in archived, birth control, Kunming, Yunnan

Birth Control in China

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.

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  1. Hi girls!

    Wooow! This post! talk about Girl Power!
    I lived in France for a while and there doctors really don’t recommend the 3rd (Mercillon, Marvelon) and 4th generation pills (Yasmin). Before moving there I took Mercilon without any problem. But after I heard about the greater risks of blood clog I asked my doctor in France to change my pill to a 2nd generation. I know it’s not as efficient with acne and all, but she gave me a prescription for Leeloo (100mg levonorgestrel and 20 mg of ethinylestradiol) and I’m taking it without any noticeable problems. Now I’m in Shanghai and my Leeloo is almost ending :( so I’ll have to get out of my comfort zone and search for an equivalent pill here! I did a research on the internet and found some brands but I’m really not sure if I’ll find them here: Alesse, Levlite, Triquilar, Te4ju1le4 (found it mentioned in a comment in this post! Thanks!). This ones have the exact same composition as Leeloo (same quantities). With different quantities I found: Levlon, Levora and Nordette… if this fails I think my best solution is going back to Mercilon, as it’s a brand that I know and I guess the probability of doing harm should be lower (I hope). I’m definitely avoiding Diane 35 or Yasmin. I’m not a doctor but after everything that I read I just feel unsafe if I opt by one of them.
    I’ll try to update when I find a solution, I hope it helps someone!

  2. Tank you ever so much for this post! This is the most helpful conversation I have been able to find.
    I am a little concerned about getting the pill in China, as most people are I guess. A few people mentioned getting Marvelon in pharmacies here, but wouldn’t trust small places. I live in Beijing, so I have access to quite a few places, is there any “Big pharmacy” any of you would recommend getting medications from?
    Thanks a lot!

  3. Posting to update.
    After days searching in many pharmacies around town the only brands they had where Yasmin and Diane 35 –‘
    So I decided to stop taking the pill all together.
    Hope you have better luck than me.

  4. Thanks for the update, Cris! Sorry you couldn’t find what you were looking for.

    Big pharmacies in Beijing… there’s the golden elephant one: 金象大药房Jīn xiàng dà yàofáng

    Or you can go to a pharmacy at one of the international hospitals: International SOS, Oasis, or Beijing Family United (BJU).

  5. Thank you Elizabeth for posting this! Big help. I arrived in China only a couple weeks ago and have been worried about this. Like you and a lot of foreigners I believe, I didn’t want to have to find a doctor just to have a prescription written. I hope I can find it where I live as it is not as international as Beijing nor Shanghai. Not sure what the post in Japanese posted Oct/2015 has anything to do with yours though…bizarre. It’s also quite gibberish.

  6. Hey Elizabeth, just wondering what your take on the reliability of birth control in China. I live in a pretty big city but it’s not Beijing or Shanghai.

  7. Hi, I have recently started taking Yasmin pills, and I have already taken it for several days. It’s my first time to try pills. Back in my country, I had been using injected contraceptives. However, I have been experiencing headache, sleeplessness, and general feeling of tiredness. I have already decided to stop taking the pills starting tomorrow. I hope to find a pill that will not give me so much trouble.

  8. Thank you very, very much for sharing about your experience here. I got engaged in China and so I don’t even have the opportunity to get the pill originally from America, so I also am desperately looking around for a reliable pill to take. Thanks for sharing the vocab word with characters and pinyin, too.


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