An effort to develop a birth control "vital sign" measure gets doctors to document women's use of contraception, but it doesn't make them any more likely to include family planning counseling during visits, according to a new study.
The proposed "vital sign" consists of questions about contraception and pregnancy.
"We were hoping that this would be a prompt for much more provision of counseling by clinicians and what we saw was it only minimally affected the type of counseling that women were given," said Dr. Eleanor Schwarz, the lead author of the study and the director of the Women's Health Services Research Unit at the University of Pittsburgh.
"We got better documentation (by doctors), but we can't say that women were better informed," she added.
Unlike blood pressure, heart rate and other vital signs, use of birth control is not often addressed during doctor visits, Schwarz said, but it should be for women of childbearing age.
According to Schwarz's study, published in the Annals of Family Medicine, six percent of pregnancies are exposed to prescription medications that can cause a birth defect, because a large proportion of pregnancies are unplanned and birth control counseling rarely happens during physician visits.
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