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Sexual and reproductive health in France

Updated: Sep 17, 2022


Learn everything there is to know about taking care of your sexual health in France, from the general public's perspective to the availability of tests and counselling.


Sexual and reproductive health services are widely available in France's comprehensive healthcare system. A state health insurance card (Carte Vitale) is available to anyone who has been in the nation for at least three months for employment or study, and it provides heavily discounted medical treatment, including sexual health services.


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French COVID-19


Everyone has had a tough time during the COVID-19 epidemic. Some of the hardest things about being an expat is being far away from loved ones back home. Finding accurate data on the prevalence of coronavirus infections, local precautions and limits, and, happily, immunizations, might be challenging for a foreign visitor.


Visit the official site for Coronavirus (COVID-19) for up-to-date information about coronaviruses in France, including vaccination recommendations and related limitations.


Read our COVID-19 in France guide for more specifics on how this epidemic is affecting the country.


Attitudes towards sex and sexuality in France


France has a long-standing reputation as one of the world's most sexually liberal nations. Recent sociological studies confirm that the French has grown even less prudish in their sexual behaviour. The lack of sex in a relationship seems to be the last major taboo when it comes to discussing sex. A European-wide poll conducted in 2021 found sexual dissatisfaction among women to be highest in France, at 35%.


People in France, like their counterparts in other northern European countries, tend to have more sexual partners than those in southern, Catholic European countries. 37% of French respondents, compared to 38% in the UK and 42% in Germany, said they have slept with more than five persons.


A variety of sexual health therapies are easily accessible because of France's excellent healthcare system. According to the WHO, it has the best health care system in any country in the world.


Accessing sexual health services


Work or study in France for more than three months, and you are eligible to apply for a state health insurance card (Carte Vitale). This entitles you to heavily discounted medical treatment, which may include services related to sexual health. Protection universelle maladie (PUM) allows foreigners to get state-funded medical treatment if they need it (PUMA).


Medical treatment in France is paid for out of pocket, however, the government healthcare programme will repay you at a rate of around 70% overall, and 100% for abortion or maternity care. These services are also available at no cost to minors. The remaining 30% of most service expenses are your responsibility to pay for either directly or via private insurance.


A wide variety of public and private practitioners in the field of sexual health are available throughout France after you have your Carte Vitale for medical coverage. Some sexual health concerns may be handled by a patient's primary care physician (généralist or médecin traitant), who can then refer them to a specialist if further care is required.


French gynaecologists focus on women's whole health, not only sexual and reproductive issues. You may go to one without a referral from your primary care physician and get a broad variety of services. Keep in mind, however, that waiting lists are rather common. So, if you have an emergency relating to your reproductive organs, the best place to go is the gynaecological ward of your nearest hospital.


Talk to your doctor, gynaecologist, or midwife if you have questions regarding contraception or sexual health. You may also go to a CPEF (centres de planification ou d'éducation familiale) for assistance. Zava also functions as a search engine for locating sexual health professionals in your area.


Insurance for sexual healthcare in France


Thankfully, the cost of receiving medical care in France is manageable. Consider the difference in cost between a visit to your family doctor (about €25) and a gynaecologist (which may be twice as much). However, many choices for private health insurance (Mutuelle) addition, which pays for a wider range of services and perks. For instance, if you need to go to the hospital, your Mutuelle will help pay for some of the costs associated with your stay. There are several services, such as Bonne Assurance and Lelynx, that enable you to compare private insurances based on your specific needs and budget.


In particular, if you are a citizen of one of these countries, you may utilise your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to get access to emergency sexual healthcare:


The European Union (EU)


The European Economic Area (EEA – Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein)


Switzerland


However, specialist sexual health care in France is not covered by your EHIC card. If you want to go forward, you have two choices. Either your health insurance from back home will apply, or you may enrol in public health insurance and supplement it with private insurance if you so want. Keep in mind that any foreign national staying in France for more than three months is eligible to enrol in the country's national health insurance programme. People in this situation have the option of obtaining supplementary private health insurance.


