Healthcare tips for expat women

December 10, 2019

Have a pre-departure check up with your doctor, ideally at least three months before you leave. Inform them you will be working abroad and ask about:

  • vaccinations required
  • prescriptions you may need
  • access to medication in your destination country

Have your doctor write you a letter for any medication (including birth control) that you take which you can provide to your doctor overseas. 

Research the availability of medication and birth control in your destination country. Be aware that laws governing both can vary significantly by country. You may have access to medication in a pharmacy that you require a prescription for in another country. Birth control is not available to the same degree in countries around the world, so ensure you have a supply with a letter from your doctor or that you work with your doctor to find a suitable alternative. 
Find out about the local standards for gynecological care. Many expats take out international health insurance cover so they can access these services in a private facility. 
Similarly, to gynecological care, plan cancer, hormone and STI screenings with the same frequency as you would at home. Finding a family doctor is likely to make accessing services like this much easier while you are living abroad.

Many expats move to tropical climates, as a female expat you may be at increased risk of some common ailments including:

Prickly heat: although this can be a problem for everyone, this nasty heat rash is particularly common if you take birth control. It is caused when sweat gets trapped under your skin, causing it to become inflamed and itchy. To ease the condition, stay out of the sun as much as possible, wear loose fitting clothes made from natural fibers like cotton and use calamine lotion to soothe your skin.   

Yeast infections: more common in warm conditions, these infections are uncomfortable and annoying and although not dangerous, you can pass them on to a partner. To help prevent an infection:

  • wear loose, breathable fabrics
  • avoid food and drinks containing yeast or high levels of sugar
  • take a probiotic to encourage good bacteria in your body

UTIs: the female urethra is much shorter than a male’s, putting women at greater risk of developing a urinary tract infection (UTI). It is thought that UTI’s are more prevalent in warmer weather because dehydration prevents bacteria from being flushed out. If you have moved to a warmer country, ensure you are drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated.   

Research in the US showed that women are twice as likely as men to suffer from high levels of stress and/or anxiety. This is primarily attributed to extra emotional and household labour that women feel responsible for. This does not necessarily change for expat women. Although there may be pressure on you from work and home while living abroad, try to incorporate self-care into your life. Start with the basics like getting enough sleep, exercise and downtime. If finding balance is something you are struggling with, see if your international health insurance policy has an Expat Assistance Programme that allows you access professional help.