As regular MSP readers know, I’ve been living in Estonia since this summer, working on my dissertation. It’s a small-ish country located on the Baltic Sea, wedged between the Scandinavian countries, Finland, and Russia (see map). Recently, I had the opportunity to see a doctor, and while I was at it, I decided to look into birth control options here. While there are a few differences I’ve noticed between Estonia and the US, it seems that obtaining birth control was as easy as anywhere else in the West, and in some ways, even a little easier.
While informally discussing birth control options with a female doctor, I learned that the pill is one of the more common forms of birth control available to young women. I didn’t inquire as to which varieties are available (between versions that have just estrogen, a combination of estrogen and progestin, and so on). The ring (brand name Nuva Ring) is also available, and is recommended as a good option for women who travel a lot, since it stays in place once inserted, and you don’t have to remember to take it at a certain time every day like with the pill (Michaela discusses specifics here).
IUDs are apparently only recommended for women who’ve given birth, which is one difference from the US, as more doctors are now promoting the use of IUDs as a safe, long-term form of birth control, even for women who’ve never been pregnant or given birth. As another long-term form of birth control, the patch is also available in Estonia.
Another difference in Estonia is that condoms are available at every store: grocery stores, convenience stores, and so on. Often, the condoms are right in front of the cash register and check-out lanes, so it’s very easy to locate and purchase them. I think this is wonderful, as it shows that sex is less stigmatized while safety is being more promoted. Most of my experiences looking for condoms in the US have involved trying to find an obscurely-labeled section devoted to “women’s hygiene” or “personal health” or some euphemistic nonsense like that (don’t get me wrong, health and hygiene are important, but why are they codes for sex? why don’t we just say sex?).
At any rate, Estonians seem to be pretty practical about sexual matters, which is great because it generally means that birth control is widely available rather than being hidden away and stigmatized. Go Estonia!