Effects on a Fetus

Environmental estrogen is everywhere, literally, everywhere.  No matter where people are, exposure to environmental estrogen is there. Even if we are not even born yet, people can have exposure to environmental estrogen. It is pretty unique to see how much environmental estrogen can impact our lives. But like before small exposures of environmental estrogens is not harmful, although, eventually it can have adverse effect with continuous exposure.

The exposure in utero can occur in the critical periods of organogenesis [11].  Organogenesis is the process when the ectoderm, endoderm, and mesoderm develop into the internal organs. We will see this process in the 3rd to 8th week of utero. The effects that can  be  seen are reproductive tract abnormalities.

Back in the 1940s,  an environmental estrogen called DES (diethylstilbestroal) was given to pregnant women. DES is a nonsteriod estrogen given to women to prevent miscarriages or other pregnancy complications. Which any pregnant women would want to have, in order, to prevent any dangerous situation with their child. Yet, in 1971, a discovery was found that a small amount of women that were exposed in utero with DES ended up having clear cell adenocarcinoma of the vagina, which is cancer of the epithelium in the female gential tract. Some other affects were vaginal adenosis, structural defects of the cervix, vagina uterus and fallopian tubes[11].

Vaginal clear-cell adenocarcinoma from a patient exposed to DES.

Other harmful effects with exposure to environmental estrogen in utero can be epididymal cysts, microphallus, cryptorchidism, testicular hypoplasia, decreased sperm count, and increased incidence of abnormal sperm, in males. Females can have vaginal adenosis, structural defects of the cervix, vagina, uterus, and fallopian tubes, infertility, and irregular menstrual cycles. All of these effects can play a role in infertility in both males and females[11].

Environmental estrogens are still out there, although we might have banned some environmental estrogens that have shown to cause adverse effects. There are still more out there waiting to erupt.


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