Le Planning Familial
If you've moved to France and you haven't yet signed up for your social security you're going to have a hard go of being reimbursed for seeing the doctor. Before I left America I meant to top up my birth control but I procrastinate and I figured it would be a while before I had sex again so oh well. How wrong I was. I met Léo like my second week? Or third week? back and I had no idea where to get birth control because I hadn't signed up for social security and hadn't picked a doctor. Plus I know the last French doctor I visited said she didn't carry the type I use. I thought France might have its own version of Planned Parenthood and I would just purchase it from there because those types of places usually carry everything.
It was a while before I got around to making an appointment and actually I didn't. The woman I tutor for knows the lady in charge of the one in Paris and she got me an appointment. I figured what the hell. Even if I wasn't having sex I might as well get a prescription in case. And maybe I could finally stop having the craziness that comes along with PMS.
So I took the metro down to the 13th. Pitié Salpiterrie is near Jardin des Plantes where I used to live so I figured I'd find my way quite easily. Nope. Not a chance. On the map the entrance I needed was closed off (possibly because of the shootings) and I had to ask a girl to help me. She didn't speak English, but kindly showed me the way, and once we went through the main entrance, she walked me to the building, which was really lovely of her. Once in I passed the receptionist and followed some line of French writing on the floor towards the back. I knew that I had to look for "boxes" and a ticket machine. I found the ticket machine and the ticket told me to wait in zone 2. Right away I was called.
The lady who gives you the ticket to the area where you wait for the doctor didn't speak any English, but she also was very nice. I was meeting a woman named Valerie. I had her information written down and I gave it to the receptionist. She said my name, and I was surprised that she found me so easily. She printed out some paperwork, gave me a few folders, and a huge brown envelope, and a ticket, and told me to wait in zone 3 at the end.
When I got to zone 3 Valerie immediately came out and grabbed me. We went back to her office and talked about what I was in for. I was just there for some birth control but she ended up giving me a list of things to get done. I was to have meetings with a psychologist weekly, I had to have blood work done for a host of things; std testing and pregnancy, then the doctor had to perform a vaginal examination (pap smear) and then after we went over what I could take because they didn't have my birth control, I would get kitted out with the implant (a little plastic rod they stick in your arm and it releases hormones for 3 years). I didn't know how I would feel about having a foreign object in my arm but the pros outweighed the cons.
I should point out that all of this is free. The French government is kind enough to provide it for whatever reason to low income people, immigrants, and people without papers (they don't ask you for id or anything, it's very strange). So it's like Planned Parenthood in the US but completely free and basically anonymous.
After my psych appointment, and the promise that I would come back weekly, I went back to the waiting area and waited in zone 3 so I could be examined by the doctor. Finally the doctor called me back and with her was a nurse doing training. Neither spoke English very well. In fact I'm not sure how I got on with the doctor because it didn't seem like she unrstood me. As if it wasn't embarrassing enough having a complete stranger feel you up, she also wasn't very nice. First came the breast test, then the pap smear, and finally some test where she had to stick her fingers in me a poke around my uterus. I've been to the gynecologist numerous times in the US but I don't recall my gynecologist ever doing that. The French doctor said it had to be done so I couldn’t opt out.
After that I was sent back to the nurses area where like 5 vials of blood were drawn for various tests like pregnancy, HIV, syphilis, etc. Finally at 5:30pm (having arrived around 2pm) I was given an appointment to come back for my results next week and sent on my way.
If you find yourself in need of a gynecologist, or you just need a doctor for something, I would suggest giving Family Planning a go. I don't know what the wait time is for an appointment with them, or what other services they offer. It's not fun being poked and prodded, but I commend the French government for being nice enough to offer this service free of charge, to anyone, regardless of their residency status in France.