Birth Control Options for Travelers

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One of the many joys of being a woman is thinking about and at times worrying about birth control while traveling.

Planning ahead can be difficult but it has become easier as many clinics and pharmacies around the world are now carrying a variety of birth control options. Before you make any decision, do your research.

We are all different and there are a variety of options out there for us. To help determine what is the best choice, keep the following questions in mind:

  1. How long are you planning to travel?
  2. What methods are available in the country you are traveling to and is your birth control easily accessible?
  3. What are the weather conditions? Direct sunlight and extreme cold can negatively affect packing and storing your birth control.

Here are a few options that are common among women travelers today based on accessibility, comfort and ease.

The pill

The pill is the easiest to use and widely available throughout the world. The pill also gives the traveler the freedom to be able to time periods according to travel plans.

If you are concerned with getting your particular brand while abroad there are many similar products that contain the same dosage. Ask your doctor to give you generic brand names so that you can find it while on the road.

I was able to get a prescription from my doctor for a year supply but my insurance only covered one month and then I had to pay out of pocket for the rest. While traveling I realized that I could find similar pill brands at local pharmacies and were much more affordable. Just make sure to check the expiration dates and if the product has been stored properly (i.e. not in direct sunlight).

Injectables (Depo-Provera)


This is an easier version of birth control for travelers since there is one shot needed every three months. The injection option is also widely available in most countries that if you are traveling for more than three months you can easily find a clinic to administer another shot. Just make sure the clinic is using sterile materials. I know many women travelers who pack their own needles if they know they will need to have an injection while traveling.

Condoms

Condoms are the ultimate birth control option for travelers. Condoms can be found everywhere and are usually free especially in hostels. They also are easy to pack.

Remember that condoms are the only method that protect from STIs such as HIV and pregnancy.

There are also IUDs, diaphragms, implants, sponges, cervical caps, Nuvaring, and even abstinence that are all options for women travelers. To find out more about these methods check out the Planned Parenthood website that offers great resources for women and they can also help refer you to a local health center.

Before you make any decision on what birth control option to pack, talk to a health care provider and discuss the best options that will work for you, your body and your travel plans.

What have you done with birth control while traveling?

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About Author

Kara Rogers is a freelance writer and global health consultant. When she is not reading about global health policy and programs, she spends most of her time dealing with a permanent case of wanderlust. Most recently, she has returned from Rwanda where she worked in rural villages as a health and community development Peace Corps Volunteer. Follow her @kararogers

1 Comment

  1. “What methods are available in the country you are traveling?” — that can be really hard to find out for some countries. If at all possible, I recommend finding an online forum for expats from your country living in a country you will be visiting, and post questions about, say, the availability of the Pill for a foreigner – but I also recommend you do this without using your real name, because you will get some inappropriate comments as a result of posting that query on most sites, and could open yourself up to off list, even in person, harassment.

    Carrying condoms can be a problem when crossing certain borders – a woman may get harassed as a result. If you’re traveling with a husband or boyfriend, have them carry such instead of you.

    Female condoms aren’t easily recognizable by someone going through your bags – but may be hard to purchase while abroad. The birth control patch is totally unrecognizable.

    This is a great site by Planned Parenthood re: all the various birth control methods available to women. However, much of this isn’t available in some countries or isn’t appropriate (convenient) for travel:
    http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-topics/birth-control-4211.htm

    Marie Stopes International operates in more than 40 countries, and is a good place for a traveler to go when needing birth control or advice:
    http://www.mariestopes.org/where-in-the-world

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