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Consumers Home > About DES > Related Concerns > Potential Health Risks for Women Prescribed DES While Pregnant
Potential Health Risks for Women Prescribed DES While Pregnant

Related Concerns

 Potential Health Risks for Women Prescribed DES While Pregnant
 Potential Health Risks for DES Daugthers
 Potential Health Risks for DES Sons
 Potential Health Risks for Third Generation (Offspring of DES Daughters and Sons)
If I was prescribed DES while pregnant, should I consider hormone replacement therapy (HRT)?

The decision to take HRT is personal and should be made in consultation with your health care provider. Some women prescribed DES while pregnant are concerned about whether they should take hormone replacement therapy (HRT) because they are worried about exposure to additional estrogen. Although both taking DES while pregnant and HRT have been independently associated with an increased risk of breast cancer, research has not found an interactive effect of DES exposure and HRT (Titus-Ernstoff, 2001). The lack of an interactive effect means that the combination of exposure to DES and HRT does not increase the risk of breast cancer beyond the risk associated with either DES exposure or HRT alone. Also, the risk of breast cancer for a woman with a close relative with breast cancer (Pharaoh, 1997) is greater than the modestly increased risk of breast cancer from exposure to DES while pregnant or exposure to five or more years of HRT (Collaborative Group on Hormonal Factors in Breast Cancer, 1996).

For more information on hormone replacement therapy (HRT), refer to the following sources.
During my first pregnancy, my physician prescribed DES, but did not when I was pregnant with my other children. Were my other children exposed to DES?

Only children who were in the womb at the time their mother was prescribed DES are considered to have been exposed to DES.

What is known about DES and autoimmune diseases?

Although laboratory animal studies of mice exposed to DES before birth (in the womb) suggested an increased risk of autoimmune disease in female mice, studies among humans have reported mixed results. One study indicated that autoimmune diseases occurred more often in women exposed to DES before birth (in the womb), known as DES Daughters, than in the general population. However, no one autoimmune disease (such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus) occurred more often than others (Noller, 1988). Researchers will continue to explore this issue.

What other health risks have been studied?

No studies of humans have documented consistent findings linking DES exposure to any psychological condition or sexual dysfunction. However, some laboratory animal studies suggested links between exposure to estrogens before birth (in the womb) and cognitive abilities. For more information refer to the topic "Psychology" in the DES Bibliography.

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