Babies born by Caesarean section have a 20% higher risk of developing type 1 diabetes in childhood compared to those born naturally, according to new research.
Queen's University Belfast examined 20 published studies on children with type 1 diabetes born by caesarean section and found a 20% increase in the risk of babies born by Caesarean section developing type 1 diabetes, which could not be explained by other factors such as birth weight, the age of the mother, order of birth, gestational diabetes and whether the baby was breastfed or not.
On average, 24% of pregnancies in England are delivered by caesarean section, which is significantly higher that the World Health Organization's recommended rate of 15%.
Dr Iain Frame, Diabetes UK Director of Research, 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 would welcome more research in this area."
Dr Chris Cardwell from Queen's University Belfast, who led the research, said: "Type 1 diabetes in childhood has become much more prevalent across Europe recently and the rate of this increase suggests that environmental factors are the cause. However, despite much investigation, these actual factors remain largely unknown."
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"I am quite shocked really. My daughter is 5 and has recently been diagnosed with asthma and has had steroids prescribed twice. Yes l did have an emergency c-section!" - Heena Jabbar, UK