Offspring of women with insulin-dependent diabetes meilitus (IDDM) have a lower risk of developing IDDM than offspring of men with IDDM (1). To determine whether the risk of diabetes in offspring of diabetic mothers has changed after dramatic improvements in perinatal survival of these infants, we undertook a follow-up study of 1602 pregnancies of 739 women with IDDM who were patients at the Joslin Diabetes Center. Improvements in perinatal survival were abrupt rather than gradual. During the two decades before 1961, perinatal mortality was stable around 23%. After a sudden drop in 1961, it stabilized around 14% until 1975, when it was brought down to 4%, where it has remained. Of the 1391 offspring who survived the neonatal period, IDDM has developed in 21, a cumulative risk of 2.1 ± 0.5% (SE) by age 20 yr. This is one-third the risk previously reported for offspring of fathers with IDDM and is independent of the calendar time of the births (1). The risk of diabetes in offspring of diabetic mothers is increased in young mothers and is otherwise independent of risk factors for perinatal mortality in this series. We conclude that there is no evidence that selective loss of diabetes-susceptible fetuses in perinatal deaths is a mechanism for the lower incidence of IDDM in the offspring of mothers with IDDM than in those of fathers with IDDM. The principal alternative mechanism is that exposure in utero to an affected mother can protect a fetus from developing IDDM later in life. Induction of immunologie tolerance to the autoantigens of the β-cells is a plausible mechanism for this protective effect.

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