Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Birth Control Pills in South Korea

Here's the question:

I'm wondering about getting birth control pills in Korea. I was just getting them sent from back home, but I just lost my insurance. So now I'm looking to getting some here.

I hear there is cheap and effective birth control here, and it can be found at the pharmacy. Does this mean it's just on the shelf, or do you have to ask for it? Also, how does one ask for it--like what is it called?


In the Korean pharmacy, very few items are on the shelves. You'll find energy drinks, band-aids and other simple herbal tablets within reach, but the birth control pills -along with the rest of the medicine- are all found behind the counter.

Birth control pills are cheap in Korea. Depending on where you are, you'll be paying between ten to twenty bucks for a box. You don't need your insurance information or anything else. All you need to do is ask for the pills (피임약) and they will give you a 1-month supply. Judging by the pharmacists I have dealt with in my time here, I'm sure you could get away with simply saying "birth control pills" and they'll know what you're talking about.

I have heard a few female expats say that they felt embarrassed buying them or thought that the pharmacist was looking down on them for being "sexually active". They might have felt that way and it might be true, but from the two pharmacists I've talked to about this subject, they didn't seem to have any qualms about providing contraception to an adult who is protecting herself from unwanted pregnancy. After all, abortion is essentially illegal in Korea. They went to school so they could dish out medicine to people in need and I'm sure most pharmacists have handed out much nastier medication than birth control pills. Don't let that get in your way.

It's here and it's cheap. So save yourself the money, time and headache of having it mailed to you and drop by your friendly pharmacy and pick some up.

Curious: Has anyone felt that they were being judged when buying birth control pills?

29 comments:

The Expat said...

Like all my posts, this one was also crossposted on my facebook profile. A friend of mine added:

#1: As in any country, if you're too self conscious about having sex and buying contraceptives, you shouldn't be having sex.

#2: The ex had all sorts of problems with birth control pills over in Korea. From depression to hair thinning to uneven menstrual cycles, an English-speaking doctor should be consulted as to the merits of each pill first. ...

Read More and if none work, just order the kind you were getting over in the States from an Indian pharma online. Your Korean health insurance will be all that you need.

Anonymous said...

Just look up the Korean name of the birth control pills you're accustomed to on the net before heading to the pharmacy.

PS. You wouldn't be the first person the pharmacist has sold birth control pills to.

Korean-Sleuth said...

Hi. Just wanted to through in an update about birth control pills. I believe from what I have been told the emergency contraceptives available cannot be bought over the counter. I didn't want to go to a hospital because it is the weekend and last time I visited the doctor I had to wait a long time, longer than I would've liked with the clock ticking.

So, there is an alternative, you can purchase something called 미니보라 30, this includes 21 pills, you just need to take 4 pills as soon as possible and 4 pills in 12 hours. It is the closest match to Low-Ogestrel, go here to read about it from princeton ->

http://ec.princeton.edu/pills/low-ogestrel.html

Make sure that it contains:

levonorgestrel
ethinyl estradiol

I usually don't post things, but after my incident, I went through a lot of time wasting to try and get the right medicine. So I thought I would share so other people who are in a similiar predicament could solve their problem quickly, especially on Sundays, which is a day that many pharmacies, it seems, at least where I live, are closed.

I think it cost about 7000 won, not much at all.

If you are embarassed about asking for the medicine, which I can understand, Korean culture, going all the way back to it's confucious roots can make it rather intimidating to walk into a store and dance around trying to explain in broken korean what you want.

My advice, just tell them, that you use it to regulate your period and it helps to lessen the painfulness of your menstrual cycle. I noticed when I mentioned that everyone felt more comfortable and if anything they were quite helpful afterwards.

Good luck! Stay safe!

Korean-Sleuth said...

oh and sorry about my spelling, i think I wrote through in stead of throw. I'm dyselxic so please understand my rather messed up grammar and spelling.

The Expat said...

Excellent update! Thanks so much for sharing.

kate.mac said...

Hello Expat! I have a few questions on this topic, if you could help me out, I would really appreciate it!

1) Is there a ring form of b.c. available? (ex. - NuvaRing)
2) How effective are the Korean b.c. pills and, if available, the Korean ring? (99.9%, like in USA?)
3) How safe is the b.c. here?
(I have read on forums that a few pills are very high in hormones and can cause hair loss, dizziness, unexpected periods)

Thank you!!

