Primodos ad campaign
Project (2023-2025)

Risky Hormones: A Project in Partnership with Patient Groups

Today, it is hard to believe that doctors ever prescribed pills as pregnancy tests. But in the decades after World War II, millions of women worldwide ingested "hormone pregnancy tests" (HPTs), diagnostic drugs that ruled out gestation by inducing uterine bleeding (no bleeding implied pregnancy). Starting in 1967, HPTs came under suspicion for causing miscarriage and a range of "birth defects." In 1978, the British and West German parents of children with disabilities whose mothers had taken HPTs while pregnant campaigned together for recognition, compensation, and justice. Following failed legal actions, these campaigns grew quiet and the episode was largely forgotten.

In recent years, the discovery of previously inaccessible archival records in London and Berlin revitalized the long-dormant campaigns. Against a backdrop of persistent media interest, continuing scientific research, and fresh litigation, "Risky Hormones" cuts through the polemic to produce a subtler, more nuanced historical understanding. By centering pregnancy and fetal exposure, it offers a fresh take on the production of the hormonal body. Not least, it experimentalizes a meaningfully inclusive approach to audiovisual research and communication by working closely with stakeholders (people who identify as HPT-affected and their families) as active partners, from project design and recording to archival storage and publication across a range of formats.

"Risky Hormones" is a collaboration between Jesse Olszynko-Gryn (MPIWG) and Birgit Nemec (Charité Berlin) in partnership with the Association for Children Damaged by Hormone Pregnancy Tests (ACDHPT) and Netzwerk Duogynon e.V. The project is supported by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) through the UK-German Funding Initiative in the Humanities (2020-2025).


Olszynko-Gryn, Jesse (2023). A Woman’s Right to Know: Pregnancy Testing in Twentieth-Century Britain. Inside Technology. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

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Nemec, Birgit and Jesse Olszynko-Gryn (2022). “The Duogynon Controversy and Ignorance Production in Post-thalidomide West Germany.” Reproductive Biomedicine & Society Online 14: 75–86.

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Olszynko-Gryn, Jesse, Eira Bjørvik, Merle Weßel, Solveig Jülich, and Cyrille Jean (2018). “A Historical Argument for Regulatory Failure in the Case of Primodos and Other Hormone Pregnancy Tests.” Reproductive BioMedicine  & Society Online 6: 34–44.

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