Preeclampsia risk in women exposed in utero to diethylstilbestrol

Obstet Gynecol. 2007 Jul;110(1):113-20. doi: 10.1097/01.AOG.0000268796.75591.02.


Objective: To assess whether preeclampsia risk is elevated in pregnancies of diethylstilbestrol (DES)-exposed daughters.

Methods: This study used data from the National Cancer Institute DES Combined Cohorts Follow-up Study. A total of 285 preeclampsia cases (210 exposed and 75 unexposed) occurred in 7,313 live births (4,759 DES exposed and 2,554 unexposed). Poisson regression analysis estimated relative risks and 95% confidence intervals (CI) for preeclampsia adjusted for age at the index pregnancy, parity, education, smoking, body mass index, year of diagnosis, and cohort.

Results: In utero DES exposure was associated with nearly a 50% elevation in preeclampsia risk. Adjustment for preeclampsia risk factors attenuated the relative risk slightly (1.42, 95% CI 1.04-1.94). The excess risk with DES was concentrated among women who developed preeclampsia in their first pregnancies (relative risk 1.81, 95% CI 1.17-2.79), who were exposed before 15 weeks of gestation (relative risk 1.57, 95% CI 1.11-2.23), and who were treated with magnesium sulfate (relative risk 2.10, 95% CI 0.82-5.42). Among DES-exposed women who had a prior hysterosalpingogram, preeclampsia prevalence was higher in those with uterine abnormalities (12.4%) than in those without (7.7%).

Conclusion: These data suggest that in utero exposure to DES is associated with a slightly elevated risk of preeclampsia, and that one possible biological mechanism involves uterine abnormalities.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cohort Studies
  • Diethylstilbestrol / adverse effects*
  • Estrogens, Non-Steroidal / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Pre-Eclampsia / chemically induced*
  • Pre-Eclampsia / epidemiology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Risk Factors
  • Uterus / abnormalities
  • Uterus / drug effects


  • Estrogens, Non-Steroidal
  • Diethylstilbestrol