Primodos, the Hormone Pregnancy Test which caused Birth Defects and devastated Lives

Sarah Rainey spoke to some people affected by Primodos, investigated and reported the long history behind the claims and counter-claims…

As MPs meet last May to discuss allegations that Primodos, a hormone pregnancy test, is to blame for birth defects that have devastated lives, Sarah Rainey spoke to some of those affected, investigated and reported the long history behind the claims and counter-claims.

Please find Hugh Easton‘s article introduction as “guest post” :

primodos protest image
Photo: Heathcliff O’Malley via @Telegraph

This article is about a drug called Primodos, basically a high dosage version of the same artificial hormones as are used in contraceptive pills. Bizarre as it sounds, from 1958 to 1974, giving a woman Primodos (or the German equivalent Duogynon) was the standard method used in the UK and a number of European and Commonwealth countries for determining whether she was pregnant or not. Exposure to Primodos generally occurred during the time organogenesis and limb development were taking place, the same part of the pregnancy where exposure to thalidomide causes deformities. The result is that it appears to have caused similar deformities to those that occurred as a result of thalidomide. Several hundred thousand pregnant women in the UK were being given Primodos annually prior to its withdrawal in 1974, so even if it only caused deformities in a few percent of cases, the number of babies affected must have been quite large. Nonetheless, the whole thing’s been swept under the carpet.

One of the things mentioned in the documentary about Thalidomide I linked to a few weeks ago, is that most of the approx. 2000 thalidomide babies born in the UK were euthanized by the NHS, so that only 400 survived beyond infancy. Probably the same thing was going on with Primodos babies, and has gone a long way towards concealing how bad the deformity rate actually was.

Sexually dimorphic development doesn’t start until about 6 weeks after conception, and it appears that most exposures to Primodos must have happened earlier than that, so intersex-related abnormalities aren’t a major issue among Primodos victims. However, reading through the comments for this article, it appears that there’s at least one case where a male baby exposed to Primodos went on to experience many of the same difficulties commonly experienced by DES sonshypospadias, undescended testes, incomplete masculinisation and gender dysphoria. ”

4 thoughts on “Primodos, the Hormone Pregnancy Test which caused Birth Defects and devastated Lives”

  1. In 1968 my boyfriends doctor who was a close friend came to the flat and persuaded me to take a tablet, the name was primodos in an atempt to cause an abortion, not what I wanted, I was downtrodden. My beautiful daughter was born with deformed fingers ,as seen in your pictures, brain damage and epilepsy. I challenged the doctor latter who said he never wrote records of house visits, doesn’t remember the incident and was deliberately no longer in our lives. My daughters difficulties mean she has been in care since she was 30, and while she is undoubtedly happy her live is a child’s life, no grandchildren for me, just constant worry. Our lives are devistated with me having bouts of severe depression. I love her more than words can say. I would like compensation to make her future safe. Sincerely Sandy R

      1. Please “Des”, would you be so kind as to take my post down. I no longer want this to be public. Thank you, Sandy

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