Birth Control in ChinaI was really getting nervous about my dwindling supply of birth control pills, but this is China, right? They have the famous one-child policy, so birth control has to be available. Of course, in the US you have to have an exam with a physician before you can get a prescription for “the Pill.” However, today I learned that in China you can buy birth control pills over-the-counter at the pharmacy! Still, there’s always some fear that you’re not getting the real deal with drugs here, so it’s a little frightening.

Today I bought two months worth of birth control for the awesomely low price of 19RMB/month (~$2.50). The brand is Marvelon with 0.150 mg desogestrel and 0.021 ethinylestradiol. It’s actually different from my current prescription. I was using Ortho Tri-Cyclen®, containing varying amounts of norgestimate (0.180 mg – 0.250 mg) and ethinyl estradiol (0.025 mg). I’ve never been on this particular dosage of estrogen/progestine, so who knows what it will do to me.

Actually, I’ve been doing a lot of research online. Google pointed me to this page containing lots of nice charts and figures. I found that the brand Marvelon is equivalent to Desogen® or Ortho-Cept® in the U.S. That’s good, right? And I was relieved to find Marvelon had an English website (a Canadian one) in addition to their Chinese website. Very useful.

I’ve been far too embarrassed to ask anyone to help me with this, so I was madly searching online for some discussion about finding birth control in China. But the information for English-speaking foreigners living in China somehow doesn’t touch on the subject of oral contraceptives. Everyone’s full of advice about a lot of things, but I couldn’t find any discussion of birth control pills — where to start looking or what the process would be like. (I imagined having to go to some awful hospital for an invasive exam.) So, anyway, I feel obliged to mention my experience online.

I started out by walking into a pharmacy and showing the pharmacists the packaging from my current prescription. They were completely baffled, and I failed to look up any related vocabulary before beginning the conversation, so I left. Then I tried calling one of my teachers: “I have a very embarrassing question to ask you…” She couldn’t figure out what I meant, so finally I went home and looked up the word “birth control”: 节制生育 (jie2zhi4 sheng1yu4). I called her back, armed with this new knowledge, and she instantly understood. She gave me a different term — 避孕药 (bi4 yun4 yao4) — and sent me back to the pharmacist. Huzzah! They had both “the Pill” and emergency contraception. Wow.

I know this is kind of personal stuff to broadcast so publicly, but it’s really very important that information about birth control isn’t buried. I hope it helps somebody out.