Updated June 2022
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, look for a clinic that 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, there are many different types, all with different balances. First, ask at the pharmacist or doctor if they have your exact box from home. 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 on 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, that 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. You can also use the site doctorsinitaly.com to find one in your area or for a consultation online.
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, Intimissimi and 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 in 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 that 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’s 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.
Pap Tests & HPV Prevention
If you have signed up for the Italian Tessera Sanitaria, the national healthcare, you will receive a letter to get a free Pap Test or Mammogram every 3 years. This is set up automatically for women over 25, but if you are not on the local healthcare, you should check in with an OB/GYN to find out how to get one for you.
Regarding the HPV Vaccine in Italy, if you are under 28 years old, you can get it for free through Italian health insurance. You will need to call your local Centro Vaccinale to set up a meeting and reserve an appointment.
If you are older you can still do it through the Centro Vaccinale, but you will have to pay a small fee. And if you are not covered by the national insurance you will need to go through your private OB/GYN and pay for the vaccine as well.
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 euros (sometimes I have had it for 18). There are two versions in theory one is good for 3 days after sex, and 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
Abortion in Italy is legal, though depending on where you are in Italy it might be difficult. Just because it is legal, doesn’t mean it is accessible. All around Italy doctors have the ability to refuse to approve or give an abortion. I’ve written a whole blog with details about how you can get an abortion in Italy and who you need to contact. Read it here.
Pregnancy in Italy
I am starting a series covering all the topics regarding pregnancy in Italy. The first blog is all about conceiving in Italy, looking into the first steps you should take and what to do if you are struggling with infertility, or looking into IVF. You can read more here.
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.
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