Millions of women may have been exposed to a dangerous drug when they Were conceived.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, diethylstilbestrol, or DES, was used between 1938 and 1971. DES, a synthetic hormone prescribed to pregnant women from 1938 to 1971, was supposed to prevent miscarriages.
In 1971, after a Food and Drug Administration recall, doctors stopped prescribing the drug. But millions were exposed.
A local woman whose mother took DES shared her story about the drug’s serious side effects.
“My mom and I are really alike. People say we look alike. We act alike,” Kayla, 18, said.
Kayla wonders if she’s in line for health problems like her mother, Karin.
Karin was told years ago that her cervix was abnormally shaped and that extra tissue needed to be removed.
She dismissed the doctor’s advice. It was just the beginning.
“And then in 1983, I got pregnant the first time. I miscarried that one,” Karin said.
“I got pregnant again later in 1983 and that one I miscarried also,” Karin said.
It happened again and again eight pregnancies and six miscarriages. It was devastating for Karin.
“This is me with Kayla. I was pregnant in this picture,” Karin said.
Karin had two healthy babies, Kayla and Kyle.
“They are my miracles. They truly are my miracles. I loook at them and I think I am so fortunate to have them. (I am) so lucky. I can’t even tell you,” Karin said.
After the birth of her son, another doctor told Karin something she’d heard years earlier that she had an abnormal cervix, an earmark for DES.
“I did talk to my mother about it, and she had recalled having been given something as she was threatening to have a miscarriage,” Karin said.
Dr. Janet Osborne, from the Medical College Of Wisconsin, said there are confirmed health risks associated with DES daughters.
“We do see higher rates of infertility in DES daughters, higher rates of pregnancy losses, first and second trimesters pregnancy losses for these women, higher ectopic pregnancy rates,” Osbourne said. “The most serious side effect is this very rare cancer called clear cell carcinoma.”
In 1998, Karin told 12 News, Karin was diagnosed with cervical cancer. She had nearly her entire cervix removed.
“What was all related or possibly related? I have no idea, but that’s the question. There needs to be a lot of research done on this. Not just for me and for women like me, for the next generation and maybe their next generation,” Karin said.
This is something Kayla has on her mind as she heads off to college.
“They don’t know that much so they’re just guessing that the effects on my generation could be very similar to what her generation was,” Kayla said.
“To this day, there are not any case reports on effects on granddaughters. People have looked at it. The studies that have been reported are a very small series. There’s a series out of Netherland that looked at DES grandsons, and maybe that there was a higher incidence of a condition which is a congenital abnormality of the formation of the male genitalia,” Osbourne said.
“Don’t neglect your health. Just don’t neglect it. Because if I would have let it go much longer, I would have probably been much further along in cancer. Who knows if I’d even be here seeing my daughter go off to college,” Karin said.
It’s something you should ask your mother if you were born in the years from 1938 to 1971 and inform your doctor. Osborne said there’s still a question as these DES daughters age whether they’re at an increased risk of breast cancer.
There’s also a question about DES exposed sons, possibly having an increased risk of testicular cancer. The CDC is going to address the latest research findings in DES sons online this Wednesday.