Settling down abroad: Have you thought about your birth control?

Published on 2019-11-14 at 07:37 by Mikki Beru
Birth control: definitely not the first thing you would think of when moving abroad. However, regulations around contraception are different in different regions of the world so it is important to know what to expect to be able to take the necessary precautions...

Different means of contraception

Implant, hormonal or copper IUD (IUD), vaginal ring, female or male sterilization, condom etc. Birth control can take various forms. Australia, France, Argentina or Chile favor the pill. In Central America in the USA, female sterilization is the most common practice. Japan, South Korea and Russia are more likely to use the male condom.


Image source: birth control around the world (free of charge if the source is mentioned)

The different methods adopted by the countries are far from being random. They stem from traditions, policies and so much more... Knowing these variables helps to better anticipate one's expatriation.

It is, thus, interesting to identify the countries that make extensive use of definitive contraception (sterilization), and those preferring reversible solutions (pill, etc.). For expats, the pill appears as the easiest contraception to ask for. However, large disparities exist between countries.

The weight of tradition and politics

In North American countries, sterilization prevails, with female sterilization being most common. In 2017, in the United States, the overall rate of sterilization reached 43%: women are a majority (70%), against 30% of men. In comparison, only 5% of French people opt for this method (most of them women). The irreversibility of sterilization explains this low figure.

Conversely, the pill is much more common in France than in the United States: only 21% of American women have used it (2017 figures). An option that is, furthermore, threatened in this country. Obamacare had made a big step forward in medical care, making it mandatory to cover contraceptive costs. President Trump has, however, reversed this.. A decision challenged by the opposition.

Specifically, to get a month of treatment by pill (about $ 50), it will first be necessary to obtain an appointment with the doctor, who will issue you a prescription. This appointment alone costs between $ 40 and up to $ 250. Low-income women can turn to Planned Parenthood, which is the equivalent of family planning.

Other countries deliver the pill only on prescription: Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan, Mexico, Urugay. For a month, the contraceptive pill costs $ 18 in Japan, $ 17 in Canada, $ 15 in Australia, and $ 7 in South Korea.

It is advisable to come with the prescription from your country and know the exact dosage of your pill. For some, like those in South Korea and Japan, are known to have a lower dosage than pills sold in the West.

On the other hand, no need for a prescription in Argentina or Brazil. In Argentina, it is even possible to obtain the pill free of charge in public hospitals.

The countries where the pill has bad press

There are a few countries where the pill is a big no-no. This is the case in Taiwan. Traditional medicine has a strong influence in this country; some doctors question the effectiveness of the pill, and point out its many negative effects. Other “chemical contraceptives” are equally controversial. 

In Japan, the pill also has bad press and is usually associated with promiscuity. It is, therefore, less used than the male condom. Getting it can be particularly difficult. The challenge begins as soon as you find the doctor's office. In Japan, you go either to the hospital or to private clinics. Although numerous on the territory, they are divided into areas of expertise: child care, otitis, toothache, care of women etc.