When you first move to Italy one of your biggest concerns may be about finding birth control in Italy, then you may wonder about finding the right OB-GYN, what do you do when you have a UTI or have unprotected sex, what are you options. Living in Italy I have faced and figured out many of these questions on women’s health in Italy. Now I wanted to share some helpful answers.
First, if you have moved here officially, try and get residency as soon as you can. This means you can get and the State Health Care as soon as you can. Regarding Ob GYN or Birth Control, it is not really necessary, but if you end up needing an abortion, it will save you a lot of money and hassle. I know that is an extreme case but trust me, insurance is free for residents and you may as well take it.
Women’s Health in Italy: Finding Birth Control
Obviously one of your first concerns when thinking about women’s health in Italy. Though being a very Catholic country you will see that finding Birth Control in Italy is easy enough. You will however need a prescription. If you are studying abroad you should have a doctor on-site. With residency and a tessera sanitaria, just go to your assigned doctor. If you don’t have either of these take a look for a clinic there should be available in every city. In some cases, I have known pharmacists who accepted a US prescription if it was a recognizable Birth Control. But this is not guaranteed that they will accept it. The pill, patch, and nuva rings are all available. If you need to get an IUD checked on or any other implant type Birth Control, you will need to see a doctor.
When it comes to the Pill, as there are many different types, all with different balances. First ask at the pharmacist or doctor if they have your exact box from home (sometimes they do, for example, YAZ is everywhere). If you are nervous about Italian, just go on and bring your last box and show them.
Sometimes however they may not have the exact name but will have the same balance. In this case just to be 100% sure, check with a doctor.
Our Uni doctor had an entire binder filled with Birth Control pills and their Italian version alternatives. Every time a friend or I have gone to a doctor in Italy, they have always had an Italian alternative of the same hormones.
If you’d rather stick to just condoms: these can be found in Pharmacies and some supermarkets. There isn’t much to say here, you will find Durex universally and some other brands.
Also, just a personal plug here: I have started using the Natural Cycles App, based off your Basal Temperature. This can be used anywhere you go at all times. I honestly love it and have found it to be extremely accurate (both bad and good as I found out) I have been using it for about 3 years now and 100% recommend it for anyone like me who has horrible Birth Control side effects.
Right away I can tell you, finding an OB-GYN that speaks English is not the easiest thing. Both the US and UK Embassy do have a list of these English Speaking Doctors. I have not personally ever used them, but from feedback, it seems they are sometimes more expensive than other IT speaking ones.
Here are the links to both however, in case you feel more comfortable with that.
You will more than likely go to a private OB-GYN. If you go through the state system it could be a month-long waiting list. On average I have found these visits to cost around 100 to 180 euros. However, in some lucky cities, namely Milan and Bologna, there exists Centro Medico SantAgostino which is truly a GOD SEND. Here a visit costs only 60 euro and you can even often get the same day or next day visit. All of my experiences with them have been fantastic! They have always been patient with my language abilities and very kind.
Something to expect when going to an OB-GYN in Italy is that they will go on in down there without much warning. This was much different from my experience in the USA where they would always be very calming. In Italy, they sit you up and just go on in. (Sharing this because if you are like me, this may freak the Sh** out of you the first time.)
Urinary Tract Infections
Honestly, for some reason I get this way too often and horribly in Italy. So that is why it made it into the subject of Women’s Health in Italy. Thankfully it means I now know all the products to grab to avoid them.
First of all, Italy is hot and humid and generally pretty nasty all summer, so do yourself a favor and get some Cotton underwear ASAP. Take care of yourself! You can get great 100% cotton at Oysho, I have seen at Tezenis now, and Calvin Klein and PUMA.
Then make sure you stock up on Cranberry “Integratore”. These are natural supplements, with all the good stuff for UT health. At the pharmacy ask for “un integratore di mirtillo rosso”, or straight to the problem “ho bisogno di qualcosa per un infezione del tratto urinario”
You can find these cranberry supplements at any pharmacy and they do wonders. If you take them when you know a UTI may pop up, such as summer, then you can avoid UTIs entirely. However, if you already have a sign of a UTI, these guys may take a few days to kick into effect. So be prepared with lots of water and rest time.
