The ultimate guide to gynaecology, birth control, and check-ups in the Netherlands

Have you recently moved to the Netherlands and are confused about how gynaecology, contraception, checkups and everything that comes with it works here? Then look no further!

We’ve got all the information about your reproductive healthcare in the Netherlands right here.

First things first, get health insurance

First of all, if you’ve recently moved here, you should get yourself some Dutch health insurance right away. While there are certain exceptions where you do not need health insurance, it’s extremely helpful when it comes to organising contraception, check ups, and everything that comes with having a cervix in the Netherlands.

You could also be entitled to a healthcare allowance, which is a generous benefit from the government that, depending on your situation, helps you to pay for this.

The second thing you should do is register at a Dutch GP (General Practitioners or huisarts). The good news is that most Dutch medical workers speak English and are multilingual.

Birth control in the Netherlands

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Let’s talk contraception in the Netherlands. Image: Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition/Unsplash

Ok, let’s start simple — if simple exists when it comes to having a uterus — let’s talk contraceptives in the Netherlands.

An important thing to note is that if you’re under 21, the Dutch government covers the cost of contraception (in the form of reimbursements) for you, yay!

If you’re looking to start birth control in the Netherlands, register yourself with your local GP and make an appointment. You can discuss together which contraceptive will be the best fit for you. If you’re still not ready by the end of the session (because there are so darn many to choose from), they’ll give you a bunch of leaflets that you can take away and read.

Remember: Pills and injections that change your body’s hard-wiring are a big deal. If you’re uncertain, don’t feel pressured to make the decision within the space of one doctor’s appointment, after all, once you have health insurance, GP visits are free in the Netherlands!

If after a while, your initial choice doesn’t work for you or your hormones are flipped out of whack, you can always change. The Dutch healthcare system offers many options to those who need contraception.

Where can I get birth control in the Netherlands?

  • If you have a prescription from the doctor, you can buy birth control pills at your local pharmacy (apotheek). Some are even open late or on the weekends.

    You can also get refills of birth control pills without getting a new prescription, so you don’t have to waste time booking another appointment — handig! A few examples of contraceptive pills used in the Netherlands: Neogynon, Lovette, Stediril-d, Microgynon-30, Stediril 30.
  • You can buy condoms (without a prescription, of course) at pharmacies, supermarkets and vending machines.
  • If you want an IUD (intrauterine device, AKA the coil), Mirena and Flexi-T are the two main kinds that you can get here. This will be fitted at a GP or hospital.
  • The injection (Depo-Provera, for example) is also available in the Netherlands. If you’re over 21 and want your costs reimbursed, you can get an additional health coverage package that includes the implant.

Fun fact: According to Gynopedia, around 40% of Dutch women aged 15-30 use the pill, and 5-10% of patients use IUDs. Diaphragms are apparently the least popular method of birth control.

Gynaecology in the Netherlands

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It’s important to speak regularly to your Dutch doctor about things such as PAP smears, your cycle and contraception. Image: Nopphon1987/Depositphotos

Birth control is of course, just one aspect of life with a uterus. Another important element of healthcare for many in the Netherlands is gynaecology. Let’s address a number of questions:

Where can I find a gynaecologist?

Gynaecological care can vary hugely between countries. The good news is that there are a bunch of GYN practices in the Netherlands provided by the Dutch healthcare system.

Just like with prescription contraceptives, you have to speak to your GP first about the possibility of seeing a gynaecologist, this is the case even if you just want a regular checkup. The process is simple, your GP will refer you and voila, you’ll have an appointment.

Can I ask to see a specific gynaecologist?

In the Netherlands, you don’t generally see private gynaecologists. Even if you have your own private health insurance, you must register with a GP, just like everyone else. From there, your GP will refer you.

Of course, you do have some control over who is assigned as your gynaecologist. For example, if you would rather be treated by a female doctor you can let your doctor know this.

If you really don’t like the gynaecologist that you have been referred to, there’s no shame in asking to see someone else — but a change is not guaranteed.

Reproductive health check-ups in the Netherlands

Naturally, it’s good to stay ahead of any health issues. So how do you organise for say, a PAP smear in the Netherlands?

How do I get check-ups for my healthcare?

When you register with a GP, you can pass on all your medical records for a full assessment. Remember to tell them any important medical history, even if the problem has been ‘dealt with’, so to speak.

The Dutch don’t typically buy into the whole ‘routine check-up’ thing, but those with a cervix do get smear tests every five years and those over 50 get a mammogram every two years.

What if I need an STI test?

Emphasise your symptoms and remain super clear about what’s scramblin’ up your bod and how much pain you’re in. Your GP will then give you a referral note so you can receive special treatment. PSA: they’ll only refer you if they can’t treat the problem themselves.

Fertility checks in the Netherlands

Photo-of-woman-looking-at-fertility-report-on-Grip-app
If you’re curious about your fertility, there’s always the option to order an at-home test! Image: Grip/Supplied.

