Neonatal malformations and hormone therapy during pregnancy

Antenatal DES exposure and cardiovascular malformations


The use of pharmacological treatment during pregnancy has always been extremely controversial, especially if the drugs involved are sex hormones, such as diethylstilbestrol.

The percentage of congenital malformations attributable to hormonal therapy during pregnancy is 3%; the period of maximum susceptibility to teratogenic agents is between the 3rd-10th week of gestation, or the period of organogenesis.

The 1st reported case of congenital malformation due to hormonal therapy during pregnancy goes back to 1957; since then the literature has published more on this subject.

One of the most important studies was done in 1977 by Heinonen on a group of 50,282 pregnant women; 1042 had been treated with sex hormones. 19 infants, or 18.2/1000, had cardiovascular defects. Among the remaining 49,240 patients there were 385 cardiovascular malformations, or 7.8/1000.

The problem is still far from being resolved; it is up to the individual physician to give the best possible advice, after careful consideration of the clinical situation of every pregnant patient.


  • Neonatal malformations and hormone therapy during pregnancy, Minerva ginecologica, NCNI PubMed, PMID: 7290498, 1981 Jul-Aug.
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