Finding medical records on your parents and grandparents to verify DES use can be challenging.
Doing a medical records search can be frustrating and often ends in disappointment. As years pass the chances for success decline dramatically. When hospitals close and doctors die their records are routinely destroyed. Time is not on your side.
It may work best to write, and enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope rather than making telephone calls to the sources below (with the exception of requests for military records where a form is needed – see below). You are most likely to get a response if you make it easy for the office to reply. Persistence is also important. You may have to try several times to obtain copies of the records, if available. This sample letter may help.
Contacting the Doctor
If the doctor is still practicing, ask in writing for a copy of any records showing medicines you (or your mother) took during pregnancy. Be specific with names and dates. Include a self-addressed stamped envelope.
When a physician retires or dies, there is a chance the practice was transferred to another doctor who took over the records. You can write or call the local County Medical Society and ask who has the doctor’s records now. Those addresses are available from the County Health Department or the State Board of Medical Records. Unfortunately, many records are destroyed when a doctor dies.
Contacting the Hospital
Write to the Medical Records Department of the hospital where your pregnancy or birth took place. A consent form from your mother may be required for release of her medical records. If that is not possible, state that you are requesting your birth records.
Give your mother’s name, the name of the doctor present at delivery (usually listed on your birth certificate) and your date of birth. Ask what medicines taken during pregnancy are listed on your mother’s records.
Contacting the Pharmacy
If you know what pharmacy was used you can request a copy of prescriptions filled during your mother’s pregnancy. Include her name and the approximate date of her pregnancy. Some pharmacists have records going back many years; others do not.
Interpreting the Prescription
Sometimes it is difficult to tell if a prescription contained DES. Of note is that medications that did not contain DES were given to women during pregnancy. Also, complicating matters is that some prenatal vitamins contained DES. But there is no way that we know about for determining what was contained in those vitamins. DES was prescribed under a variety of brand names, however, in the United States it was usually listed as either DES or Stilbestrol.
How to Get Military Records
If your mother received pregnancy care from the military you can request a copy of the medical records by contacting the military and requesting Standard Form 180: Access to Military Service and Pension Records
Tax Returns and Sewing Kits
One member found medical itemized deductions for stilbestrol in their mother’s tax returns. They also recommend checking old sewing kits or button boxes as the glass prescription bottles were sometimes reused.