If you’re hoping to get pregnant, there are a number of steps you can take — apart from, y’know, doing the nasty.

The Dutch approach to pregnancy tends to be that of: let’s not intervene with nature too much — ironic, given they literally pushed back the ocean to set up shop.

In the Netherlands, unless you have any clear menstrual issues, you must be trying to get pregnant for at least a year before your doctor will consider any form of intervention.

The next step will then be to book you in for a gynaecological exam in order to diagnose any potential fertility issues. Bear in mind that between various appointments and determining a diagnosis, it can take 1-2 years before any further medical intervention is taken.

Grip — become acquainted with your fertility at home

Curious about your fertility but not necessarily up for the formal process of getting checked? Grip offers an at-home hormone test so that you can have a better understanding of your chances at getting pregnant.

Grip’s test can offer insight into whether or not you have a normal amount of eggs for your age and your hormonal health. You can even talk to their doctors about your test results!

Pregnancy in the Netherlands

Pregnancy in the Netherlands runs along the same lines as fertility when it comes to the Dutch healthcare system’s approach. In the Netherlands, they don’t talk about pregnancy like it’s a medical condition. We’re talking about the miracle of childbirth!

Meaning that over here, it’s all about doing it au naturel (which I realise is a French expression, not Dutch, but I’m using it anyway). 

How do I prepare for childbirth in the Netherlands?

You can have regular check-ups during pregnancy (unless you don’t want to, of course, the Dutch are not too pushy on this). And when it comes to who you see during your pregnancy, you have the choice of seeing a midwife (verloskundige), or a gynaecologist as your primary caregiver.

However: when it hits baby-delivering time, you might not see the same GYN as you have throughout your pregnancy.

Indeed, in the Netherlands, a less clinical approach is taken to pregnancy. Many opt to give birth at home because they feel more comfortable that way, and pain relief is often not encouraged. On top of this, many Dutchies put their faith in their midwife.

READ MORE | Here are eight things you need to know about giving birth in the Netherlands

While in other countries, a midwife is associated with the actual labour, in the Netherlands, you can meet with your midwife between weeks 6 and 10 of your pregnancy. This way, you can begin to plan what sort of labour you would like to have — e.g, will you be staying at home, or heading to the hospital?

Finding a midwife that suits your needs and wishes can be a bit of a challenge for internationals, but the easiest way is asking your general practitioner for a list of local midwives.

How does maternity leave work?

If you’re pregnant in the Netherlands (congratulations!), you can get 16 weeks of maternity leave (zwangerschapsverlof). You’ll receive your normal amount of pay from the General Unemployment Fund. If you’d prefer, you’re also allowed to keep working part-time (which is pretty common here). 

READ MORE | Becoming a father? Here’s everything you need to know about paternity leave in the Netherlands in 2021

Abortions in the Netherlands

The Netherlands is world-renowned for it’s tolerant approach to reproductive rights. Let’s talk about abortion in the Netherlands.

Can I get an abortion in the Netherlands?

The short answer is, yes. Abortion is legal in the Netherlands. In order to begin the process of getting an abortion you should go to your GP. They’ll refer you to an abortion clinic or hospital that will perform the procedure. You can also contact the abortion clinic yourself if you’d rather.

However, we’re sorry to say that you may have to answer some uncomfortable protocol questions (like why you want to have the procedure). There’s also a consideration period of five days if you are more than 16 days late.

This means that, after you’ve spoken to the GP, you must consider your decision to terminate your pregnancy for at least five days. If you still want to do it, you can proceed with the treatment.

Do I have to pay for an abortion in the Netherlands?

If you live in the Netherlands, you do not have to pay for an abortion, it is covered by your health insurance. Plus, full anonymity is guaranteed. To prove your eligibility, you will need to bring along your health insurance card or policy, as well as proof of identity (passport or driving licence, for instance).

Note: In the Netherlands, you are also offered free counselling after having an abortion.

The best advice we can give you on taking care of your reproductive health in the Netherlands, is to see a GP. Check yourself regularly and get to know your body, so that you’ll immediately notice a change.

And look after each other! Talk to your friends about what you’re going through. Spread the love, the peace, the happy healing vibes and all that jazz.

How have you experienced gynaecology, check ups and birth control in the Netherlands? Tell us about it in the comments below!

Feature Image: nenetus/Depositphotos

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in October 2018 and was fully updated in September 2021 for your reading pleasure.

Abbie Neale
Abbie, a writer from the UK, fell in love with the Netherlands when she was three years old. When she’s not spending her free time painting canals or playing the guitar, she’ll be off travelling somewhere (and probably getting lost).

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What do you think?

5 COMMENTS

  1. MY insurance doesn’t cover contraceptive pills. Where can I get it reimbursed by Dutch government according to your article? Yes, I’m younger than 21.

  2. Does The Netherlands have a contraceptive pill called Minerva 35 ? I am moving to Rotterdam from South Africa.

  3. Depo-Provera is not an implant; it is a biannual injection. You likely meant Implanon/Nexplanon. Please correct your article!

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