Find the best expat health insurance quotes in France


You can get sexual and reproductive health care via the state plan for little or no cost. The whole range of reproductive health care options, from birth control to ultrasounds, abortions, and IVF, are included here. However, extra IVF procedures may be covered by private insurance. Since this is the case, it is to your benefit to learn what services various businesses provide.


Private health insurance in France is dominated by the following companies:


Cigna Global


April International


Globality Health


Allianz


Contraception


The Ministry of Health has a webpage titled "Question Sexualité" (Contraception Question) whereby all methods of birth control are discussed. Prescription contraceptives are covered at a rate of 65% by the state health insurance programme for adults and 100% for youngsters over the age of 15. The initial cost of intrauterine devices (IUDs) is normally approximately €100, although this is entirely reimbursed by state health insurance.


No prescription is necessary to purchase condoms in France since they are sold over-the-counter at pharmacies and grocery stores. However, you may see a gynaecologist, general practitioner, or family planning facility (centres de planification ou d'éducation familiale - CPEF) to get a prescription for various methods of contraception. France offers a variety of birth control methods for those who need them, such as:


Hormonal contraception (e.g., the pill, vaginal rings, and patches)


The copper coil or IUD


Sterilization (tubal ligation or vasectomy)


Although 80% of French women have used oral contraceptives, its current usage is far lower at 37%. This figure is falling as more people turn to IUDs (25% of women) and condoms (16%) as methods of birth control. Roughly nine in ten French women report being happy with their chosen method of birth control.


Emergency contraception


Morning-after pills, depending on the brand, range in price from €4 to €20 at local pharmacies. These expenses are covered by public health insurance. Family planning facilities (CPEF) in France provide the pill for free and without identification.


Pregnancy and childbirth


In France, you will most likely be cared for throughout pregnancy by a doctor or midwife. Fortunately, prenatal lessons and postnatal physical re-education (la rééducation périnéale) are both covered by universal health care in France. Retraining includes exercises for the abdominal muscles, the vaginal muscles, and the pelvic floor. You should know that the normal rate of reimbursement is 70% rather than 100% after the first two ultrasounds.


Births in France often take place in hospitals rather than at home due to strict regulations against them. On average, new mothers stay in the hospital for three full days after childbirth, and midwives pay follow-up visits in the days and weeks that follow.


Abortion in France


In France, getting an abortion is lawful up to the seventh week of pregnancy, when it can only be done medically using medications that need a doctor's prescription. After that, you have until the end of the 12th week to get a surgical abortion. Abortions are only permitted for medical reasons after this point, such as when the mother's life is in danger or when the unborn child has a terminal illness.


Abortions in France are completely covered by the government's health insurance programme. Abortions are available to minors of any age, without the need for parental notification or payment. Without their parents' consent, a youngster may have a free abortion by going with any adult they want.


STIs and STDs


STI diagnoses in France have been on the rise since the late 1990s when statistics from the French government first began tracking the reappearance of STIs caused by bacteria. Early diagnoses of gonorrhoea and LGV (a form of chlamydia) have increased significantly. The most up-to-date data (available only in French) reveals that LGV diagnoses increased by over 30% between 2017 and 2019, with gonorrhoea infections increasing by 21% in the same time. However, syphilis cases have decreased somewhat since 2016.


Visit your family physician or gynaecologist with any concerns you may have about STIs or STDs, and they will likely order or perform a diagnostic test. Testing may also be obtained from public and private clinics and hospitals. In most cases, you will have to front the cash yourself before being reimbursed by the state health plan a few weeks later. CeGIDD (Centres gratuits d'information, de dépistage, et de diagnosis) are free of charge, specialist clinics. These are open to everybody and do not cost anything, although they are specially designed for those in vulnerable or underprivileged situations. The majority of diagnostic testing in France is performed in private laboratories, and these facilities are reimbursed by the national healthcare system.


