IVF: effect of in-utero DES exposure on human egg quality and fertilization

Factors such as aneuploidy, embryonic genome expression and ultrastructure have not been assessed in this 1999 study.


Effect of in-utero diethylstilboestrol exposure on human oocyte quality and fertilization in a programme of in-vitro fertilization, Human reproduction (Oxford,  England), NCBI PubMed PMID 10357979, 1999 Jun.
Full study: Oxford Journals, Medicine & Health Human Reproduction Volume 14, Issue 6 Pp. 1578-1581 doi: 10.1093/humrep/14.6.1578, February 15, 1999.

Genital tract abnormalities and adverse pregnancy outcome are well known in women exposed in utero to diethylstilboestrol (DES).

Data about adverse reproductive performance in women exposed to DES have been published, including controversial reports of menstrual dysfunction, poor responses after ovarian stimulation, oocyte maturation and fertilization abnormalities.

We compared oocyte quality, in-vitro fertilization results and embryo quality for women exposed in utero to DES with a control group. Between 1989 and 1996, 56 DES-exposed women who had 125 in-vitro fertilization (IVF) attempts were retrospectively compared to a control group of 45 women with tubal disease, who underwent 73 IVF attempts. Couples suffering from male infertility were excluded. The parameters compared were oocyte quality (maturation abnormalities, immature oocyte, mature oocyte), fertilization and cleavage rate (per treated and metaphase II oocytes), and embryo quality (number and grade).

We found no significant difference in oocyte maturational status, fertilization rates, cleavage rates, embryo quality and development between DES-exposed subjects and control subjects. These results suggest that in-utero exposure to DES has no significant influence on oocyte quality and fertilization ability as judged during IVF attempts.


In the group of in-utero DES-exposed women analysed here, the prevalence of ovulatory dysfunction and endometriosis was very high, but the number and quality of oocytes retrieved after stimulation were similar to those from women not exposed to DES.

The clinical pregnancy rate (number of cycles with fetal sacs on ultrasound) per embryo transfer was not significantly different between the two groups although lower in the IVF cycles performed in DES-exposed patients. Thus, lower delivery rate could be related to other important variables such as uterine defects and endometrial morphology and thickness as previously reported.

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