Sexual health in the Netherlands

Everything you need to know to stay healthy and safe

Sexual health is important no matter where you are in the world, and knowing what the landscape is like when moving abroad is vital to make sure you stay safe and keep healthy.

Sexual health in the Netherlands

The Netherlands is known for its liberal attitude towards sex. It was one of the first countries in the world to allow gay marriage. The Netherlands also has one of the lowest adolescent birth and abortion rates in the world and STD infections among adolescents are also relatively low.

Social norms and education

Sex education is part of the compulsory curriculum for primary and secondary schools. The content of Dutch sexual education programs focus on the use of contraception, STDs, self-reliance, sexual diversity, mutual respect, love, dating and maintaining a healthy sexual relationship.

The Dutch municipalities are obliged to provide sexual health promotion services. They are to some extent free in designing these services, but they are required to offer free sexual counselling and advice. These out-of-school education programs usually take place in youth care contexts or community centres and often focus on specific themes or target groups.

Although the Netherlands is ahead of many countries when it comes to sexual and reproductive health education and attitudes, there are still some challenges for example the rising rate of STDS among teens.

Use of contraception

Condom usage among adolescents in the Netherlands is slightly below the European average, with 75% use compared to 78%.  However, the use of the contraceptive pill is significantly higher in the Netherlands with 54% of Dutch women  saying they use the contraceptive pill.

Obtaining contraception

Sexual health services are easily accessible. The costs for contraceptives (except condoms) are covered by the basic insurance program for adolescents until 21. However, if you are over 21 and want to cover contraception you can purchase one of the additional health insurance programs. The cost of an abortion is also covered by health insurance. Moreover, consultation with GPs about contraception and STD check ups are free of charge.  

Condoms

Condoms are widely available from pharmacies, supermarkets to vending machines in many restaurants and nightclubs. Female condoms are not so widespread, but you can still buy them from pharmacies without a prescription.

The pill

In the Netherlands a prescription is needed for the pill, however it is often possible to bring your existing prescription from your home country and be allowed to purchase it then and there. For first time usage, you need to go to the doctor to get the prescription but afterwards you can go directly to the pharmacy with the first prescription (and in some cases, simply showing the empty box is often enough).

IUDS

IUDs are also available in the Netherlands. Between 5–10 percent of Dutch women use IUDs. If you are younger than 21 your health insurance will cover the costs. Visit a gynecologist for a checkup and advice on whether it is the right form of birth control for you.

Implant

The implant is also available in the Netherlands. If you are over 21 you have to purchase an additional coverage package in order to get the costs refunded.  

Emergency contraception

An emergency contraceptive pill (morning after pill) is available without prescription at the pharmacy or drugstore for around €13.

STDs

The top 5 STDs in the Netherlands are chlamydia, genital warts, herpes, gonorrhea and hepatitis B in 2014.  The number of people infected with STDs has been increasing slightly but consistently for several years. However, people get themselves tested for STDS frequently.

Generally, getting tested for STIs is straightforward. You can turn up at your local sexual health clinic (SOA Polikliniek) without an appointment and receive a free examination and, if necessary, a free treatment for STIs. You do not need a doctor's referral and health insurance is not required. Those without specific complaints but who would still like an STI test are advised to first visit their doctor.

Entry restrictions

The Netherlands currently has no entry restrictions regarding carriers of HIV.  

Abortion

Abortion is legal in the Netherlands. According to the abortion law (Wet afbreking zwangerschap), abortion is legal on request up to 24 weeks after conception. In order to remain within the time limit, most doctors perform the procedure up to 21 weeks and some days after conception. Abortions for medical reasons may be performed in the 24th week at the latest.

In any case, an abortion may only be performed in an official clinic and after an obligatory 5 days reflection time which gives the mother time to consider her decision.   

Girls under the age of 16 need permission from one of their parents to be granted an abortion. However, in cases where this permission is not granted, a doctor or social worker can -as an exception and based on professional discretion- give permission to perform the abortion. Abortions are covered under basic national health insurance and are therefore free to the patient. Foreigners may have an abortion in the Netherlands but are liable for all expenses.