For all French women above the age of 25, a statewide programme offers cervical cancer screenings. Human papillomavirus (HPV) testing is recommended every five years for anybody over the age of 30. There is additional info about pap smears and other cervical cancer tests below the fold.


Your general practitioner or gynaecologist will be able to advise you on the best course of action to take in treating any STIs or STDs you may have. Penicillin, for instance, is used to treat syphilis, while antivirals and preventative vaccines are used to control Hepatitis B. Meanwhile, genital warts may be treated locally with nitrogen, electrocoagulation, or laser treatment. Additionally, precancerous HPV lesions may need surgical removal.


HIV/AIDS in France


Even while the number of HIV tests in France has increased, the number of new HIV diagnoses has decreased, according to a 2019 European study. The majority of newly confirmed cases (52%) are among migrant workers who have come from countries with widespread HIV epidemics.


A total of 6.2 million individuals had tests performed in 2019, with just 1.9 out of every 1,000 patients receiving a positive diagnosis. In 2020, the latest public health update said that because of the lockdowns, the number of screenings had plummeted to 5.2 million. During that year, HIV was detected in 4,856 persons.


In France, HIV testing is available in both public and private clinics via the CeGIDD programme. Pharmacies may also stock home testing kits for their customers. Antiretroviral Post Exposure Treatment (TPE) must be started within 48 hours of HIV exposure. If this happens to you, get yourself to the nearest hospital's emergency room right away. Even though you may be required to pay a small co-payment for some diagnostic procedures like blood testing, the cost of your treatment will be covered in full by the state's healthcare programme. In France, HIV is treated using a cocktail of antiretroviral medications that may be discussed with a primary care physician before hospitalisation.


If you live in France and have any queries about HIV/AIDS, you may call a toll-free hotline or use an anonymous chat service called Sida Info Service.


Erectile dysfunction treatment


See your primary care physician (médecin traitant) if you have erectile dysfunction. The doctor will take your vitals, run some labs, and may even order a neurological evaluation to rule out any underlying conditions.


After that, they could suggest a few modifications to your way of life, make adjustments to your present medications, give you a new prescription, or send you to a specialist. If you suffer from erectile dysfunction in France, your doctor may recommend:


Psychotherapy

Injections

Creams

Hormonal treatments

Transurethral treatments

Vacuum therapy

Penile implants

Shockwave therapy


Treatments like Viagra, Cialis, Levitra, and Spreda (available in pharmacies but only with a prescription)


Unfortunately, these services are not covered by the state's health insurance.


Feminine hygiene products in France


Available and taxed at a reduced rate of 5.5%, tampons and sanitary towels in France are quite cheap. Sanitary towels come in packs of 10–15 for less than €1 and tampons for €1.60. Menstrual cups, absorbent underwear, and reusable pads are some of the alternatives that may be purchased at supermarkets and pharmacies. These goods are expensive, however, and are not covered by state health insurance.


Cancer screenings


On the list of nations with the highest cancer rates, France comes in at number seven. The World Health Organization reports that the lifetime risk of acquiring cancer in France is 32.7% for those under the age of 75. Prostate (14.1%), breast (12.4%), lung (10.3%), colorectum (10.3%), and bladder (3.5%) cancers accounted for almost all of the over 468,000 new cases of cancer diagnosed in France in 2020.


Breast, colon, and cervix cancer screenings are mandatory for all French citizens. Cancer mortality rates may be lowered by educating the public about the hazards of tobacco and alcohol use and encouraging a healthy lifestyle.


Cervical cancer screenings


In 2020, 3,379 French women were diagnosed with cervical cancer, making up about 0.72%of all new cancer diagnoses. Women in France may participate in statewide cervical cancer screening programmes between the ages of 25 and 65. Your first two pap smears will be performed a year apart, and subsequent exams will be performed every three years. The state health plan will pay your gynaecologist for this test at a set rate of 70% if they do it during regular checkups.


