Things you Need to Know about Birth Control Pills in Japan
How and where to get birth control and morning after pills in Japan
Today, people have an astonishing variety of options when it comes to birth control, in both method and service delivery. We, as women, should all feel glad and grateful because we now have the highest than ever control over our fertility. While there’re several other non-hormonal-birth-control methods, from conventional means like IUD or condom to the popular and almost celebrity-like figure of contraceptives, the pills. As a matter of fact, 2018 statistical research shows in the USA alone, 14% of women aged 15-49 are currently taking birth control pills, or “the Pill,” as some teenagers like to call them. On the other hand, only 3% of medical facilities declared to provide consultation services for people looking for contraceptive pills in Japan. By reading this article, we would like to walk you through everything about this medication and its current status in Japan (including emergency contraceptive pills or morning-after pills, for some). Considering Japan Wireless Web Magazine is all over the latest in women’s reproductive health.
The pros and cons of birth control pills
First off, the pill is much more effective than you think. “It’s hard to actually take the pill at the same time every day when you’re living a busy life. If you take these pills every single day, the chances of getting pregnant is 1 percent.” as Dr. Vanessa Cullins of Planned Parenthood said to Vox magazine. In other words, the pill is amazingly more than 90% effective. Besides, for women who are long-struggling with irregular or painful periods, these pills could also be seen as a savior because the active ingredients in birth control pills are normally synthetic versions of estrogen and progesterone, which can help control hormone levels, wa-lah! Here comes your regular menstrual cycle!
As a plus, it may also improve nervousness and mood swings. New research shows most oral contraceptive users feel less anxious and depressed once they’re on the pill, and why’s that?
Generally speaking, your hormone levels are altering all the time, and when estrogen levels reach their peak in the menstrual cycle, that’s when many women feel they are in their best condition, both physically and emotionally. On the other hand, the decline in levels of these hormones could lead to distress and psychological ill-being. And what most birth control pills can do, is smooth this mountain-shaped hormonal cycle into an even line. Eventually, say goodbye to the emotional you.
The phrase”birth control” is a great sugar coding for the drug, but the pill is so much more than that. When it’s the pill we’re talking about, side effects aren’t always a bad thing. Believe it or not, if you happen to suffer from the following symptoms; Polycystic ovary syndrome, severe cramping in your period, or premenstrual syndrome, both the combination and progestin-only pills could be your help.
Although the pill seems to be the miracle cure for everything, it still has its cons. For instance, women who’re 35 or above and smokers should really give other contraception methods a try instead of taking these pills. Even though this may seem shocking, the truth is some types of birth control pills, of course, not all of them, are linked to blood clotting problems. So, if you’re a person who has a history of clots or is more likely to get them for some reason (Heavy smoker, family history), you should talk with your doctor about which is the best pill or what brand of oral contraceptives is for you. Other disadvantages and side effects may include headaches, nausea, breast tenderness, or an increase in the size of your boobs (don’t know if that’s a con). Anyhow, it’s always worth giving your ob-gyn a call to discuss all your contraceptive options.
Birth control pills and the skin
Say, if you’re a teen or young adult, you’re probably not a stranger to all those crazy hormone issues. During puberty, your body produces different levels of hormones that affect the glands which control the oil on your skin. That’s why this is also the time when you begin to discover acne and pimples never stops popping up, and sudden facial breakup just came out of nowhere.
For women of any age, pimples and acne, especially those severe ones, can lead to embarrassment, anxiety, or even a more devastating outcome, permanent skin scarring. Little do people know birth control pills are actually being used by dermatologists to treat teen acne for years. “It’s one of the most common things in dermatology that we’re prescribing right now, especially to teenagers and people in their early 20s to treat their acne,” explains Dr. Nancy Samolitis, certified dermatologist of Facile Dermatology ＋Boutique in LA, when talking to ELLE magazine.
“The Pills” can totally change your skin by regulating your hormones, which is crucial for young women who are still developing or whose bodies are still adjusting from their very first period. The pills actually contain the same hormones which your body makes, progestin and estrogen, only in different amounts, so what it does, is override your body’s signals to release an ovulate. Thus, it lowers your testosterone level, which then leads to breakout reduction.
Testosterone is the hormone that stimulates your skin to produce sebum. As we probably know, excess oils on our face could then clog pores, and the next thing you know is breakouts. So, in theory, if you could somehow drop your testosterone level, you could control the acne from forming. But after all, it’s pure science, not magic. So it might take up to 90 days to see the final result. And even though the pill will help reduce acne, this doesn’t mean you’re free from your daily skincare routine and remove your make-up every evening.
