Dangers of diethylstilboestrol: Review of a 1953 paper

A subsequent reanalysis of [Does the administration of diethylstilbestrol during pregnancy have therapeutic value?] data revealed that DES increased the risk of spontaneous abortion, preterm birth, and neonatal death, 1978


Dieckmann’s report that DES had no effect on pregnancy was, in one sense wrong: the published data clearly show that DES significantly increased abortions, neonatal deaths, and premature births (see table).

Although the exact number of pregnant women treated with DES is unknown, it has been estimated to be as high as 2 million. A sizeable fraction of these exposures occurred between 1953, when the Dieckmann paper was published, and 1971, when Herbst’s article appeared.

This exposure might have been avoided if the Dieckmann data had been interpreted correctly to show that DES was harmful to the fetus and newborn.


  • Dangers of diethylstilboestrol: Review of a 1953 paper, Lancet, NCBI PubMed, PMID: 79882, 1978.

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