Diethylstilbestrol (DES), a synthetic hormone doctors used for nearly 20 years in an attempt to prevent miscarriage, was taken off the market in the early 70’s when daughters of the women who used the drug started being diagnosed with vaginal cancer at a very early age.
Although it was long known thereafter that DES caused a myriad of health problems for those children that were gestating during use, only now are we learning that the effects are hitting yet another generation.
As suspected, the drug’s disastrous effects are long reaching and devastating. Daughters of DES experience a Murderers’ Row of female health headaches — they’re twice as likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than non-DES women, nearly twice as likely to have pre-cancerous cervical cells, twice as likely to experience long term infertility, and were three times as likely to experience early menopause. DES daughters who were able to become pregnant were much more likely to experience miscarriage, preterm delivery, high blood pressure during pregnancy, tubal pregnancy, and stillbirth.
Now doctors are concerned that the granddaughters of women who took DES while pregnant may be at risk for reproductive health issues. Early research suggests the second generation of DES daughters begins menstruating later than their peers and experiences irregular periods, both of which could be signs of future fertility problems.
Sons of DES mothers aren’t off the hook, either; they’re more likely to develop testicular cysts and other problems than their peers.
Sadly, in about 20 more years we’ll likely start to learn if the issues affect a third generation as well.