Providing contraception for women taking potentially teratogenic medications: a survey of internal medicine physicians' knowledge, attitudes and barriers

J Gen Intern Med. 2010 Apr;25(4):291-7. doi: 10.1007/s11606-009-1215-2. Epub 2010 Jan 20.


Background: The majority of women prescribed category D or X medications may not receive adequate contraceptive counseling or a reliable contraceptive method. Physicians who prescribe potentially teratogenic medications have a responsibility to provide women with contraceptive counseling, a method of highly-effective contraception, or both.

Objective: Investigate the knowledge, beliefs and barriers of primary care physicians toward providing adequate contraception to women taking potential teratogens.

Design & participants: Self-administered confidential survey of primary care internal medicine physicians at an urban, academic medical center.

Measurements: Knowledge of potential teratogenic medications and contraceptive failure rates was assessed. Participants' beliefs about adequacy of their medical education, practice limitations and attitudes toward improving provision of contraception to women on potential teratogens were assessed.

Results: One hundred and ten physicians responded (57.3%). Nearly two-thirds (62.3%) of participants had cared for reproductive aged women taking category D or X medications in the past year. The mean percent of correctly identified category D or X medications was 58.4% (SD 22.1%). The mean percent correct for knowledge of published contraceptive failure rates was 64.6% (SD 23.1%). Most respondents (87.6%) felt it is the responsibility of primary care physicians to provide contraception. Time constraints were reported to be somewhat or very limiting by 61.3% and over half felt medical school (63.2%) or residency (58.1%) inadequately prepared them to prescribe or counsel about contraceptives.

Conclusions: Primary care physicians commonly encounter reproductive age women taking category D or X medications, but may lack sufficient knowledge and time to counsel about potential teratogens and contraception to prevent fetal exposure to these drugs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Abnormalities, Drug-Induced / prevention & control*
  • Academic Medical Centers / statistics & numerical data
  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Clinical Competence / statistics & numerical data*
  • Communication Barriers
  • Contraception* / statistics & numerical data
  • Directive Counseling / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Services Accessibility / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Internal Medicine / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Physicians, Primary Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data
  • Teratogens*
  • United States
  • Urban Population / statistics & numerical data
  • Women's Health


  • Teratogens