Type 1 diabetes in Finland

Per capita, Finland has the highest rate of people with type 1 diabetes (T1D) in the world. I was shocked to learn this. And so when Mr Siili and I were asked to participate in a diabetes study, I said sure! I had nothing to lose and a lot to gain. We knew from blood tests done on Paxlet’s umbilical cord that he has a genetic marker to predispose him to T1D. As it turns out either Mr Siili, myself or both of us also have a genetic marker (duh) for diabetes that we could pass on to Tadbit also.

It was during our 12 week ultrasound, that we found out about this study and were asked to participate. Mr Siili and I both donated blood to the cause. If we had the genetic markers, they would contact us and see if we wanted to continue. If we didn’t have any markers, we’d be free to go on our way. As I wrote above, we fit the bill for the study.

A few weeks after our blood was taken, I got a call asking if we wanted to continue with the study. The lady explained more about the study, what would be required of me/us and then we set up an appointment for around the 27-28 week in my pregnancy. She also sent, in the mail, a consent form for the study and a stool sample collection package.

My appointment was today, which means I had the pleasure of collecting and packing a stool sample within the last few days. I definitely wasn’t going to leave it until today, because who knows when I would actually need to go poo. And I wasn’t going to do it at work! So the past weekend it was. Fun fun! At least they gave me everything I would need for this procedure, some plastic gloves included.

I actually don’t know much about diabetes, as no one close to me has T1D. I told the lady that today at the appointment and she explained the basic differences between the two types of diabetes and other basics a bit to me. I also asked her why Finns have such a high rate of T1D? Good question! She said if they knew, they’d be all the wiser. And thus, this is the reason this study is being done. I thought I was being smart and mentioned that I must be good for the Finnish population, being a foreigner and all. She burst that bubble! It seems that foreigners who reside in Finland for several years or more end up with the same risks for T1D as native born Finns. Huh!? Yeah, so, my foreign blood isn’t so special after all these 15+ years of living here anyway.

As for how this study will affect our lives in the near and immediate future, Tadbit has to stay put until at least 35 weeks gestation and be born healthy. At 35 weeks, I need to fill in a 100 19 page form about my food and eating habits for the previous month (weeks 31-34) and mail that to them. Then we just wait until Tadbit arrives.

Also around this time, 35 weeks, the study will send us some baby “milk” formula that we should use, if we are going to feed Tadbit something other than breast milk. The babies in this study will be split into to groups: one group will get a formula with cow milk proteins(?) and the other group will get a formula without cow product in it. (We won’t know which group gets what until after the test.) We will be able to get as much of this formula from the study as we need, at no cost to us. In this same package will be a color coded sticker that lets the hospital know which formula my baby can have, if any is needed. (Paxlet got 2-3 helpings of donated breast milk and 1 helping of formula in the hospital before my milk came in.) Tadbit is NOT to have regular baby formula during this study.

The hospital is supposed to be very aware of this study and the study’s goals. The “study” sticker I have on my maternity card should be enough to notify the hospital that I am participating in this study. I shouldn’t have to do anything, but showing the papers I have been given won’t hurt, if I remember to bring them with me. The hospital should know to take some blood samples from the umbilical cord upon delivery. And a midwife should know to take a sample of meconium from Tadbit’s first poo, if Mr Siili (hahahaha) and I are not the ones to change that diaper. In addition, I should give another stool sample (first bowel movement I have after delivery) and a sample of breast milk. While in the hospital, after Tadbit’s delivery, one of the nurses from the study will come visit us to see how we are doing (and collect the samples?).

Once the blood results come back from Tadbit’s umbilical cord, we’ll know if we’ll continue in the study or not. Until then, we wait.

Part two here.


2 thoughts on “Type 1 diabetes in Finland

  1. This is interesting. We know there’s a genetic link with diabetes (both type I and II), but I always assumed Type II had an environmental link, not Type I. Regardless, I remember learning about how diabetes impacts the whole body, from neurologically to muscularly to even reproductively.

    Interested in hearing what they find.

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