Were you born between between 1938 and 1971? I was. Chances are good that your mother was administered a powerful synthetic estrogen either by prescription to prevent miscarriage or in prenatal vitamins that were not sold only by prescription. As a result, an estimated 5-10 million pregnant women and the children born of these pregnancies were exposed to DES. Physicians prescribed DES to pregnant women on the theory that miscarriages and premature births occurred because some pregnant women did not produce enough estrogen naturally. At the time, physicians thought DES was safe and would prevent miscarriages and pre-term (early) births. In 1953, published research showed that DES did not prevent miscarriages or premature births. However, DES continued to be prescribed until 1971. In that year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a Drug Bulletin advising physicians to stop prescribing DES to pregnant women. The FDA warning was based on a study published in 1971 that identified DES as a cause of a rare vaginal cancer (clear cell adenoma) in girls and young women who had been exposed to DES before birth (in the womb).
In 1985, the Center for Disease Control turned it's attention to DES sons and the problems they are experiencing as a result of in utero exposure. Frequently observed consequences include testicular hydroceles ( fluid filled cysts in the testicles), Vericoceles (abnormally formed blood vessels that supply the testicles) and epididymal cysts ( cysts on the cords that conduct sperm from the testicles), infertility, poor semen qualtity, undescended testicles, micropenis and higher rates of transsexualism than would be expected for the general public. It should be stated though that there are no accurate statistics on the true numbers of transsexuals. Figures such as 5: 30k have been bantered about, but in my own anecdotal clinical experience, my guess is probably as high as 10% of the population. I base that on the fact that I practice in a very rural environment and my patients come to see me in about a 4 hour driving radius that includes most of Virginia, and a large portion of West Virginia. I've seen about 250 individuals over the last 15 years. That's quite a few folks! Consider the stigma, guilt and shame that transsexual people experience who may have lived with a dark and shameful secret (their perception) and never breathed a work to anyone about it. My opinion is that there are as many of us as there are gay folks.
So with all that said, there is a good chance that you may have been exposed and not know it. Many women were prescribed this drug or took it in their prenatal vitamins. How many women took DES and the over the counter prenatal vitamins that contained DES? Many women do not recall if they took it or not and if it was included in the formulary of their prenatal vitamins, they would most likely be clueless about that.
So with that in mind, our friendly friends at the CDC have come up with a screening test that you can take at www.cdc.gov/des/consumers/guide/assessment.html. This self assessment can tell you whether you are at high risk to having been exposed. Turns out that I am one of the high risk folks. Of course, I am always trying to figure out the "whys" about myself. It's just an academic pursuit to understand myself and how I came to be a transsexual. In the long run, "I am what I am and that's all that I am", as Popeye the Sailor Man used to say. Reductionism seems futile.
You can find more information about DES sons and support groups at www.desaction.org/dessons.htm and www.antijen.org/transadvocate/id28.html, plus a whole lot more if you do a seach under DES SONS.
I'm curious about how many of us are DES sons. Take the assesssment and let me know, I'd be interested!