- Breast Cancer - The breast cancer risk is approximately 30% higher (considered moderately higher) than for unexposed women. This should be considered in decisions regarding hormone replacement therapy. When absolutely necessary, only the lowest dose of HRT for the shortest length of time should be considered. This current recommendation applies to all women, including DES Mothers. Additional recommendations for DES Mothers call for annual breast screenings, including clinical breast exams and mammograms. All women, including DES Mothers, are urged to practice monthly breast self-exams. See breast self-exams here or here.
Tell Your Children - Women who were given DES should tell their children about it. They should do so even if these children (now adults) have had no health problems. Research on DES Daughters, Sons and now Grandchildren is ongoing and may reveal currently unknown health effects. If the offspring are not told of their potential risk, they might not get the proper screenings and care they need.
Emotional Impacts – DES creates emotional trauma for all who come in contact with it: DES Mothers (and Fathers), DES Daughters, DES Sons, and DES Grandchildren.
For DES Mothers there is often a feeling of guilt – even though these women were doing what they were told to do by their doctors in order to have a healthy baby. (We now know DES didn’t work, but mothers took their prescriptions in good faith).
DES Mothers are victims, just as their children are, and many understand that intellectually - but often find it hard to reconcile emotionally. It is not easy shaking feelings of guilt, even though they did nothing wrong. Also, DES Mothers may find themselves anxious about medical problems for their children. Every new health issue linked to exposure may give rise to unfair self-blame and concern. Experience shows that keeping lines of communication open can be helpful. Staying current on the latest DES findings, and health screening recommendations, can open discussions with family members.
Taking action can reduce feelings of helplessness and pain. That includes being vigilant in urging family members to get proper medical care. Climbing on our soapbox now – joining DES Action can be another step toward healing. Members get new information throughout the year and feel good about doing something positive by supporting an organization actively pushing for more DES research.
Medical Records –
There may be no obvious signs of DES exposure. Women who were given medication to prevent miscarriage from 1938-1971, in the United States – might have been prescribed DES. It was frequently used if a woman had a previous miscarriage, diabetes, or a problem pregnancy with bleeding, threatened miscarriage or premature labor.
Up until the mid to late 1950s some women were given DES shots. After that time, DES was given primarily in pill form, because both doctors and their patients found it much easier to handle the drug that way.Complicating identification of DES exposure is the fact that some prenatal vitamins contained DES and were prescribed even if there were no problems in the pregnancy.
As years go by, it becomes increasingly difficult to prove DES exposure. However, if you want to try, here are tips for doing a Medical Records Search.