Diethylstilbestrol DES exposure in utero produces histologic and gross anatomic abnormalities in the lower and upper female genital tract. The authors investigated the reproductive history of 71 DES-exposed women by comparing their questionnaire data with those of 69 demographically matched non-DES-exposed control subjects.
The study group’s menstrual indices were comparable with those of the control group except in menstrual flow, which was significantly shorter in duration (P < .001), and in dysmenorrhea, which was reported more often (P<.05).
Fertility, as indicated by incidence of pregnancy, mean gravidity, and frequency of infertility problems, did not differ between groups.
The incidence of early (less than 20 weeks) pregnancy complications, ectopic pregnancy, and spontaneous abortion was comparable between groups. However, the incidence of late (after 20 weeks) pregnancy complications, premature delivery (40%, P<.001), and perinatal death (25%, P<.05) was significantly increased in the study group. Among DES-exposed subjects with gross cervicovaginal changes, premature delivery was even more frequent (71.4%, P<.0005), and consequently it was associated with a higher perinatal mortality (43%, P<.001).
The authors conclude that DES exposure in utero in this study group was not associated with increased difficulty in conceiving or early pregnancy complications. However, among pregnancies that progressed beyond 20 weeks’ gestation, the incidence of premature delivery was significantly increased and associated with an increased perinatal mortality. The mechanism(s) for these premature deliveries remains to be elucidated.
A comparison of pregnancy experience in DES-exposed and DES-unexposed daughters
The Journal of reproductive medicine, NCBI PubMed, PMID:7359503, 1980 Feb.
Reproductive histories were compared for 226 DES-exposed and 203 -unexposed daughters whose mothers participated in a double-blind evaluation 27 years before.
Irregular menstruation was slightly more common among the exposed (10%) than among the unexposed (4%).
Nineteen of the exposed and only four of the unexposed had primary infertility.
Among those at risk, 86% of the unexposed and 67% of the exposed had become pregnant. The reasons for these differences are not known.
Comparison of evaluable first pregnancy outcome revealed full-term live birth to be more common among the unexposed (85%) than the exposed (47%).
Premature live birth was experienced by 22% of the exposed but only 7% of the unexposed.
Nonviable outcomes of stillbirth, neonatal death, miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy occurred in 31% of the exposed and 8% of the unexposed.
The difference in pregnancy outcomes between the groups is highly significant. The DES-exposed with transverse cervicovaginal ridges were more likely to experience a nonviable outcome. Overall 82% of the exposed and 93% of the unexposed had at least one live offspring.
Diethylstilbestrol (Distilbène), the synthetic sex hormone prescribed in France up to 1977 (and in many other countries under different names) to pregnant women to prevent miscarriage and premature labour, has caused genital abnormalities, infertility problems, and cancer in children exposed in utero to the drug. A new report reveals that DES may have done even more damage, often associated in cocktail with other estrogens as 17-alpha Ethinyl oestradiol (synthetic EE) or with synthetic Progestin.
A disturbing study conducted since 2004 by Marie-Odile Soyer-Gobillard, former director emeritus at the CNRS (French National Center for Scientific Research) reveals a link between DES and mental illness issues. In January 2011, and next in October 2011, 6 members of the association Hhorages (Halt to Synthetic Hormones for Pregnancies), of which Marie-Odile is the president, were received by the AFFSSAPS (the equivalent of the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S. now named AFSM, French Agency for Medicament Security) to discuss her findings. A working group composed of experts from the agency and the association will now be formed in April.
