Women's perspectives on counseling about risks for medication-induced birth defects

Birth Defects Res A Clin Mol Teratol. 2010 Jan;88(1):64-9. doi: 10.1002/bdra.20618.


Purpose: This qualitative study explored women's experiences with counseling about medication-induced birth defects, as well as how and when they would like to receive information on medication-induced birth defects from their health care providers (HCPs).

Methods: We conducted four focus groups with 36 women of reproductive age (18-45 years old) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Twenty-one women were using medications to treat a chronic health condition, and two were pregnant. Content analysis was performed by three independent coders using a grounded theory approach. Discrepancies were resolved by consensus.

Results: Women reported depending on their HCPs for information about the risks of teratogenic effects of medications on a pregnancy, but felt the information they had been provided was not always comprehensive. Women want HCPs to initiate discussions about potentially teratogenic medications at the time the medications are prescribed, regardless of whether the woman is sexually active or planning a pregnancy. Women want clear information about all potential outcomes for a fetus. Factors women reported as being critical to effective teratogenic risk counseling included privacy, sufficient time to discuss the topic, and a trusting relationship with their HCP.

Conclusions: Women of reproductive age think that providing information about the possible teratogenic effects of medications could be improved by routine discussions of teratogenic risks at the time medications are prescribed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Abnormalities, Drug-Induced*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Counseling*
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions*
  • Female
  • Focus Groups / methods
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Health Personnel
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Preconception Care
  • Pregnancy
  • Risk Assessment
  • Teratogens / toxicity*
  • Women's Health*
  • Young Adult


  • Teratogens