Birth Control Abroad: Personal Experiences from Madrid & London

Managing meds abroad can be a tricky situation, and birth control is no exception. If you’re traveling long-term or moving abroad it is highly advised that you check your country’s policy when it comes to attaining birth control pills. The first time I went abroad, I took a 6-month supply of pills with me as I was traveling for 6 months. The second time around, I wasn’t so lucky. I was moving to Spain for at least a year and needed to a yearlong supply. Several phone calls with the insurance company, doctor, and $300 later, I had my supply, but risked losing it all at customs. Luckily, customs didn’t take it away from me, but I wish I had known the following before taking off with $300 worth of birth control in my suitcase…

In Spain, you can take your prescription to a pharmacy and the pharmacists will look at the ingredients and try to find the same prescription or the equivalent. Friends of mine have gotten packs of birth control pills for as low as 3 € a pack. Similarly, you can find a private practice gynecologist who will prescribe a similar prescription for just a few euros a pack. In the United States, a pack can cost up to $60, for just one month. This is unheard of in Spain.

London, however, is a completely different story. After about 10 months in Spain, I found myself unexpectedly living in London for a few months. I had gone back to the United States but was unable to refill my prescription. After having heard of my friend’s experiences in Spain, I decided it wouldn’t be a big deal to travel back across the pond with just a month’s supply left and decided to wing it.

Once in London, I researched sexual health clinics and found one nearby my flat. I found one in Chelsea called World’s End Health Clinic on King’s Road. I made an appointment during their walk-in hours, and a week later, after a brief visit with the office nurse, I had three months of birth control in my possession FOR FREE. I told her I would need more than three months and was instructed to make a follow-up appointment. If all goes well in the first three months of these new pills, I could then get a six-month supply. FOR FREE.

Sexual health clinics in London similar to Planned Parenthood provide women contraceptives free of charge. This includes birth control pills, condoms, and IUDs. They also provide STD-screening and other tests. So the next time you’re traveling abroad and can’t refill your prescription with your primary care physician in your home country, be sure to check healthcare policies, and sexual health clinics where you’ll be traveling. You might be pleasantly surprised at how easy it can be to obtain birth control abroad.

Please note: This article is a summary of the writer’s personal experiences regarding obtaining birth control abroad and may not hold true to all women seeking birth control in a foreign country. Please consult with a doctor before making any health-related decisions abroad.