Chris said...

I'm trying to explain to my Korean girlfriend about contraceptives. She won't hear me out and she certainly won't go to a Planned Parenthood (we're in the States). Is there any information online in Korean that can explain that contraceptives are not carcinogenic or otherwise dangerous? Does anyone have any other advice for breaking through to her?
Thanks!

kate.mac said...

Wow, I wrote that question a long time ago, before I got to Korea and got all my answers here! I DID find the ring, after a semi-difficult search and with the help of my Korean co-worker, but thank god I did! So simple and I've used it so long I'd hate to switch hormone levels. Ugg. Anyway, there's plenty of kinds of BC options here ladies, and tho Korean woman seem to prefer "natural way" (counting their cycle days), they in no way judge me for my choice of using BC. So no worries!

In response to Chris, Korean ideas on birth control are complex and changing their ideas about what they feel is healthy can be difficult. I do have a link for info that's in Korean, but I suggest rather than give her info on something she's not interested in (thus may not read), as her bf you should be there for her and write down the benefits of taking the pill and discuss them with her. Ask her what her concerns really are: does she want kids and think it'll be difficult after being on the pill? (not so, but just get all her ideas on the drug and discuss) Then let her know true's and false's. Here's a good article for that but I am sure there's more and you can look up her specific concerns. http://edition.cnn.com/2007/HEALTH/03/13/healthmag.pill/index.html Ask her if she would mind just seeing an obgyn. Offer to accompany her on the visit (you can at least sit in the waiting room. You being there for her will comfort her. Speaking from a woman's p.o.v. it's a bit scary doing any of this alone, esp if you have concerns and you aren't sure this is what you want.) Then she can discuss with a doctor the best medicine for her.
Here's a Korean site with info on contraception and more... http://www.yeomiae.com/sub_050105.html?OVRAW=%EB%88%84%EB%B0%94%EB%A7%81%EA%B5%AC%EC%9E%85&OVKEY=%EB%88%84%EB%B0%94%EB%A7%81%20%EA%B5%AC%EC%9E%85&OVMTC=standard&OVADID=12840527042&OVKWID=77912752042&OVCAMPGID=49358042&OVADGRPID=2893505930
also, http://www.ellewoman.com/
Good luck!

Lanna said...

Hello,

kate.mac could you pass on the information of the pharmacy where you found the ring? Your help would be greatly appreciated! Or, if you happen to know the name of a low dose Korean BC pill?

Thanks in advance!

Chris said...

Kate.mac - Thanks so much!

kate.mac said...

Lanna, I live in a small town outside of Daegu, I don't know if you're close to this area. If so, I could get the address of the doctor's office I go to and the pharmacy. Doing on online search of 누바링 on naver, I found the following clinics: http://www.heeclinic.com/center/center04_view.html?code=intro02&idx=31485 (address at the bottom). And one in Seoul: http://www.ubclinic.com/?doc=html/uterus/view.php&id=piim&pn=3&sn=7

In order to find a clinic near me, my Korean co-teacher actually called the drug's distributor: http://www.schering-plough.co.kr/contact/ This might be the easiest way to find the closest clinic. As an international company, I am sure there will be English speakers available. Let me know if there's any more info you need and best of luck!

T said...

Did you need a prescription for Nuva ring or was it just over the counter?

kate.mac said...

hiya! prescription. really easy tho. please post again if you need more info or details. if you have health insurance here it's no problem ^^

EvieKay said...

Um.. I'm kind of disturbed about Chris's question.. did you even consider that maybe she just doesn't want to take pills and would just prefer to use condoms? The truth is, pills AREN'T good for you, they are synthetic hormones going into your bloodstream that are bad for the environment and carry bad side effects, even after you find the 'right' pill for you that seems to have the least amount of side effects (no depression, mood swings, irregular periods, etc), it still increases your chance of breast cancer, heart problems, and stroke. It sounds to me like he is trying to convince his girlfriend to take birth control pills and she simply is not interested.

Andrea said...

Kate.mac, thanks so much for your advice! I've just started my search, since I brought a supply with me, but am SO GLAD to hear that you were able to find the NuvaRing here! I'm in Gwangju, so if you could get your hands on it in a small town, I'm thinking my odds are good. Thanks for the help!

Thomas G Lee said...

