Menstrual history and fecundity of DES-exposed women (in utero)

The Journal of reproductive medicine, 1984


Sequential examination and interview of 349 women exposed to diethylstilbestrol (DES) and 375 women unexposed to the drug verified that DES exposure has no effect on age at menarche and indicated no differences in the age at 1st coitus, pregnancy, and live birth.

Records of the women in the DES Adenosis project were studied to determine DES dosage and timing, but starting date and total amount prescribed could not always be determined accurately.

Estimates indicate that about 1-2% of pregnant patients in the late 1950s and 1960s were exposed to the drug. As many as 30% of mothers were unaware that DES was given to them during pregnancy. The women were asked about marital status, age at menarche, menstrual history, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), operations, birth control, and pregnancy experience.

Analysis of variance indicated that there is an age-related increase in oligomenorrhea in DES-exposed women as compared to unexposed women that disappears as the patients reach their late 20s.

Of 133 exposed women, 59 (44%) had induced abortions, and of 162 unexposed women 93 (57%) had induced abortions. DES-exposed women used oral contraceptives (OCs) but not as frequently or extensively as their unexposed counterparts.

Age at first coitus was 19.33 +or-2.95 years for the exposed and 18.89 +or-2.62 years for the unexposed, showing no significant difference.

In a higher percentage of DES-exposed women the cause of the couple’s infertility was undetermined. 44 (12.6%) of the exposed and 42 (11.2%) of the unexposed women had dilatation and curettage (D and C) for some reason other than abortion.

There appears to be no substantial effect of in utero exposure to DES on women’s ability to conceive. Whether or not exposure to DES has specific physiological effects on reproductive function, exposed women may alter their sexual and reproductive behavior in anticipation of those effects as well as experiencing them.



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