Contraception While Traveling – Why it is so tricky
A Guide on Birthcontrol while Traveling
Birth Control on the Road – Thinking about contraception while traveling
You are all packed up for you six month-long trip around South East Asia or your Interrail through Europe. Wherever you are going, you have probably made a checklist on what to pack and how to save maximum space in that already 15 kg heavy backpack. Underwear? Check. Sunscreen? Check. Swimsuits? Check. But how do you handle contraception while traveling? If you don’t want to live like a monk in celibacy you might want to consider coming up with a plan – an amazingly well thought out one.
Common contraceptive methods described – and their perks when traveling
They are the most common form of contraception. The condom is the only contraception method that protects you from STDs and is therefore a must as a female solo traveler. Straight forward and easy to use as they are, they still do have some disadvantages. If you rely on condoms and nothing else there is always the slight possibility of them slipping off or ripping. As we all know, ladies, it does happen from time to time, or at least once in a lifetime.
If you are planning on sleeping your way through France only to be welcomed by an Italian lover (which I am all for, seriously go for it), you don’t want to go around carrying hundreds of condoms. In Europe they are, of course, readily available, but while hiking in the Amazonas with that outrageously cute boyfriend of yours (that also has survival skills bonus points), finding condoms is probably not that easy duh!. Always make sure to have some on you and keep them away from high temperatures and pointy things. Also, be aware of the expiration date!
When relying on the pill there are a few things to keep in mind. Some pills you need to take at an exact hour, which can be challenging hopping in between time zones. Your usual time to take the pill might be nighttime on the other side of the globe. If you are planning to go abroad for more than a few months, you could face difficulties getting subscriptions for that large time frame. What if you lose your baggage? What you don’t want to do is to go into a pharmacy and get just any other pill over the counter. This can seriously mess up your hormonal balance. It’s always best to talk to your gynecologist about your options about preplanning.
Be aware that the pill loses its effectiveness when you must take antibiotics. Make sure to use condoms in addition to your hormonal methods. Doxycycline often used as malaria prevention and contains antibiotics. Read the leaflet carefully before taking any intersecting medications. Heavy vomiting or diarrhea during e.g. a food poisoning can also affect the impact of your pill, take one again as soon as you can and use condoms for the rest of your cycle.
Long flights can increase your risk of getting deep-vein thrombosis (DVT), that could potentially be fatal, when you are taking the pill. When you have to sit in one positions on long trips, try to exercise your lower legs regularly.
Depo-Provera – Hormonal Injection
Remember that you need to get your injection every 12 weeks. Talk to your doctor if you plan to travel longer.
Barrier Birth Control - Diaphragm, Sponges or the Cervical Cap
In many countries spermicides might not be available, make sure to bring enough of it and check the expiration date before you leave home base.
Always consider your location
Every country has different laws and practices on how to deal with contraception. In some countries, you can get emergency pills over the counter, in others you need a doctor’s prescription. Especially in non-western countries contraception methods differ greatly from what you know at home. When it comes to hormonal methods, your body needs stability. Switching it up with a different recipe will get your body out of balance. What if you lose your pills, what if your luggage gets lost at the airport? Come up with an emergency plan for each country you travel to and research the handling of contraception for that country.
Sexual morals differ around the world
This is probably a no-brainer. But I have read the news too often with ignorant tourists having sex on the beach in Thailand or even worse in Dubai. Contraception does not only mean making sure you won’t get pregnant, but also that you won’t get busted. Do your research on sexual morals for the countries you visit in advance. Especially some countries in the middle east can be a lot stricter than what you know at home. In the United Arabic Emirates, for example, extramarital sex is illegal. If you want to travel with your boyfriend and sleep in the same hotel room you best make everyone believe you are married. If you get arrested several years of imprisonment awaits you. Even rape can be regarded as extramarital sex.
Personal account: Getting emergency contraception in Italy
When I had just turned 18 I did a road trip through Italy with my boyfriend back then. The whole trip my health was kind of off, I had tonsillitis about 10 times and took more antibiotics than I can count (now I know it was mononucleosis). Fully aware that antibiotics would increase the risk that my pills would not work, we took precautions. However, an accident still happened. In Italy, emergency contraception is only given out with a doctor’s prescription. We were in Siena at the time and as the sun started vanishing behind the olive trees we made our way to the tourist doctor we had found online, and that was supposedly on duty. When we entered a creepy asylum property and headed to the back of it to find the doctor’s office we were getting a little nervous. What were we doing in this dark backyard? I was overdramatic anyways, getting pregnant was the last thing I could use in my life. The only thing we found, surrounded by countless buzzing mosquitos, was a note on the front door to call a number if the doctor was needed. So we did and waited for another 2 hours for her to come, only to judge the young couple about their life choices. A couple of awkward questions later I finally had that prescription and we could get the f*ck out of that dark and creepy Italian asylum.
Had I just had sex with a stranger and had I been alone, I would probably not have stayed at that place and I would have not waited for 2 hours! Having to get emergency contraception can put you in an awkward and nerve wracking position. Thank God there is this beautiful thing called internet that helped us with the information.