DES Psychological Side Effects New French Stats
So what does the French study (published in the International Journal “Medicine and Longevity*) reveal? Marie-Odile sent questionnaires to 529 DES mothers and studied a group of 1180 children of which 740 have been exposed to DES in-utero. Of this group, 15 were still born and 684 suffer from psychiatric disorders and / or physical malformations while 41 were not ill. Amongst the studied population, the psychiatric illnesses are essentially depression, anorexia, schizophrenia, …). Today, Hhorages tots up 1223 testimonies representing 1223 mothers with a total amount of 2674 children. Amongst them, 1676 were in utero exposed to synthetic hormones, 1549 exposed children are ill: amongst them: 916 present psychic diseases « only », 448 present somatic and psychic diseases , 183 present somatic diseases « only »; 126 exposed are not ill. Amongst the observed siblings in the same family, only those who have not been exposed to DES in-utero, don’t show signs of psychiatric disorders …. Could this be just a coincidence?
Another shocking statistic: of all the cases reported since 2004, when the study started, Marie-Odile identified 150 suicide attempts series and 48 suicides. In some families, 2 or 3 children have ended their lives leaving their parents with a profound sense of guilt. Amongst the observed siblings in the same family, only those who have not been exposed to DES in-utero, don’t show signs of psychiatric disorders… Could this be just a coincidence?
Herself DES mother, Marie-Odile Soyer-Gobillard has been fighting since 1998 for the recognition of the link between synthetic sex hormones taken during her pregnancy including Distilbène®, and the psychological disorders of her own children, Nicolas and Valerie, who both committed suicide three years apart in 1995 and 1998 at age 28 and 27. She founded the association Hhorages with 3 other mothers in 2000 to raise awareness of the risks synthetic sex hormones prescribed during pregnancy pose on children born from these pregnancies.
According to Fran Howell (Executive Director DES Action USA), American researchers have been having trouble finding a solid link between DES and mental illness issues, except depression. But through the years DES Action USA have heard many reports of DES-exposed individuals suffering with psychological issues.
Pat Cody, co-founder of DES Action USA, wrote in the spring 2005 issue of VOICE (DES Action Newsletter) about why it is difficult for researchers to study these questions and develop definitive answers: “Here, some of the difficulties in getting a valid study are caused by a wide spread in the DES dosages mothers got, in the time in pregnancy when they got it, and for how long they took it (…). Sex hormones are, however, known to have effects on the organization of the brain in experimental animals with consequential behavioural effect”.
A 2005 study carried out by Professor Caston, a neurologist at the University of Rouen (France), has demonstrated that rats born to mothers treated with synthetic sex hormones developed anxiety and depressive behaviour. “These results could be explained by the effect of the molecule on the part of the brain involved in emotional processes, which is under development in foetuses”, the report says.
Could all the known DES side effects which have destroyed the lives of many DES mothers, daughters, and sons, just be the top of the iceberg? Already concerns for the grandchildren of DES mothers arise with a higher risk of hypospadias (misplaced opening of the penis) in sons of DES daughters. If more DES side effects are scientifically validated, DES could well be a real time bomb!
I welcome Marie-Odile’s research study and thank her and Hhorages for their combat and work on behalf of all the DES victims who suffer from the mental side effects of this drug.
More research is critically needed not only to provide DES-exposed individuals with appropriate care and support but for the next generation and all the people who may continue to suffer from the physical or mental consequences of this drug in the future. Please support Hhorages and your local DES Action group, and stay tune for more revelations about DES exposure and its devastating side effects.
DES Action USA Voice newsletter spring 2005
DES Action USA
*Soyer-Gobillard, M.O. 2011. Endocrine disrupters and effects on behavioral disorders: No, we have not as yet learnt all our lessons concerning the DES story. Médecine et Longévité, (Elsevier Masson), 3, 67-74. ** Nicolas Kalfa, M.D., Ph.D,.Francoise Paris, M.D., Marie-Odile Soyer-Gobillard, Ph.D., Jean-Pierre Daures, M.D., Ph.D. and Charles Sultan, M.D., Ph.D. Prevalence of hypospadias in grandsons of women exposed to diethylstilbestrol during pregnancy: a multigenerational national cohort study. Fertil Steril, 2011, 95, 2574-2577(published by American Society for Reproductive Medicine).