimate the importance of colonization during vaginal birth. We’re just now learning about the vital importance of intestinal flora to normal human health, and denying the initial God-intended colonization of an otherwise sterile human being (leaving him or her open to colonization at random from the environment) probably does have huge lifelong consequences. I wouldn’t be surprised to find cesarean birth linked to a variety of longterm health problems for that very reason.

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