Fertility disorders attributable to the use of diethylstilbestrol during intrauterine life

Women treated with distilbene during pregnancy : it seems that the increased number of miscarriages, extra-uterine pregnancies and perinatal deaths are probably due to the maternal treatment which is also responsible for semen abnormalities

1984 Study Abstract

In the early 1970s, the elevated rate of abnormalities in children of the 2-3 million US women and 260,000 French women treated with diethylstilbestrol (DES) during pregnancy began to be recognized.

Four kinds of cervicovaginal anomalies have been observed in women exposed to DES in utero:

  1. 22-58% have been estimated to have morphologic anomalies with the timing of exposure to DES more important than the total dose
  2. a high proportion has an insufficient cervical mucus not corrected by exogenous administration of estrogen
  3. a high proportion develop cervical stenosis after cryosurgery, electrocoagulation, or conization
  4. and the increased incidence of prematurity in infants of DES-exposed mothers has been attributed to cervical incompetence.

69% of 267 women studied had hysterographically demonstrated uterotubal malformations. A characteristic aspect was a T-shaped uterus but other anomalies were noted. Hysterographic anomalies were correlated with cervico-isthmic anatomic anomalies, anomalies of the vaginal epithelium, and with the date of 1st exposure to DES in utero. The total dose of DES did not affect the frequency of genital anomalies. Possible tubal anomalies have not been well studied, although 1 author has observed short and narrow tubes and other abnormalities.

The number of extrauterine pregnancies is known to be elevated in women exposed to DES in utero. The possibility of an increased incidence of menstrual irregularity, dysmenorrhea, or oligomenorrhea in DES-exposed women has been suggested but remains controversial.

The responsibility of DES exposure in utero for later reduced fertility is also in dispute. Higher rates of spontaneous abortion, extrauterine pregnancy, prematurity, and perinatal death have been reported in DES-exposed women.

Increased incidence of stenosis of the meatus, hypospadias, epididymal cysts, testicular hypoplasia and other anomalies, cryptorchidism, microphallus, and varicocele have been reported in men exposed to DES in utero. Reduced sperm counts and anomalies in the volume of the ejaculate, percentage of sperm mobile, and sperm morphology have been reported in exposed men. Sperm anomalies may be responsible for reduced fertility in exposed men, but the exact extent is unknown.

Sources

  • Fertility disorders attributable to the use of diethylstilbestrol during intrauterine life, NCBI PubMed PMID: 6397835, 1984 Apr.
  • Featured image credit Edward Cisneros.
DES DIETHYLSTILBESTROL RESOURCES

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