Breast cancer screenings


In France, breast cancer is the primary cause of cancer-related mortality among women. Approximately 58,083 persons were diagnosed with this kind of cancer in 2020, making up 28% of all new cases.


If you are between the ages of 25 and 50, a health care expert will examine your breasts at each yearly gynaecological exam for any lumps. Furthermore, they may instruct you on how to do a self-breast assessment. Women in France between the ages of 50 and 74 who present with no symptoms are encouraged by doctors to get a breast scan every two years. However, your doctor may recommend further checks for breast cancer if you have a high risk for the disease owing to your family history or other causes.


Ovarian cancer screenings


In 2020, doctors in France identified 5,320 new cases of ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer is the second worst form of gynaecological cancer after breast cancer. Regular gynaecological exams are one of the best ways to spot the early signs of ovarian cancer. Ultrasounds are used for finding anomalies, and further testing, such as inspecting the tissue of a suspicious growth, may be recommended.


Prostate cancer screenings


In France, prostate cancer is responsible for 25.4% of all male cancers. Sixty-six thousand and seventy new cases were found in 2020. Despite this, the government has not implemented any nationwide screening programmes since their advantages have not been shown. However, if you have a family history of the disease, your doctor may recommend a PSA test or a rectal exam.


Testicular cancer screenings


2,752 French males will be diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2020. However, there is good news: the mortality rate is low, with just 129 fatalities recorded in that year. This malignancy often manifests as a lump in the testicles. Your doctor will likely suggest a scan and other diagnostic procedures at that point.


Penile cancer screenings


Only 569 French males will be diagnosed with penile cancer in 2020, making it an extremely uncommon form of cancer. Any alteration or development on the penis warrants a trip to the doctor, but there is no routine screening for this condition. Biopsies of tumours are possible, and surgical removal or chemotherapy are two possible therapies.


Services dealing with sexual problems


It is good to know that if you are having sexual health issues, France has a vast range of medical options available to you. Every drugstore will have information and treatments available over the counter to help with problems like vaginal dryness. You should still talk to your family doctor or gynaecologist about any concerns you have, whether they be medical or mental. Psychotherapy may be necessary for certain patients with longstanding issues related to sexual health. Experts in several fields, such as psychology, psychiatry, counselling, and even sex therapy, are readily available.


Many treatment sessions are covered by state health insurance. If you have private health insurance, however, you may be eligible for more reimbursement for mental health care. Les Clés de Venus is one such organisation that helps women who are in agony during sex by providing them with resources and a database of health experts in their area. This includes conventional medical care from gynaecologists as well as complementary and alternative therapies from osteopathic physicians, acupuncturists, and sophrologists (relaxation methods).


Additionally, the Réseau de Santé Sexuelle Publique is a French organisation that works to improve people's access to sexual health care. It has an interactive map with a list of its members, the majority of whom are based in or around the Paris area.


Services dealing with sexual abuse and assault


In France, it is against the law to use force in a home setting. Any kind of violence, whether physical, sexual, or psychological, committed by either a man or a woman is included here. Any two people living together, whether or whether they are married, are subject to the law. A safe place and interim lodging may be found for the victim and their children. There is a statute of limitations of six years from the date of the alleged incident of domestic abuse in which a complaint may be filed and criminal charges brought. A protection order is another remedy that may be sought via the family court. Intimate partner rape carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in jail. There is a maximum penalty of seven years in jail and a fine of up to €100,000 for other acts of sexual assault.


Arrêtons Les Violences is a government-run website in France that aims to aid female victims of violence. It provides a list of phone numbers, including a 24-hour hotline (3919) specifically for victims of sexual assault and their loved ones. Additionally, you may engage in anonymous chitchat with other users. The site also has a directory to assist you to locate a local chapter of a national organisation that addresses this concern. Alternatively, you may contact the website's support staff through its toll-free hotline or online chat feature. To reach emergency services, dial either 17 or 112.


