Health effects : pregnancy use of diethylstilbestrol

The Journal of the Indiana State Medical Association, 1979


The use of DES (diethylstilbestrol) to prevent pregnancy complications and miscarriages has shown effects in women who took DES and their offspring.

A University of Chicago follow-up study indicated that women who had used DES had more breast and gynecological cancers than a control group, although the results were statistically insignificant.

DES daughters have a higher occurrence of a rare malignant vaginal cancer, clear cell adenocarcinoma,

and DES-exposed males showed a history of cryptorchidism, hypoplastic testes, epididymal cysts, and low sperm counts.

A DES Task Force formed by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health in 1978 recommends that all persons exposed to DES be informed of health risks and that DES daughters be carefully monitored by using Pap smears, iodine staining, and colposcopy when necessary.

In addition, the Task Force recommends

  • that DES women not use estrogens,
  • that postmenopausal replacement estrogens be prescribed prudently,
  • that DES not be given to suppress lactation,
  • and that women given DES for postcoital contraception be informed of the possible health risks.


  • Health effects: pregnancy use of diethylstilbestrol, The Journal of the Indiana State Medical Association, NCBI PubMed, PMID: 458172, 1979 May.

Have your say! Share your views