My wife found two pills in our sons rooms and is trying to figure out what they are. Once is white and round and just marked "AC". The other is also round an white, but a bit larger and marked "D.w"

Any ideas? None of the normal pill ID sites have any info. I think the pills marked AC might be a Korean form of percocet.

Melinda said...

Oh my god, I love all of you!

Bianca said...

@kate.mac I don't yet have korean health insurance nor can I read korean because i'm pretty new here, so the naver search for places to get nuvaring are pretty ineffective. If I don't have health insurance is it going to be impossible for me to get the ring. I'm on my last one now and I really hate switching methods. I'm in Busan. Do you know what I might be able to do?

kate.mac said...

Hi Bianca,

Hmm. That can be tough... I guess first thing to do would be go in and try. Just see what they say or if they take you. If you fail, (especially because you're in Busan and they are more likely to speak English), then ask the employees at the clinic for someplace you could get the ring without health insurance. How long until you obtain the paperwork for the insurance? Do you have an alien registration card? I would show that card if you do and just ask for help. Or, if you have any Korean speaking friends, ask them for their help or if they know of any clinics that would take you without insurance. Also, if you are on your last ring, timing-wise if you are getting the paperwork soon, then you may be able to work it out so you have the insurance soon. Once you have it, it's very easy to walk into a clinic, see the doctor for the prescription, and get it the next day. I hope you can find something and sorry I am not of much more help!

Bianca said...

Thanks for commenting so quickly! I don't have an ARC yet (it's been a bit of a struggle with my school and I to get the proper things necessary, i.e. the physical) so I wont get health insurance until I start a new job late-December. I have the packaging for my last one so I was planning on showing that. But a pharmacy wouldn't sell it without a prescription? I would have to go to a clinic? And that would be a place with an actual gyno, not just a regular clinic right?

kate.mac said...

Bianca, You can try. Play that lovely "dumb (and cute!... and desperate!) foreigner" card. My pharm was really awesome to me and they helped me obtain a ring when technically they shouldn't have. So trying can't hurt. They shouldn't sell it without a prescription, and they could get in a lot of trouble if they did... but like I said, trying can't hurt and playing dumb (and cute and in need!) can help you. At the very least they could help steer you in the right direction to get one without need of health insurance/prescription if possible. Yes, you'd need a clinic, and you'd need one that is known to offer it - the tough part! May I ask what area you're in? Perhaps I can do a search for you ^^

Gabby-Teacher said...

Hope this blog is still active! I just moved outside of Daegu as well (Gyeongsan, near the end of the Green Line) and wanted to know if that was near where you lived and gotten the nuvaring?

kate.mac said...

Hi Gabby-Teacher, I thought I commented - sorry! I get an email each time someone comments and I am happy to help as I have faced this issue myself : ) Sooo I emailed Merck, the maker of Nuva Ring, for ya and they had this to say... They found, "Women medi-park Hospital in Daegu
- http://www.md-park.co.kr/index.php / Tel: 053-740-7777
- This hospital is located in Bumeo-dong, Suseong-gu, Daegu.
- There are no OBGYN clinics to be prescribed Nuvaring in Gyeongsan."

Hope this helps!

Elizabeth Johnson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Elizabeth Johnson said...

Andrea, did you ever find a clinic in Gwangju?

Amber Barcel said...

I know this thread is old, but I need to see a gyno about polycystic ovaries here in Korea. I mostly just need to find (preferably via a doctor and not a pharmacist) the right birth control to help regulate it. I live in Gumi (near Daegu) and would prefer an English-speaking gyno because I do not want my coteacher or Korean friends to accompany me unless I am desperate. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

Lala said...

A friend.is needing to know where and how one can get the abortion pill in korea. We have looked online but cannot find any information on it . She is in a serious situation and needs to get it sorted as soon as possible. Please email me at warner.lala@gmail.com

lauren petersen said...

Hello! I am trying to find a pharmacy that has the nuvaring in Busan.. I have health insurance, but work at a kindergarten so getting day time off to go to the clinic is nearly impossible (my school did not let me go to the hospital for a burst ear drum until it started oozing black puss and i had an extremely high fever.. odds are BC would be a no go). I've had some bad experiences with BC in the past and have been happy and healthy on the nuvaring for three years now.. i'd hate to mess up my hormone levels. Do you have a contact for Merck? I'd love to know where I can go.. the pharmacy near me didn't have it. Thanks!!

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