Fact Sheet at Dermatologist Improves Contraceptive Knowledge, Study Finds

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By Anisa Arsenault, Associate Editor
Updated January 30, 2017
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The dermatologist’s office isn’t the place you’d typically associated with birth control education (unless you’re on the pill for acne-related reasons, but let’s not get nitpicky). But a new study found it might be the most effective place to offer contraceptive counseling.

Published Feb. 4 in the journal JAMA Dermatology, the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine study found a simple fact sheet goes a long way. Researchers presented 100 women from a single dermatology clinic the same sheet about birth control options. Before reading it, 75 percent of women overestimated the effectiveness of condoms, while 51 percent did so for oral contraceptives. And 16 percent had never even heard of intrauterine devices (IUDs), one of the most effective forms of birth control.

Why does this knowledge matter? Women taking especially powerful acne medication like Isotretinoin (you may know it by its former name, Accutane) risk having babies with some pretty serious birth defects if they get pregnant, like facial abnormalities, missing or malformed earlobes and mental retardation. So knowing how to prevent pregnancy — effectively — is especially important.

The FDA already strictly regulates the distribution of Isotretinoin. It created the iPLEDGE program, which requires woman prescribed the drug to pledge to taking regular pregnancy tests and two forms of birth control while on the medication. But researchers think medical professionals can do better.

“While contraceptive counseling isn’t something a dermatologist has to do on a daily basis — like an obstetrician or gynecologist would — it does matter for young women using these drugs,” says lead study author Carly A. Werner, M.D. “Our goal was to show that a simple intervention like our handout could be added to dermatology office visits to enhance contraceptive counseling and decrease the number of exposed fetuses through more effective means of contraception.”

And that intervention did prove to be effective; followup surveys found women significantly improved their contraceptive knowledge after viewing the fact sheet.

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