Does prenatal exposure to DES have psychiatric consequences?

DES impact on the foetal neurodevelopment

2000 Study Abstract

Diethylstilbestrol (DES) has been widely used around the word in pregnancy care until the discovery in the early 1970s of the teratogenic and carcinogenic effects of this drug.

The genital and obstetrical iatrogenic effects of the intrauterine exposure to DES are now well established. However, the potential impact of the DES and related xenoestrogen on the foetal neurodevelopment are poorly known.

Does prenatal exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES) have psychiatric consequences?, researchgate publication/289348494, Annales Médico-psychologiques revue psychiatrique 158(2):105-117, February 2000.

Image credit Hamed Saber.

It has been suggested that prenatal DES exposure may modify the cerebral lateralisation. A more speculative issue with regard to the possible neurodevelopmental consequences of DES exposure is the possible impact on gender-identity and gender-related behavior.

Prenatal DES exposure may be also a risk factor for psychiatric disorder in adulthood. This increased liability can not be totally explained by the genital and reproductive consequences of DES exposure, since it can also be found before the appearance of such complications and/or in subjects unaware of their exposure to DES, and also exists in DES-exposed sons who do not present with somatic complications.

Most previous studies have assessed the links between perinatal DES exposure and increased risk of depression.

A few reports also suggest that subjects exposed to DES may be at greater risk of eating or psychotic disorders.

Further research on the neurodevelopmental consequences of xenoestrogen exposure is required from an aetiological perspective, but also from a preventive point of view.

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