I pay in blood for family planning

Despite appreciating the obvious medical reasons behind this, there is something decidedly odd about sitting in a room full of pregnant women, waiting for a prescription for birth control. 

Around me, my fellow patients sat in various postures of discomfort while the odd mother tried to sooth her bawling spawn by pacing the linoleum hallways. Looks of sympathy were exchanged: the young mothers' because this peaceful pot-bellied crowd didn't realise that noise control would soon become their life, and mine because they had all made terrible life choices that would one day pay my pension. 

Though in truth, this whole process was tedious. My appointment had been for 9am, yet it was now half-past the hour and none of the doctors had so much as called their first patient. While it was true that no other country in which I had lived had excelled at punctuality without vital organs visibly on display, this didn't stop me fantasising about the 27.4 Nobel Prizes I doubtless would have finished had I been in the office. 

Shortly before 10, my boredom was temporarily relived by a nurse telling me that now was the moment all the blood was to be extracted from my body. At least, I assume those were her words since once I arrived at the blood test room, the nurse filled an entire box with vials. 

"Only six!" she told me cheerfully, once I had dragged my eyes off my shoe laces to see if the length of time this was taking was due to being accidentally hooked up to a snake. "Aren't you relieved?"


In fact, at the end of the process, there only seemed to be four test tubes full of my life fluid. I am unsure whether the 'six' had therefore referred to a measurement that was not a vial, or if two had been stolen from the box while I had been examining my footwear. For my own psychosomatic wellbeing (and lack of Japanese) I decided not to ask. 

The nurse fixed a band aid on my arm, followed by a black velcro armband. Presumably, this was to prevent any bruising but it did look like a token of morning for the blood I had lost. 

Back in the waiting room, I progressed to learning the Japanese vocabulary list I had assembled based on last week's activities. '妖精 (yousei)' meant 'fairy' while '魔導士 (madoushi)' meant 'wizard'. On reflection, it had not been the easiest of weeks. 

At 11am I was finally called into the doctor's office. Trained in Hawaii, my doctor spoke fluent English but she had no time for my ridiculous foreigner complaints. 

"You need blood works every six months," she told me. "And periodic ultrasounds and pap tests. It is more than the USA or the UK but this is how it's done in Japan if you want your medicine here."

And that was the end of that. I was dismissed to take my whining backside back out to the waiting room. 

Another hour past in which I returned to my word list and committed 'しっかりしろ (shikkarishiro)' / 'get a grip' to memory. 

Finally, I paid my bill and collected my prescription from the hospital pharmacy. The nurse who had taken me to have my blood drawn now accompanied me to the relevant desks. I suspected I had been assigned the special helper after a previous incident where I had accidentally left with my green hospital file. This time, I was never given the option to hold my own file. 

Japan's social health care system pays 70% of medical costs, but does not cover the amount for the actual oral contraceptives, even when taken for health reasons. My end bill (for the interested) came to around $100 for the tests and four months supply of tablets, with the latter being the vast majority of the cost.

Despite missing the UK's free contraceptive pill policy, it is a financially reasonable deal. 

... and a slightly less reasonable mental stress one.