SAN DIEGO — Only half of teens and young adults on teratogenic medication report being asked about sexual activity by their rheumatologist, and 38% did not know that their medication would be harmful to a fetus, according to a new survey.
While pediatric rheumatology providers may think that health screenings and contraceptive counseling are happening elsewhere, “this study suggests that a lot of patients are being missed, including those on teratogens,” noted Brittany Huynh, MD, MPH, a pediatric rheumatology fellow at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis. She led the study and presented the findings at the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) 2023 Annual Meeting.
For the study, Huynh and colleagues recruited patients aged 14-23 years who were assigned female at birth and were followed at pediatric rheumatology clinics affiliated with Indiana University. Participants completed a one-time survey between October 2020 and July 2022 and were asked about their sexual reproductive health experience and knowledge. Notably, all but four surveys were completed prior to the US Supreme Court Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade.
Of responses from 108 participants, the most common diagnoses were juvenile idiopathic arthritis (52%) and systemic lupus erythematosus (16%). About one third (36%) of patients were on teratogenic medication, with the most common being methotrexate. About three fourths (76%) were White, and the average age of respondents was 16.7.
Most participants (82%) said they had been asked about sexual activity by a healthcare provider, but only 38% said their pediatric rheumatologist discussed this topic with them. Of the 39 patients on teratogenic medication, 54% said they had been asked about sexual activity by their pediatric rheumatologist, and only 51% said they had received teratogenicity counseling.
A larger percentage (85%) of this group reported receiving sexual activity screenings by any provider, but there was little difference in counseling about teratogenic medication.
This suggests that this type of risk counseling “is almost exclusively done by (pediatric rheumatologists), if at all,” Huynh noted during her presentation.
In total, 56% of all patients said a provider had talked to them about how to prevent pregnancy, and 20% said they had been counseled about how to get and use emergency contraception. Only 6% of patients said their pediatric rheumatologist had discussed emergency contraception during appointments.
Although sexual activity screenings were associated with current teratogen use, pregnancy prevention counseling and emergency contraceptive counseling were not associated with teratogen use or reported sexual activity.
The survey also revealed that there were gaps in knowledge about the health effects of rheumatic medication. Of the patients on teratogens, 38% did not know that their medication could harm a fetus if they became pregnant. Only 9% of patients not on teratogens correctly answered that their medication would not harm a fetus.
Previous studies have also shown that rheumatology patients do not know that their medications can be teratogenic, noted Cuoghi Edens, MD, a rheumatologist at the University of Chicago, who sees both adult and pediatric patients. She was not involved with the study. The larger challenge is how to best educate patients, she said.
While hopefully a patient’s primary care provider is discussing these issues with them, these patients often see their rheumatologist more frequently and more consistently than other providers, Edens said.
“We are sometimes the continuity of care for the patient versus their primary care, even though it should be a group effort of trying to some of these questions,” she said.
Conducting reproductive health screenings in pediatric rheumatology clinics can be difficult though, Edens noted, not only because of time constraints but also because parents often attend appointments with their child and likely have been for years. These screenings are most accurate when done one-on-one, so pivoting and removing the parents from the room can be awkward for providers, Edens said.
She advised that starting these conversations early on can be one way to ease into talking about reproductive health. In her own practice, Huynh sets aside time during appointments to speak with adolescent patients privately.
“We always discuss teratogenic medication. I always talk to them about the fact that I’m going to be doing pregnancy testing with their other screening labs because of the risks associated,” she said. “I also specifically set time aside for patients on teratogens to talk about emergency contraception and offer a prescription, if they’re interested.”
Huynh emphasized that providing easy access to emergency contraception is key. The ACR reproductive health guidelines — although geared toward adults — recommend discussing emergency contraception with patients, and Huynh advocates writing prescriptions for interested patients.
“They can fill it and have it easily accessible, so that there are no additional barriers, particularly for people who have these higher risks,” she said.
While emergency contraceptives are also available over the counter, it can be awkward for young people to ask for them, she said, and they can be expensive if not covered under insurance. Providing a prescription is one way to avoid those issues, Huynh said.
“Certainly, you have to have some parent buy-in, because if there is going to be a script, it’s probably going to be under insurance,” she said. “But in my experience, parents are happy to have it around as long as you’re talking it through with them as well as the young person.”
Huynh and Edens had no disclosures.
Source link : https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/teen-and-young-adult-rheumatology-patients-report-gaps-2023a1000uxw?src=rss
Publish date : 2023-12-11 12:32:16
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