One of the things that continues to shock me while reading Get Me Out! is the amount of trust women had in their doctors and the lack of concern they had for the things they were putting into their body while pregnant. After finishing section 3 of this book and reading about the horrible consequences of the DES drug I can’t help but think about what how much differently both the testing phase and aftermath of DES would have been if only it had taken place in modern times. In recent times, nearly everyone who needs medical treatment is a little skeptical, at least enough to
do a bit of their own research, especially women who have their unborn child’s health to think about. As Randi Epstein said, “Why would anyone pop a pill while pregnant without thinking about the long term effects on the baby? Today, every pregnant woman scrutinizes labels and surfs the Web before drinking diet soda.”(130-131)If only women in the time period DES was a common treatment (1938-1971) had the same lack of trust, maybe the effects of DES wouldn’t be so wide-spread.
But even before the women were able to access the pill, surely the testing and experimental phases would have had some indication of the symptoms that would come. Well they did. For example, “A 1964 study showed that mice whose mothers were given DES were at increased risk for cancer.” (144) Despite this and many other previous studies the drug was still distributed widely across the world. And not only did the drug industry continue to produce these drugs despite the possibilities of cancer and genital malfunction in the children born from mothers who took DES, they also had studies proving that the drug didn’t actually decrease the chances of a miscarriage, which is the whole point of taking the medication. Carolina V mentioned in her post about false advertising when it comes to women’s health, and to me everything that happened with DES is a perfect example of exactly that. It completely boggles my mind that both the doctors and the companies producing the drug could ignore the possibility of serious symptoms for a miscarriage-preventing drug that is proven to not prevent miscarriages and continue to advertise and use DES.
So of course as much as it surprises me that the women were not more conscious of their health during pregnancy, I can’t really blame them, especially the women who had already suffered a miscarriage. The book makes a good point: “Unless you have had a miscarriage, you cannot imagine the profound sadness that hits a woman who loses a baby. One day you are pregnant, feeling the world is smiling at you… The next day, often times after a massive hemorrhage, the reality of motherhood vanishes. Your dream becomes a nightmare. You worry that you will never be able to maintain a pregnancy.” This really resonated with me. As much as I would like to be frustrated at the people who continued to use, prescribe, and promote DES, I can see why some women would continue to take it even after it was proven to be useless. I can’t imagine what it is like to lose a baby in the middle of pregnancy, but I know that people who have already experienced that feeling would do anything to prevent it from happening again.
Despite all of this, I still can’t full comprehend it, and I’m almost positive that if DES had been introduced now, its effects would be much smaller than they actually were. It blows my mind, especially considering how nit-picky this generation is about health, that something so devastating could have happened so easily. Regardless, the deaths that happened because of DES cannot be taken back, or changed. They can only be learned from