10 September 2013

Women's Healthcare in France - Part 1


Going to the Gyno in France

I was 19 when I first came to France and young enough to have never had a Gynecologist's appointment stateside. That was probably for the best. I came with no American expectations of modesty or how things "should be done" at the Gynecologist's. I just dove in head first.

You get to strip down in front of the doctor

A lot of Americans who come here are bugged by this at first. Not even a cover-up/gown?! Isn't the doctor going to leave the room while I change? Nope. But don't worry. The doctor's probably not even paying attention. They'll be filling out paper work while you're getting ready, and they really don't care.

FYI: You have to take off everything. This is good to know beforehand. It helps lessen the shock of standing buck naked in front of a stranger.

It's a little awkward at first, but I guess I don't get why American women freak out about this so much. If you've gotten to this point in France, you've probably already gotten past the terrifying, mandatory lung x-ray experience that you're required to pass for the OFII.

"Just take off your shirt and bra and step into the back of this large white van please! We're going to take some x-ray pictures. I promise it's legit." :O


Choose very carefully... 

The gynecologist you go to will probably be your long term gynecologist - though you're completely free to switch whenever you'd like.

My sister-in-law encouraged me to go this awesome clinic the first time around, even though I was just going in for a routine check up, because if you get one of these doctors as your gynecologist, and you eventually get pregnant a few years later, you'll get the privilege of giving birth in really nice high quality facilities.

Make sure you make your appointment really early. My gyno is awesome, but she's also always booked at least 6 months in advance.

Also, the French really disapprove of changing doctors and dentists. Sometimes you can get away with it, and sometimes switching is a pain in the butt. Life is much simpler if you Google Search choose carefully from the beginning.


Birth control is dirt cheap

You have to have a prescription, but once you do the prices are awesome. How does 1€ for a 3 month supply of the pill sound?

Note: The first prescription has to come from a gynecologist, but any follow ups or renewals can be prescribed through your regular doctor. So easy.


Going to the Gynecologist in France


Doctors and clinics are very closely linked with their respective hospitals


Picking your gynecologist (long before you ever even plan to get pregnant) means picking where you're going to give birth. If you don't pick well, or you pick a gynecologist who isn't associated with a great hospital, you might end up being obligated to go give birth in a very crappy hospital, whether you want to or not.

The hospitals all cost the same (free for everything medically necessary after the 5th month of pregnancy), but there are huge differences in quality. You might as well do the smart thing and try to get in at the most well reputed center from the get go.

*This is why you need French girlfriends. They'll fill you in on where you should go and where you absolutely shouldn't go. And there are definitely hospitals where no pregnant French mother ever wants to find herself.


Be prepared for sticker shock

So you're going to the French Gyno and you have no insurance (une mutuelle)...

That's going to cost you between 35-45€. (about $50)

No seriously. Every time they tell me the price of a medical procedure here I get all excited. "Really?! That's it?! You aren't forgetting an zero at that number?" I want to ask how they even keep in business, but that would be rude.

................................

So far, I'm pretty satisfied with the whole experience and feel like they've taken good care of me.

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