DES-exposed male subjects appeared to be feminized and/or demasculinized
1991 Study Abstract
Nineteen studies on the behavioral effects of prenatal exposure to hormones administered for the treatment of at-risk human pregnancy are reviewed. Because the role of prenatal exposure to hormones in the development of human behavioral sex differences is potentially confounded by society’s differential treatment of the sexes, comparisons between exposed and unexposed subjects were evaluated and summarized separately for male and female subjects.
Hormonal contributions to sexually dimorphic behavioral development in humans, US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, Psychoneuroendocrinology, NCBI PubMed PMID: 1961841, 1991.
Dancing statues image credit Dixie Lawrence.
Therefore, this review focuses on data for individuals whose prenatal hormone environments were atypical relative to what is normal for their own sex. Overall, it appears that prenatal exposure to androgen-based synthetic progestin exerted a masculinizing and/or defeminizing influence on human behavioral development, whereas prenatal exposure to natural progesterone and progesterone-based synthetic progestin had a feminizing and/or demasculinizing influence, particularly among female subjects.
The data on prenatal exposure to synthetic estrogen derive primarily from subjects exposed to diethylstibestrol (DES). DES-exposed male subjects appeared to be feminized and/or demasculinized, and there is some evidence that exposed female subjects were masculinized.
These findings are discussed in the context of prenatal hormonal contributions to sexually dimorphic behavioral development both within and between the sexes. Recommendations for the conduct of future research in developmental behavioral endocrinology are presented.