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ANON POST: How can a woman cause her unborn child to become sterile?
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kutsuwamushi wrote in little_details
The setting: Rural Idaho, in the eighties-going-on-nineties.

The story starts with what the protagonist’s mother does to him.

When his mother wass pregnant with him, she did all she can to induce a miscarriage. She tried everything, remedies, poisons, self-harming even, but nothing works. The protagonist ends up being born for the most part healthy, but because of his mother’s attempts at getting rid of him, the protagonist is sterile as a side effect.

What I want to know is what sort of things can cause a child to be born sterile because of his mother trying to get rid of him. Any remedies? Drinks? Any self-harm the mother did to try to get rid of him?

I’ve tried looking it up through search terms such as “mothers making children infertile” or “how pregnant women can cause their children to be born infertile” but most of it is information I don’t believe I need. Most of the articles I read on infertility is focused on parents being infertile, not the children.

So what can cause a child to be born infertile through the mother’s actions while she was pregnant with him?

Maybe check out teratogens? Google it and something might turn up. I remember a Dick Francis book which turned on selenium being a teratogenic drug which affected whatever part of the embryo was developing at the time of exposure.

The problem is, you're not going to get just one system affected, the kid's going to have a lot of problems.

Very premature and/or low birthweight baby boys are more likely to have undescended testicles which is a (possibly reversible) cause of male infertility. If whatever she did caused him to be born early, or she tried starving herself or smoking to cause him to be low birthweight, this is possible. But it's a bit of a stretch - lots of other things cause undescended testicles, too. And he wouldn't know there were any problems until adolescence.

and there would be other problems

seconding what evilstorm said. I don't know of any way to *reliably* affect a child's fertility, on purpose, while *not* affecting other things.

Having said that, let me toss out another possibility for you that wouldn't be due to harm at all, just crappy luck - and can still be reasonably, if *completely* mistakenly, attributed to "things his mom did" from the character's point of view, if you like.

Google diethylstilbestrol. It was used from about 1930-1970 for a whole myriad of "complaints," most commonly spotting during pregnancy. What the drug companies knew, but the doctors (and thus patients) did not, was that it causes major, major birth defects. Stick with me, here, I'm sure this sounds more complex than you need, but I think you could make it fit:

When my grandmother was pregnant with my mom (1953), she began spotting, and thus ended up getting an injection of DES. This caused my mom (the fetus)'s reproductive organs to grow abnormally, such that she has an incompetent cervix (basically, her uterus can't hold a baby in). She didn't *discover* that, however, until she had me in 1981 - 5 months early, with cerebral palsy, and then, against all odds, had my sister, 1984, 3 months early, with cerebral palsy. The only reason we ever found out that my mother couldn't/shouldn't have children was because doctors specifically told her "you have a better chance of being struck by lightning than you do of having another, singleton, baby with CP.".. and then her second child also had CP... so we as a family got curious, and started tracing things back.... and thus found out that it wasn't anything mom was doing "wrong," but rather something that had happened to *her* in utero.

Googling "DES daughters," "DES sons" "DES third generation" and the like will all turn up more info on this for you; I mention it because while DES daughters (my mom's generation) and DES granddaughters (my generation, born roughly 1975-1990) tend to have reproductive *organ* issues, DES sons and grandsons tend to have simply fertility issues. So it's quite possible that your character could be a "DES grandson," but think that his infertility is due to things his mom did during pregnancy (most third generation DES people have *no idea* their parents were exposed to DES in utero, let alone that something that happened to their parents in utero might affect their own fertility).

One thing to be aware of, although it's a small detail for a fictional work, and one you probably won't need - the jury's still out on exactly how *much* third generation DESers are affected, but the one thing they agree on is that our risk of rare reproductive cancers is far higher than the normal population. Which still only puts it at about 5% as opposed to 1%... just tossing that out there as a "the more you know" kinda thing.

I normally provide links and sources out the wazoo for this stuff, but having been told a few days ago that I probably have ovarian cancer (woo, yay beating odds! some more!), I don't think I have the stomach to pull out my usual bookmarks right now without wanting to punch my monitor. Which would be bad. ;)

I was also thinking about DES, but the mother would have been taking that to protect the pregnancy, not end it; or the grandmother could have taken it and the infertility has nothing at all to do with what the mother did.

Best of luck defeating your possible ovarian cancer (and yeah, I don't want to go through those links either - cancer surgery in 10 days, though not DES related!)

Wow, I double-majored in biology and environmental science (& policy) in undergrad, and yet I'd somehow managed to to avoid hearing about DES until now!

Good luck to you and--to Maccaj above--with your respective cancer battles.

hope the surgery is an outstanding success.

Good luck with the possible cancer. :\ I'm DES grandddaughter as well, although I got lucky and don't seem to have suffered any ill effects from it. (I'm being really careful about getting cancer screenings, though!) I hope everything goes well for you. <3

this is, I think, the same drug I was thinking about, having read about when reading up in-utero effects of chronic exposure. I knew the effects on the in-utero generation weren't widely known until they themselves were adult, but I didn't know there were third-generation effects as well. God alive.

I also wanted to say I hope you get an all-clear and if you don't - I hope you get the best treatment there is.

Out of context and I apologize for that, but holy crap, I too am a DES granddaughter, and was born without a hip socket in place as the result. That much I knew; didn't take into account the reproductive issues, and it was never even brought up to me that the problems I've been having for years could be related. Explains oh-so-much.

Good luck with the treatment. I just noticed your icon : ) Yeah, I've just come back from a corporate-run convention that was expecting attack by daleks. Never again.

Perhaps large doses of radiation? Maybe she works as an X-ray tech or is friends/lovers with someone who is and routinly "zaps" herself when no one is around to fry the unborn or to make herself sterile before she realizes she's pregnant, but keeps doing it to get rid of the baby.

Not sure how X-rays affect a fetus, but radiation is a possible source of causing infertility.

You could always try alcohol poisoning, on the fetus I mean. It would be a miracle if he came out just being infertile, but I've known babies to be born from a mom who smoked and drank and are perfectly happy healthy adults with asthma.

Nothing. But you could have him be infertile for unknown causes, which is common enough, and blame his mother's actions.

I agree, as this seems quite plausible and realistic, too - never underestimate people's proficiency at spin-doctoring the blame game.

As far as I understand, "aiming" for FAS would set the kid back in so many other ways than just sterility, as would low doses of radiation, too.

(Also, hello, nationalistic man-boobs! *waves*)

I can't say off the top of my head how it would be directly caused by the mother's actions, but perhaps your protagonist ends up with a chromosomal disorder or is intersexed... a few intersex conditions will allow him to be considered male at birth and appear and behave male as an adult, but be infertile. XX male syndrome might work for you.

When I read this post Luo Cuifen came to mind. In her twenties, she went to the doctor complaining of blood in her urine and they found about thirty sewing needles in her abdomen. Someone (probably her grandparents) had stuck them into her while she was a young baby.

I was misremembering the case as someone who tried to abort in this manner (i.e., sticking needles through the belly and into the fetus) and when it failed gave birth to a child who had the needles inside her, but if your character is willing to go to that extreme or is willing to harm the child after he's born, either of these things could plausibly disrupt his reproductive system.

I agree with the above posters that it would be hard for her to affect his fertility w/o affecting anything else. I assume, however, that if he was born despite her efforts she wouldn't have treated him to well as a child/adolescent either. Is it possible she could have (a) meted out some abuse post-birth that would have sterilized him, or (b) convinced him she had done something to sterilize him or that would cause any children he fathered in future to be deformed, so he'd better not try?