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Healthcare tips for expat women

Whether you’re moving abroad for work or accompanying a partner, as a single person or with a family, the expat woman lifestyle can be an exciting and exhilarating one. But, while your time abroad may seem like an extended holiday, it’s important to prioritize healthcare matters. As a woman, there are a number of things you need to consider that your male counterparts may not. In this Pacific Prime article, we’ll give you a handful of practical tips to get you started.

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1. Go for pre-departure health consultation

Before you head overseas, ideally three months before, visit your general practitioner (GP) for a pre-departure health screening and vaccinations. If you are on any medication, ask them to write a letter for you so that you can show it to your new GP overseas. Also ask him or her about access to medication in your destination country and the possibility of getting enough prescriptions for your time abroad. But remember, you also have to check and adhere to the customs requirements.

2. Find out how to access birth control and gynecological care abroad

While it may be easy to access birth control in your current location, be aware that laws concerning this vary by country. If you’re on hormonal birth control, you may also be required to have a doctor’s letter in certain healthcare systems. Therefore, you should research the availability and accessibility of your preferred birth control in your destination country. Otherwise, you can look into bringing some with you or at suitable alternatives.

You have a range of option when it comes to birth control:

  • Caps or diaphragms
  • Combined pill
  • Condoms
  • Contraceptive implant/injection/patch
  • Female condoms
  • IUD (intrauterine device or coil)
  • IUS (intrauterine system or hormonal coil)
  • Progestogen-only pill
  • Vaginal ring
  • And more.

In addition to sorting out your birth control option, you should have access to a gynecologist. Start by reading about your destination country’s healthcare system and whether or not you will have access to a gynecologist under its public healthcare system. Many expats also decide to secure a private health insurance plan that allows the best access to medical services without having to pay out of pocket.

3. Be prepared for common female health problems

There are a number of common female health problems that you may need to prepare for when moving abroad. Here, we provide you with a brief description of a couple of them and some useful preventative tips. However, please note that this does not replace medical advice. If your symptoms get worse, consult with your GP.

Prickly heat

When you’re in extreme heat and sweat a lot, your glands tend to become overwhelmed. This causes the sweat ducts to develop blockages, trapping the sweat deep underneath the skin and causing a heat rash that’s inflamed and itchy. It’s something that can affect anyone in hot weather, but skin rashes can be prevalent in women who are on birth control.

  • Stay away from situations that cause excessive sweating. If it’s unavoidable, then take cool showers frequently to prevent the heat rash from developing. Apply prickly heat powder for its soothing effect.
  • If you feel that your birth control may be causing your prickly heat condition to worsen, consider switching to a different birth control option. Discuss this with your GP beforehand.

Yeast infections

A vaginal yeast infection is a fungal infection that causes irritation, itchiness, as well as discharge from the vagina. These tend to be more common in warmer conditions, so expat women moving to more tropical climates should be aware of them. Although they are uncomfortable and a nuisance, they are not particularly dangerous.

  • Avoid wearing tight pants made from synthetic materials like spandex. Try to wear loose and breathable fabrics as much as possible. This is because tight clothing creates a moist environment in the vaginal area and increases likelihood of yeast infections.
  • Refrain from eating food and drinks that are high in yeast or sugar. Choose probiotic foods like yogurt instead, as they are considered a natural part of vaginal flora and help keep the vagina in balance.

Urinary tract infection (UTI)

Most women know that burning sensation when trying to urinate all too well. It’s due to a UTI and it’s extremely common. This is because the female urethra is shorter than its male counterpart, making it easier for bacteria to enter the urinary tract. While there are many factors that can increase one’s likelihood of a UTI, expat women need to be extra careful when traveling abroad in areas where public toilets are scarce and hygiene levels are poor.

  • Drink plenty of liquids, especially water, as it can dilute your urine and ensure you urinate more often. This will flush bacteria out of your urinary tract before an infection develops. You can also try cranberry juice – though there’s no study to show it works.
  • Make sure you carry wet wipes with you, in case you can’t access toilet paper or a bidet at a public toilet. Remember to wipe from front to back in order to prevent bacteria from entering your urinary tract.

4. Know your options if/when planning a pregnancy

Starting a family is a big deal. Doing it abroad is an even bigger deal. When planning for a pregnancy, be sure to look at all your options regarding not only the delivery but also the prenatal and postnatal care. Depending on your settled status in your country of residence or what you want to do, you may consider securing maternity insurance as well to cover the costs of your pregnancy both in your country of residence and abroad as well.

Maternity insurance is one of the most commonly misunderstood insurance types out there due to something known as “waiting periods”. In plain English, that’s the amount of time you have to wait after securing the insurance before your plan kicks in. Waiting periods can often be as long as 24 months. To learn about this and more, check out our handy maternity insurance infographic or guide.

Looking for health insurance? Get in touch with Pacific Prime

If you’re an expat woman looking for health insurance either as an individual or for your family, you can get in touch with Pacific Prime. We are the expat’s trusted broker and have over two decades of experience. Whether it’s maternity, dental, or vision coverage, we can also help you secure a range of added benefits. Compare dozens of vetted plans using our easy-to-use online tool. Alternatively, for personalized, unbiased, and no-obligation advice, contact us today!

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