Many teen girls who are prescribed medicines that can cause birth defects may not get birth control counseling

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Many medications can cause birth defects. That includes medicines that many teen girls take for conditions such as acne, seizures and migraines.

Researchers at Children's Mercy Hospital wondered if girls 14 and older who are prescribed medicines that can cause birth defects get counseling from their health care providers about preventing pregnancy and get prescriptions for contraceptives. The researchers found that in many cases, they don't. At least there was no documentation of that. That means these teens could be at higher risk of pregnancy and having babies with birth defects.

"We looked to see whether there was documentation that the female received counseling regarding contraception, a prescription for contraception or if they were already taking a birth control method," said Stephani Stancil, a nurse practitioner at Children's Mercy.

Stancil and her colleagues found evidence of that counseling for fewer than a third of girls prescribed the medicines that can cause birth defects.

"This finding is very concerning," Stancil said.

She says the study didn't look at why providers aren't counseling about birth control, but other research suggests they may be uncomfortable doing so or lack the time. She encourages teens and parents to ask questions whenever a new drug is prescribed.

"Certainly asking whether or not their teen should be on a birth control method is an important message with any of these medicines," Stancil said.

She hopes the findings will result in providers counseling patients.

The research is published in the journal Pediatrics. The researchers analyzed records at a large, Midwestern pediatric medical center. Its name was not revealed.