The Netherlands is known for its liberal attitude towards sex. It was one of the first countries in the world to allow gay marriage. The Netherlands also has one of the lowest adolescent birth and abortion rates in the world and STD infections among adolescents are also relatively low.

Social norms and education

Sex education is part of the compulsory curriculum for primary and secondary schools. The content of Dutch sexual education programs focus on the use of contraception, STDs, self-reliance, sexual diversity, mutual respect, love, dating and maintaining a healthy sexual relationship.

The Dutch municipalities are obliged to provide sexual health promotion services. They are to some extent free in designing these services, but they are required to offer free sexual counselling and advice. These out-of-school education programs usually take place in youth care contexts or community centres and often focus on specific themes or target groups.

Although the Netherlands is ahead of many countries when it comes to sexual and reproductive health education and attitudes, there are still some challenges for example the rising rate of STDS among teens.

Use of contraception

Condom usage among adolescents in the Netherlands is slightly below the European average, with 75% use compared to 78%.  However, the use of the contraceptive pill is significantly higher in the Netherlands with 54% of Dutch women  saying they use the contraceptive pill.

Obtaining contraception

Sexual health services are easily accessible. The costs for contraceptives (except condoms) are covered by the basic insurance program for adolescents until 21. However, if you are over 21 and want to cover contraception you can purchase one of the additional health insurance programs. The cost of an abortion is also covered by health insurance. Moreover, consultation with GPs about contraception and STD check ups are free of charge.  

Condoms

Condoms are widely available from pharmacies, supermarkets to vending machines in many restaurants and nightclubs. Female condoms are not so widespread, but you can still buy them from pharmacies without a prescription.

The pill

In the Netherlands a prescription is needed for the pill, however it is often possible to bring your existing prescription from your home country and be allowed to purchase it then and there. For first time usage, you need to go to the doctor to get the prescription but afterwards you can go directly to the pharmacy with the first prescription (and in some cases, simply showing the empty box is often enough).

IUDS

IUDs are also available in the Netherlands. Between 5–10 percent of Dutch women use IUDs. If you are younger than 21 your health insurance will cover the costs. Visit a gynecologist for a checkup and advice on whether it is the right form of birth control for you.

Implant

The implant is also available in the Netherlands. If you are over 21 you have to purchase an additional coverage package in order to get the costs refunded.  

Emergency contraception

An emergency contraceptive pill (morning after pill) is available without prescription at the pharmacy or drugstore for around €13.

STDs

The top 5 STDs in the Netherlands are chlamydia, genital warts, herpes, gonorrhea and hepatitis B in 2014.  The number of people infected with STDs has been increasing slightly but consistently for several years. However, people get themselves tested for STDS frequently.

Generally, getting tested for STIs is straightforward. You can turn up at your local sexual health clinic (SOA Polikliniek) without an appointment and receive a free examination and, if necessary, a free treatment for STIs. You do not need a doctor's referral and health insurance is not required. Those without specific complaints but who would still like an STI test are advised to first visit their doctor.

Entry restrictions

The Netherlands currently has no entry restrictions regarding carriers of HIV.  

Abortion

Abortion is legal in the Netherlands. According to the abortion law (Wet afbreking zwangerschap), abortion is legal on request up to 24 weeks after conception. In order to remain within the time limit, most doctors perform the procedure up to 21 weeks and some days after conception. Abortions for medical reasons may be performed in the 24th week at the latest.

In any case, an abortion may only be performed in an official clinic and after an obligatory 5 days reflection time which gives the mother time to consider her decision.   

Girls under the age of 16 need permission from one of their parents to be granted an abortion. However, in cases where this permission is not granted, a doctor or social worker can -as an exception and based on professional discretion- give permission to perform the abortion. Abortions are covered under basic national health insurance and are therefore free to the patient. Foreigners may have an abortion in the Netherlands but are liable for all expenses.

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