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Nov 20, 2018

Differences in obtaining birth control: Japan vs. back home

I’ve experienced medical care in three countries now - Australia, the USA, and Japan. Each have their similarities and differences, but I noticed a few specific things here in Japan when I tried to get a script for the pill compared to what I’d encountered previously. You may be surprised to know that birth control in Japan was only legalised in 1999, and perhaps based on that, it was more difficult to obtain than anywhere else I’ve lived. These are some of the observations from my experience in getting a script for it.

Differences in obtaining birth control: Japan vs. back home photo

Don’t expect your run-of-the-mill clinic to be able to prescribe you the pill.


Back home? Obtaining the pill is as simple as popping into your local GP’s (general practitioner) office and letting the doctor know that’s what you’re after. They’ll usually ask you a few quick questions about your medical history, and prescribe you with a variant of the pill that they see to be the best fit. Here in Japan, my local clinic doesn’t prescribe the pill, and sent me onto the local hospital who handle requests for the pill specifically. Back home, hospitals tend to be reserved for surgery or niche medical complaints, rather than getting a simple prescription.


Be prepared for only getting the pill in small doses…


In Australia and the US, your GP will generally be able to prescribe you the pill for a 12 month time frame. Here in Japan I was surprised to find that the obstetrician I saw could only prescribe it in three month sequences - after that three month time frame I’d have to schedule another appointment to get another prescription drawn up. This can be a hassle, especially since I’ve found that routine appointments do take significantly longer here in Japan than they do back home. However, it can also be seen as a positive, since it allows you to discuss with your health provider how you’re finding the pill that they prescribed, and ensure that there are no problems with it.


You’re not going to have the pill covered by health insurance


Japan’s NHI is pretty great from my experiences thus far, and certainly makes the cost of medical expenses very manageable. The contraceptive pill though is not covered by NHI, so you’ll be paying completely out of pocket. My three month supply cost 6300 yen, which is more than what I have paid anywhere else that I’ve lived on the health insurance plans I’ve been covered by - but depending on where you hail from, it may still be reasonably priced.


One thing to note…


Many people I’ve spoken to about obtaining birth control in Japan indicated a blood test was required before a doctor would prescribe it. I brought in my previous script from an American doctor and an empty packet of tablets that I had, to explain that I’d been on birth control before. I also had medical records to back this up, so they went ahead and prescribed a similar product for me without needing a blood test. You could always try and go down this route if you do have either a script, prior medical records or existing birth control packets prescribed elsewhere to show your healthcare professional.

genkidesu

genkidesu

After spending the last several years in the beating heart of Tokyo, I will be spending the next three in the countryside of Japan. I adore this country and all it has to offer - and I'm always learning more and more about life here as I go along!


6 Comments

  • BlueButterfly

    on Nov 20

    Good to know that the Japanese procedere is exactly the same like in Germany including the price for it. I'm more worried that the pill here has a different composition than I'm used to. How is your experience?

  • genkidesu

    on Nov 20

    @BlueButterfly so far it’s been just fine! I think they matched up the most similar product they had to what I used previously. So in Germany getting the pill requires a hospital appointment too? It’s always interesting knowing what the procedure is like in different places!

  • BlueButterfly

    on Nov 20

    @genkidesu A visit to the hospital is not required, but you always have to do an examination at the gynecologist. Without this examination, there is no pill. Generally you will get the pill only for 3 months in exceptional cases for 6 months, but an examiation is always mandatory.

  • Eli

    on Nov 22

    My doctor prescribed me pills for 6 months, so I guess it depends on the doctor how much you can get at a time. However, that was a while ago and regulations might have changed. Also, I didn't have to do a blood test when I was first prescribed it.

  • Josie

    on Nov 23

    I've been wanting to visit an Ob-Gyne clinic but I'm worried about the language barrier because I can't speak any Japanese, after reading your post I honestly don't know anymore (lol) its kinda frustrating that I only know how to speak English. But hey thanks for sharing this! Very helpful!

  • genkidesu

    on Nov 28

    @Josie I hope you go -- I don't speak Japanese either, at least very minimally, but the OB that I saw spoke enough English for us to meet somewhere in the middle. There's also my good old friend Google Translate that I use when I'm really stumped! :) I feel the same way as you sometimes, that it can be daunting/overwhelming to go and seek medical advice when the language barrier is there. But it was actually much less difficult than I expected and left me feeling empowered that I managed to get through the appointment and get the prescription I needed!