I found if I already had a light UTI these supplements would help keep the pain and weird sensations at bay for at least a few hours so it was bearable. However, once it wore off I was in a lot of pain again.
Then Italy has a magical antibiotic. Now, I don’t actually know the real rules about this because I was able to get it over the counter in Rome by explaining to the pharmacist how in pain I was. However, in Turin, some said I needed a doctor permission. Others said “No the cranberry is enough” (it wasn’t, I was crying for like a week)
But anyway this antibiotic-Monuril tastes magically like Gatorade and dissolves in water. You take it once at night before going to bed, but after you have peed (the idea is don’t pee it out right away after). And MAGICALLY your infection probably will go away the next day. If not there is a second dose and that should do it, but 1 will probably be fine.
Women’s Health in Italy: The Morning After Pill
When talking about Women’s Health in Italy, unprotected sex, or unwanted results is an important topic I needed to bring up. So for starters: The morning after pill is easy enough to get in Italy. It costs 20 euro (sometimes I have had it for 18). There are two versions in theory one is good for 3 days after sex, one is 5, so the pharmacist may ask you when the unprotected sex occurred.
Basically you just need an ID, walk into any pharmacy, ask for “la pillola per il giorno dopo” (obviously there are real names, but this was what I asked for everyone understood) And they hand it over.
One thing to know is you have to buy it for yourself. A male friend cannot buy it for you unless you are standing by his side, saying it is what you want.
Getting an Abortion In italy
Ok, let’s get into the serious bit. Now, many people often spread a rumor that abortions are not allowed or difficult to get in Italy. This is not really true, its just a somewhat annoying process (because of course, Italy) It is, however, good to know, a doctor CAN refuse to sign off an abortion for you because THEY are against it. However, if that is the case you go to the next doctor in the hospital and get it, it’ll be ok.
As I mentioned before this process is going to be a lot easier if you already have the State Health Insurance, as it will be free. If you do not have this, it could be more difficult to jump between doctors offices and it will cost you up to 1000 euros. But overall, better if you are a part of the system, still is possible if you are not.) In theory the laws now state you can have an abortion anytime in the first 90 days of the abortion. Some doctors have said 10 weeks, so let’s just say the earlier the better.
There is kind of 2 first steps to getting an abortion in Italy. So the first thing you will need an official letter from a pharmacy stating you really are pregnant (excuse me, you don’t believe me?) called a Certificato di Gravidanza.
Go to the pharmacy and ask for this. They may then ask you to step in and take a test there, or possibly bring back a cup of your pee to do the test.
Then you need to do is get an appointment with your doctor, or the local ” Consultorio Familiare”. Have a look for your local ASL and call the offices directly. Some don’t need appointments but better to go ahead and make one.
Here, if you get an appointment with your doctor they may refer you to the Consultorio. (Take a deep breath, it is Italy, remember everyone has their own way of doing things.) Then the possible second first step is getting an official pregnancy test.
Bring them the Pregnancy certificate, an ID, a Tessera Sanitaria if you have it, plus your Permesso di Soggiorno. Let them know your intention of getting an abortion. They will give you a physical examination and tell you how far along you are, talk to you a bit about your decision and help you find the best solution. For example, they will tell you if you can do the pill at the home method or the operation, and direct you to the best hospital. This interview is usually to check-in with you mentally to make sure they have walked you through everything, in case you have any second thoughts. Then they have to wait 7 days so you have proper time to tihnk.
After 7 days, they will give you a form stating your decision, how far along you are, and that you have the “ok” to get an abortion. You then have to make a trip to the recommended hospital.
Bring the form and your documents to the hospital. Here they will schedule your appointment and some blood tests.
The Day oF
On the day of, you will not be able to have your partner or friend come in with you, but in the ward, other women going through the same process will be with you, and they tend to partner you up 2 per room so you will have someone by your side.
A huge reminder through this whole process: I have outlined what I know, but every doctor, hospital, and region has their own weird way of doing things. Be prepared for judgemental doctors who don’t care about your body, be prepared for people cutting in line, for things being slow, for the awkward “Auguri” when you then have to say no I’m aborting it.
Other Women’s Health In Italy Questions?
If you want to talk through any of the above situations, or have any other questions, feel free to reach out via email and Instagram also. I will have further posts coming up about walking through a pregnancy in Italy and answering future questions you may have!