With any move abroad come those invariable changes in lifestyle (new diet, climate, sleeping habits, etc). These also include the intimacies of sexual health, which you may wish speak to a gynaecologist (GYN) about in comfort of confidence. Where do you start?
In the Netherlands, everyone must have health insurance (zorgverzekering) and be registered with a GP (huisarts). There are very few private practices for gynaecologists, so you will need to be properly registered for a referral from your GP.
If you have private insurance, you can change your gynaecologist after your family doctor makes a referral. There are, however, no guarantees that same person will see you again for your next appointment, but you can always ask. Finally, recommendations from family or friends are always worth noting down.
Routine check-ups are not the norm in the Netherlands. Women have pap smears every five years and those over 50 get a mammography every two years. There are no regular screenings for different types of cancer.
If you have a previous history with a gynaecological condition (e.g. an ovarian cyst), it’s recommended that you pass your medical records on to your family doctor (GP) for a full assessment.
For specialist treatment or tests, you will need a referral note from your GP. Always be clear about your symptoms, your level of discomfort etc, as you cannot approach a specialist directly. GPs generally opt for the typically Dutch approach to medical care, which is more natural and non-invasive, and they only issue referrals in cases they cannot treat themselves. Also note that waiting times for specialist appointments vary greatly between types of surgery and treatments.
As an international resident, you can expect regular check-ups during pregnancy unless you request otherwise. This is the case whether you choose a midwife or gynaecologist as your primary caregiver.
You may also be invited for a national preventive health check for one of the following:
Cervical cancer (once every five years for women aged 30-60).
Breast cancer (every two years for women aged 50-75).
Influenza puncture (for the elderly).
Hereditary high cholesterol level.
Heel puncture or hearing test (for babies).
Participation is voluntary and the screening is free of charge.
Compared to other countries, the Netherlands has a low abortion rate. Abortions are legal here and are performed as outpatient surgery at licensed clinics and hospitals until approximately 24 weeks into pregnancy – though abortions are rarely performed after 22 weeks. Your GP will refer you to a specialist for which your health insurance company will cover you. This being the case, you may be required to answer a series of questions per policy protocol.
According to Randstad, it’s estimated that approximately 40% of Dutch women aged 15-30 use the pill. Another 5-10% of patients also use IUDs but diaphragms are the least popular choice of birth control methods. All forms of contraception are available by prescription from your family doctor.
At the Public Health Service of Amsterdam's Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) Outpatient Clinic (SOA Polikliniek) you can receive a free examination and, if necessary, a free treatment for STIs. You do not need a family doctor's referral and health insurance is not required.