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September 18, 2007 - Many doctors aren't warning about specific birth defect cause

Doctors must do a better job of warning women to avoid getting pregnant while they are taking prescription drugs. A new study suggests that taking prescription drugs while attempting to get pregnant can cause birth defects.

Almost half of the women taking the medicines didn't get counseling from their doctor about using birth control measures, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center researchers found in a study of nearly 500,000 women.

Women should discuss the potential pregnancy risks with their doctors before taking the drugs, said Dr. Eleanor Bimla Schwarz, lead author of the study in Tuesday's Annals of Internal Medicine.

The researchers noted that the study might overestimate the problem because the data is from health plan billing codes, which don't have the same detailed medical histories as patient medical charts. Some doctors may have provided counseling but didn't bother to mark it with a billing code.

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