By Su Kakizaki
Why can’t I find many choices for oral contraceptives in Japan?
Unlike many Western nations and some Asian countries as well where the use of birth control pills is a common choice for women, birth control pills in Japan still have a long way to go until they near the same level, partially because of their late legalization in 1999, almost 50 years after approval in the USA. That’s a very late start for a developed nation. Why was it so late? It is said that approval took time due to concerns with side effects of birth control pills such as risk of blood clotting, increased chances of certain cancers and an unsubstantiated concern about a rise in STDs. Some say that there were other political factors behind the late approval in Japan. Nevertheless, it seems that these initial concerns did impact public opinion, as even after oral contraceptives were approved popularity has not greatly increased.
How common is use of oral contraceptives in Japan compared to other nations?
According to the World Contraceptive Use 2014 Report, the most common form of contraceptive method in Japan in 2005 was male condoms at around 40% and birth control pills at a mere 1% , whereas the USA’s use of the same two methods were at 11% and 17%, respectively.
Does this mean I need to bring my own supply?
This doesn’t mean birth control options in Japan are limited. Most women’s clinics have the appropriate match to your needs, but it’s probably best to do a little research to find out if the type of birth control methods you use or are planning to use are accessible in Japan. You should also keep in mind that the brand names for certain pills in Japan can vary from those in your own country.
What’s the general procedure to get oral contraceptives in Japan?
One needs a prescription following a checkup by a doctor in Japan for oral contraceptives. Prices range from around ¥2,000 – ¥3,000 per month depending on the brand and doctors. The doctor’s checkup usually covers your history and blood pressure test and a cervical cancer exam. Depending on the doctor, you may be asked to visit every one to three months to renew your prescription. Although the checkup costs are sometimes covered, depending on the location of the doctor, the pills are not covered by Japanese National Health Insurance.
What kind of birth control pills in Japan are available?
Birth control pills are called,”keikou-hinin-yaku” (経口避妊薬 ) or more commonly called “piru” (ピル). Some doctors do not handle oral contraceptives at their facilities so it’s best to check as well. Types of oral contraceptives are rather limited in Japan in comparison to other countries in part due to the small market for new pills. Hormone patches, hormone injectables, sponges and vaginal hormonal rings, are less popular and some brands are not available in Japan.
Monophasic Oral Contraceptives (一相性ピル)
- Ortho M-21 (オーソ M-21) – 1st Generation, Norethindrone
- Marvelon (マーベロン) – 3rd Generation, Desogestrel
- Favoir (ファボワール) – Generic of Marvelon – 3rd Generation, Desogestrel
Multiphasic Oral Contraceptives (段階型ピル)
- Ortho 777 (オーソ 777-21) – 1st Generation, Norethindrone
- Synphase T28 (シンフェーズT28) – 1st Generation, Norethindrone
- Triquilar 21/28 (トリキュラー21/28) – 2nd Generation, Levonorgestrel
- Ange 21/28 (アンジュ 21/28) – 2nd Generation, Levonorgestrel
- Labellefille 21/28 (ラベルフィーユ21/28) – Generic of Ange – 2nd Generation, Levonorgestrel
- Marvelon 28 (マーベロン28) – 3rd Generation, Desogestrel
Other common forms of birth control methods are available in Japan like spermicides, IUD, and female condoms. IUDs are much more expensive (around ¥50,000 to ¥75,000) in Japan and are placed by gynecologists.
- Copper IUD: Multiload (マルチロード) & NovaT (ノバT)
- Hormonal IUD: Mirena (ミレーナ) – 2nd Generation, Levonorgestrel
Called”Kinkyuu-hinin-hou”(緊急避妊法), more commonly called “Morning-after Pill” (モーニングアフターピル) or “After pill” (アフターピル) is available in Japan. You will need a prescription from a doctor, and prices range from ¥6,000 yen to ¥20,000. Call ahead to make sure the facility carries what you need.
* Note: This article is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to provide professional advice. Please consult with a medical professional for the latest information on availability of contraceptives and for all medical-related questions and information.