Background: Although preferably avoided, pregnant and lactating women often use medicines, including potentially inappropriate products. Pregnant women also commonly search for online information on medication. This underscores the need for appropriate counseling by healthcare professionals, including community pharmacists. However, little is known about pharmacists’ perceptions and barriers towards this role, nor about their knowledge and counseling practice. Objectives: To explore licensed pharmacists’ attitudes, barriers, knowledge and counseling practice regarding pharmaceutical care during preconception, pregnancy and lactation. Methods: All pharmacists employed in 40 randomly selected pharmacies of a Belgian pharmacy chain (‘Surplus Network’) were asked to complete an online survey between September 2018–February 2019. The survey assessed pharmacists' attitudes and current practice regarding their role, as well as barriers and knowledge. Additionally, the 40 pharmacies were visited twice in December 2017 by simulated patients. The scenarios included a request for a pregnancy test and for an over-the-counter (OTC) product to treat pregnancy-related nausea. Results: All 63 invited pharmacists completed the survey. For all attitude-related statements, at least 80% agreed that pharmacists should take up the presented roles. However, for only 1 in 5 statements did at least 80% report currently taking up these roles for all or most patients. Most commonly reported barriers related to difficulties identifying the woman's status (71%) and lack of education (67%). The median score for the knowledge test was 23/45 (range: 6–36). The mystery shopping showed inadequate questioning and insufficient counseling. Only in 10% of cases was folic acid intake spontaneously discussed; in 39% of cases, incorrect advice about the dispensed OTC-product was given. Conclusion: Pharmacists acknowledged having an important role during preconception, pregnancy and lactation, but currently do not provide pharmaceutical care in this area to most patients. Educational programs are urgently needed to improve licensed pharmacists’ knowledge and counseling regarding this topic.

Additional Metadata
Keywords Community pharmacy services, Counseling, Lactation, Patient simulation, Preconception care, Pregnancy
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.sapharm.2019.12.010, hdl.handle.net/1765/122896
Journal Research in Social and Administrative Pharmacy
Citation
Ceulemans, M. (Michael), Liekens, S. (Sophie), van Calsteren, K, Allegaert, K.M, & Foulon, V. (Veerle). (2019). Community pharmacists’ attitudes, barriers, knowledge and counseling practice with regard to preconception, pregnancy and lactation. Research in Social and Administrative Pharmacy. doi:10.1016/j.sapharm.2019.12.010