Young people’s sexual health in France


Sex education


Educating students about sexuality is now required in all French schools per legislation passed in 2001. The goal of these gatherings is to instil in kids and teens a healthy appreciation for their bodies. Prevention of sexually transmitted infections is still a primary goal of sex education programmes in France.


The classes unfortunately seldom include themes like consent and intimacy, and instead concentrate on contraception and STI prevention, according to a 2016 government study (in French). The survey also concluded that gender disparity is not sufficiently addressed in sex education programmes. Among French adolescent females, for instance, knowledge of gender biology is still rather restricted.


Youth sexual health


In France, the adolescent birthrate has been falling over the last 40 years. Abortions among teenagers and young adults have been on the increase since the 1990s, and have now levelled off at around 15 per 1,000 women aged 15 to 19.


An increase in gonorrhoea and chlamydia has been reported in France, as the subject of a recent public enquiry. Young adults (15–24) were disproportionately affected; while generally showing no symptoms, they may be at risk for substantial health problems as a result. Consequently, in 2018, the French Ministry of Health started a digital campaign called OnSexprime to advocate for condom usage and sexual health among young people.


Sexual health services for youth in France


If you are a young person looking for sexual health services and guidance, the OnSexprime public health portal is a great place to begin your quest. It covers topics such as mental health, sexual health, sexual pleasure, and contraception, in addition to providing parts on legal rights and equality.


The website also includes a directory of hotlines, relevant organisations, and related websites that young people may use to get information and support about sexuality. For young people aged 12 to 25, Fil Santé Jeunes provides a free, anonymous phone line and online chat service.


With the consent of an adult of their choosing, children in France have free and anonymous access to treatments including screenings and abortions.


LGBT+ sexual health


Same-sex relationships in France


Discrimination against a person due to their sexual orientation or gender identity is unlawful in France. In general, same-sex and LGBT+ partnerships are accepted by French culture. In contrast, La Manif Pour Tous (LMPT), a Catholic-linked right-wing fringe, holds frequent demonstrations in opposition to topics like same-sex marriage and LGBT+ adoption rights.


French law changed in 2013 to allow same-sex marriage and adoption. The year 2021 also marks the beginning of equal access to medically assisted reproduction for women in same-sex couples.


Sexual health for the LGBT+ community


Everyone in the LGBT+ community in France has the same access to healthcare and legal protections as anybody else living in the country. Many organisations, however, provide LGBT+ persons with specialised assistance, particularly in the areas of discrimination and sexual health. The Health Ministry has created a website called Sexosafe where you may get a directory of all applicable organisations.


Free HIV and STI testing is available at a diagnostics facility (CeGIDD). Locating a local screening centre is easy thanks to the directory provided by the Sida Info Service.


Useful resources


● Arrêtons les Violences – page on the government website devoted to ending all types of violence against women

● Fil Santé Jeunes – website and hotline staffed by medical experts, providing sexuality-related guidance to teens

● IVG.gouv – a government-run resource for learning about family planning and terminating a pregnancy

● L’assurance Maladie (AMELI) – official government health care coverage

● Le Planning Familial – an all-French feminist network that addresses sexual health, family planning, and anti-women's-violence issues via education and assistance for women.

● Ministère des Solidarités et de la Santé – page from the Ministry of Health

● The French Ministry of Health has established a youth-focused portal called OnSexprime to encourage healthy sexuality among young people.

● French National Health Service - the national government department responsible for health in all its forms

● Sida Info Service – in the context of the battle against HIV/AIDS, a group that offers a confidential hotline

● Sexosafe – a Ministry of Health-sponsored resource for the LGBT+ community

● VIH.org – offers resources for those living with HIV/AIDS

● Question Séxualité – a governmental portal for sexual health and contraception-related information


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