Research is all well and good, but we find that most of the people who come to our website are curious about one thing: how much does it cost? Though questions about healthcare usually consider a wide range of factors, the price is an important sticking point, whether to justify to have a procedure (well, you get what you pay for!) or not (I’d rather die than pay THAT). As with most things related to healthcare, YMMV — your mileage may vary. Today, we’d like to take a look at the price of one of the most widely used and accessible kinds of contraceptives here: the Pill. What is the cost of birth control pills in Korea? And what about other countries?
Basics on the Birth Control Pill
Though people instantly know what you mean when you say “the Pill,” it’s actually a misnomer. There are so many different kinds of birth control pills. Each pill type has different ingredients as well as different doses of those ingredients that can change your experience of taking it.
This article will do two things. First, for those of you thinking about going on birth control pills, we’ll provide a useful primer to understand the three major types and how they’re different to give you some context. Then, we’ll dive into a country cost comparison for those of you currently on birth control pills who may be looking to find your brand in Korea, or even switch to a new one.
Multi-what? Understanding the Difference between Birth Control Pills
Things we wish our gynecologist had told us
For those of you who are new to birth control pills, welcome! When it comes to information about the Pill, unfortunately information can be hard to find and even harder to understand.
So what is the Pill? As a combination of ingredients that mimic the estrogen and progesterone in the female body, the Pill thus prevents pregnancy by changing the body’s ability to ovulate, the cervical tissue’s ability to accept a fertilized egg, and so on. Hormones in the Pill shift and control which hormones you produce and when. Think of it as kind of rewiring the cycle your body normally would go through to prepare for pregnancy, in order to prevent it from happening. Because we’re talking about hormone levels though, the Pill is often prescribed for other ailments, from PCOS to acne.
Monophasic birth control pills
Like we said above, there are different kinds of pills — three, to be exact — that you need to know. The first is the monophasic pill (“one phase”), which means the ingredients exist in a consistent amount for the full pack you take each month (usually either 21 or 28 days, depending on the brand). The “mono” in monophasic thus means that you experience a steady amount of the pill’s ingredients up until your period begins.
A popular type of monophasic recipe is found in brands like Myvolar/Myvlar (found in Korea and Canada) and Microgestin (found in the UK and US): part ethinyl estradiol (made of 17-alpha estrogen, a popular synthetic estrogen that is similar but not identical to what the female body produces) and gestodene (a newer version of synthetic progesterone that is meant to better control the hormone cycle and reduce the negative side effects of the Pill). Yaz is another popular monophasic pill, also made with ethinyl estradiol, though the progesterone component is made of drospirenone instead, which helps address moderate acne and premenstrual dysphroic disorder (PMDD).
[Editor’s Note: I swear, getting on birth control made me wish I paid more attention in chemistry class…]
Triphasic birth control pills
The second type of pill is triphasic, which means that the hormone levels in your body regulated by the pill occur in three distinct phases. Popular brands like triquilar (Korea) and triphasil (US, UK and Canada) also contain ethinyl estradiol as well as levonorgestrel for the progesterone component. An interesting note about that, actually: besides the way these pills regulate your hormones, the types of synthetic ingredients also play a role in determining if one pill or another is a better fit for you. One study suggests that the gestodenefound in the monophasic pills may be more effective than levonorgestrel at gently regulating the body’s hormone levels, which in turn lessens the side effects of birth control like headaches and nausea. Definitely something to mention to your doctor!
Multiphasic birth control pills
Finally, the third type is multiphasic. It means there are many phases of hormone levels throughout the menstrual cycle. This more closely mimics the gradual changes in hormones that the body should normally go through. Though of course, it has the benefit of preventing pregnancy. The multiphasic pills tend to be “4th generation” pills, which means they are made with new estrogen and progesterone ingredients (the 4th round of such improvements since the Pill was made in the 1960s). Pills like Natazia (US and Canada) and Qlaira (UK and Korea) are made up of estradiol (17-beta). This is different than ethinyl estradiol, because it is identical to what the female body produces. These pills also contain dienogest for progesterone.
The Cost of Birth Control Pills in Korea and Beyond
In countries like the US, Canada, and the UK require a prescription for birth control pills. However, in Korea, many pills can be bought over the counter. However, in terms of this cost comparison, only Myvolar/Myvlar is available OTC all the time. Triquilar is available sometimes. Yaz and Qlaira require a doctor check-up every six months and a prescription.
Price differences for birth control pills between countries
The infographic below illustrates the price differences between the different types and brands of pills in the Republic of Korea (KOR), United States (USA), United Kingdom (UK) and Canada (CAN). Remember, these are brand names, so generic versions will be cheaper. Make sure to check with your doctor and/or pharmacist before shifting to a generic one, just in case! For the cost of birth control pills in Korea and other places, there is a lot of variation. So always double check with your healthcare provider!
The prices below estimate price quotes from several online pharmacies and real pharmacists. This gives an idea of the range you should expect to pay.
The graphic below illustrates what 1 pack (or 1 month’s worth of birth control) costs without insurance. Note that because the multiphasic pills (Natazia and Qlaira) are newer, they are much more expensive that the “older” formulations.
So, here is the cost of birth control pills in Korea and beyond:
And there you have it! As you can see, the cost of birth control pills in Korea is often cheaper. The only exception is Yaz, although it’s quite close to the range for the UK price. So if you’re coming to Korea, especially for a long-term trip to study or work, fear not! There are plenty of contraceptive options available to suit your needs. Doctors and pharmacists will also help to figure out what is best for you. But at least you have an idea of what the cost of birth control pills in Korea looks like now.
Contact us for more information
As always, you don’t have to navigate this alone . At Jivaka Care, we will help you work with the best doctors available, even if they don’t speak English well. We will help you overcome any language barriers related to reproductive healthcare. More importantly, we can help you research your options in more detail before you even make an appointment. Just drop us a line on our website, on Messenger, or on KakaoTalk, and we can work together to get the answers you need.