Pills in Japan
The first birth control pill was approved by the Food and Drug Administration(FDA) in 1960. Three years later, in 1963, doctors could prescribe it as an oral contraceptive. But it will have to wait for another 10 years, women could finally buy them freely before marriage. It was then those drugs were considered a miracle and were already famous enough to have a nickname as simple as the Pill.
Sixty years have passed, and entering the 21st century, significant gaps in access remain, driven by politics, poverty, or cultural concerns. For instance, Japan is one of the largest and most developed economies in the world. It surprised me that the first birth control pill was introduced to the Japanese 40 years after it became a daily routine for most western women. In fact, Japan was the only U.N. member not to approve oral contraceptives to be an over-the-counter medicine while other countries did, and this delay has had a knock-on effect on the pill’s popularity to this day. And since the pill in Japan remains to be prescription medicine, it can’t be advertised openly, which is why it isn’t hard to imagine Japanese people’s understanding of pills remains low.
Only recently, the national diet had heated debates over whether the pill should remain restricted in Japan by prescription. For now, access to oral contraceptives in Japan requires a doctor’s prescription, and the average cost is around 2-3000 yen per pill, which is an unacceptable price for many. However, we could expect to see some changes take place pretty soon, perhaps as fast as next year. According to the Asahi Shimbun, many Japanese are urging their government to ease the rule on the sale of birth control pills and give people the right to buy the pill without any doctor’s prescription. The Suga cabinet is leaning towards making this possible and has actually put the contraceptive bill forward. If this activity does pass the legislative process, it would be considered a great leap forward and bring Japan in line with other 100-plus developed countries.
What brands of pills are available?
In reality, a wide variety of birth control pills are available in Japan. From monophasic ones (Containing equal amounts of the hormones for the entire cycle) to multiphasic pills (Altering the ratio of progestin to estrogen during the whole 21-day cycle). The most popular monophasic pills are Marvelon (マーベロン) and Ortho M-21 (オーソ M-21). Triquilar (トリキュラー), Ange (アンジュ), and Ortho 777 (オーソ 777) will be your handful of options when it’s multi-phasic pills you’re looking for.
I’m sure you can tell by now your choices are pretty much limited. That’s why, if I made a suggestion, I would argue the most helpful way is to bring your prescription from your country with you and show that to one of your ob-gynes here in Japan. At the very least, they should be able to get a close enough match to what your body is used to.
Over 60 years in the making, many of the choices of birth control are made possible. But there is never a “one-type-fits-all” option, to find the one that works best for you, start looking for a trustworthy ob-gyn clinic and be sure to ask whatever questions are bothering you.
By the way, if you need to order the birth control pill in Japan, it’s simply called “Piru” (ピル). By saying that, they usually will understand which pill you are referring to.
Morning after pill
Morning-after pills are not highly recommended because it’s introducing too many hormones into your body at once. It often causes severe physical pain and side effects.
But we can all have an emergency and need to ask for that pill. Unlike in other countries, in Japan, it’s a bit complicated to get it, although not impossible. In principle, it’s “enough” to go to a gynecology clinic or hospital that offers this service. They give you the pill on the spot, and it usually costs about 7,000-10,000 yen, including the visit. This pill is also not covered by medical insurance, so you have to pay the full amount.
The difficulty in Japan when it comes to getting this pill is that many clinics close early (around 5-6 pm) and aren’t open, for example, on weekends or national holidays. This is very inconvenient when you are in an emergency. But generally, even on weekends, you can find clinics open, even if they are far from your home.
The morning-after pill is called “moningu afutaa piru” (モーニングアフターピル) but is usually abbreviated to “afutaa piru” (アフターピル).
Gynecology clinics in Japan with English-speaker staff
If you need help finding a gynecological clinic that has English-speaking staff, here are a few.
If you don’t feel confident enough with your Japanese level to go to a hospital or you don’t want to go to a hospital due to the current pandemic situation, there’s an option that may suit you.
clinic nearme health is a new service offered by clinic nearme, a Japanese company providing life support services for foreign residents in Japan. With clinic nearme health, you don’t even need to go to a hospital since the interview with the doctor is done through a video call with an interpreter. After that, they will send the pills to your home or desired address. So it’s a really easy and convenient service for foreign women living in Japan.
I hope this article has been helpful for the foreign women living in Japan out there. For more information about other medical services in Japan for foreigners, you can check these articles too.