A consultorio familiare is a clinic in which the first forms of health and social assistance are provided. A person can rely on a consultorio for guidance on:
• pregnancy services
• post birth assistance and breastfeeding
• child vaccinations
• sexual and emotional education
• eating disorders
• family mediation during separations and divorces
• fertility /infertility
• foster care and adoption
•coercion and abuse of minors and women
• support to couples or families enduring social distress and/or economic hardship
• psychological distress in particular phases of life (adolescence, pregnancy, maternity, etc.)
All personnel working in a consultorio are trained by specialized operators: gynaecologists, psychologists, obstetricians, public health officials, social workers, and solicitors. A consultorio provides free service to anyone requiring it; and collaborates with hospitals and other national services (schools, councils, associations).
All women in Italy are entitled to the maternity protection. If a woman thinks she is pregnant, she should contact her G.P. or the closest consultorio; where she will benefit from the following specific pregnancy related assistance which lasts up until the first months of a baby’s life:
1 – Assistance during pregnancy: examinations with midwives, echography’s, tests and examinations, ante-natal courses and legal consultancy for working women.
2 – Assistance during birth: assistance during labour and birth, education and support regarding breast feeding and the care of a new born.
3 – Post birth examinations.
After the birth, the obstetrician will give the parents a certificato di assistenza al parto (certificate of birth assistance), required to register a new born to the civil registrar. The new born will be registered within 10 days at the Civil Registrar of one’s own municipality, or within three days from the birth at the relevant administration office within the hospital.
Until the 7th year of age, and if the family income does not exceed the amount established by law, children are entitled to free specialist consultations, blood tests and further checks. If a family is experiencing serious social and economic distress it is possible to contact a social worker.
In Italy certain vaccinations are mandatory by law: diphteria, tetanus, poliovirus and hepatitis B. Others are discretionary although recommended. Further information can be given by a paediatrician or found at a consultorio.
It is important to note that children that have already started a vaccination cycle in their countries can continue the programme at their Italian consultorio and a certificate reporting the vaccinations carried out until that moment should be presented.
Italian law allows a voluntary interruption of pregnancy 90 days from the beginning of the last menstruation. If a woman wishes to have an abortion, she can contact a consultorio where the required certificate will be issued. This certificate can be requested by gynaecologists, G.P.s or other specialist medical consultants. Once in possession of the certificate, the woman will be put in contact with the relevant hospital wards for the operation to be carried out.
Within a few days of birth, one of the child’s parents will go to the Local Health Authority of their municipality with an identity document and will self-certificate the new born’s details and register them with the National Healthcare System. The new born will be assigned a personal health code and a document indicating the name of the paediatrician chosen during registration.
Italian law allows women to give birth anonymously (without declaring their personal details) and not to recognise their babies, at the same time guaranteeing the baby’s right to grow within a family. An anonymous birth is not a crime and does not expose the woman to being reported to the Police or having to pay a fine. After having given birth, a mother can leave the new born at the hospital and will have 10 days of time to decide not to recognise him- Should this happen the baby will be declared adoptable and placed with a family waiting to adopt.
This is a final choice and the mother will not be able to change her mind afterwards.
Correct use of contraceptives (methods to prevent a woman from getting pregnant) avoids unwanted pregnancies and enables choice over the correct time to have a child in full awareness and responsibility.
Today, many different contraceptives are available: healthcare personnel at a consultorios will help with the selection of the most suitable contraception method for a specific situation. The following are the best know contraceptives:
a) - Natural methods:
These identify women’s fertile days and can be useful for both women who wish to avoid a pregnancy and women wishing to get pregnant. The fertile days can be calculated in different ways but it is not always reliable, especially because a woman’s menstruation can vary, meaning natural methods are not always effective.
d) – Birth control pill or hormonal contraception:
The pill blocks ovulation and modifies the functionality of the cervical mucus and the Fallopian tubes. It is very effective in avoiding pregnancies but will not offer protection from sexually transmitted infections. It involves a certain degree of precision and it needs to be used regularly.
c) – Contraceptive patch.
The patch can be applied to the skin on various body parts. It needs to be replaced every week and will not protect from sexually transmitted infections.
d) – Vaginal ring:
A vaginal ring is thin, transparent and flexible. It needs to be inserted into the vagina and be replaced once a month. It will not protect from sexually transmitted infections.
e) – Condoms:
A condom is a thin latex membrane which is placed on the penis and gathers sperm, thus preventing it from entering the vagina. It protects both partners from sexually transmitted infections.
f) – Female condom:
A female condom is a soft and resistant membrane inserted into the vagina before sexual intercourse to prevent a pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.
g) – Contraceptive injection:
This contraceptive technique involves a monthly or quarterly intramuscular injection which prevents pregnancy for one or three months. This type of contraception will not protect from sexually transmitted infections.
h) IUD (intrauterine device):
An IUD is a small plastic object which is inserted into the uterus by a gynaecologist. A woman will not feel the object. This type of contraception will not protect from sexually transmitted infections.
If two people have sexual intercourse carrying the risk of resulting in pregnancy, it is essential to contact a G.P., a consultorio or the A&E ward, for consultancy and a potential prescription for emergency contraception. Emergency contraception (also called ‘morning-after contraception’), prevents pregnancy after unprotected intercourse. Emergency contraception will not protect against sexually transmitted infections and cannot cause an abortion if a woman is already pregnant.
Italian national healthcare recommends that all women, both Italian and foreigners, carry out tests for the prevention and diagnosis of female tumours. Several studies have highlighted that cervical and breast cancer can be cured if diagnosed early.
This is why it is important to contact a consultorio and to carry out the following tests:
- Pap-test, every three years for women from 25 or 64 years of age, for the early prevention and diagnosis of cervical cancer. The Pap-test involves taking a sample of cells from the cervix which will subsequently be examined. Cervical cancer can develop slowly and is not visible during a general gynaecological check-up. It will not be noticed for a long time and it is dangerous if not treated early.
- Mammography, every year for women from 45 to 49 years old and every two years thereafter for the early diagnosis of breast cancer. A mammography is breast imaging. Breast cancer can currently be diagnosed early and can be cured even without a total removal of the breast.
In many regions it is possible to access free prevention programs for cervical cancer and for the early diagnosis of breast cancer. For further information contact your Local Health Authority.
Menopause is a physiological moment in a woman’s life representing the cessation of reproductive ability. The most evident consequence is the disappearance of menstruations.
The average age for the start of the menopause is between 43 and 53. When a woman enters this phase, the skeleton becomes weaker (osteoporosis), exposing her to the risk of fractures vascular diseases and breast cancer. It is essential to monitor one’s health condition by contacting a G.P. or a local consultorio.
Italian law condemns any form of violence, even cultural, that can damage the physical and psychological integrity of a person, including traditional practices harmful for women and girls such as early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.
Female genital mutilations involve the partial or total removal of external genitalia for cultural and non-therapeutic reasons.
In Italy, female genital mutilation is a crime punishable with imprisonment. Law n. 7 dating 9th January 2006 suggests imprisonment of 4 to 12 years for those inflicting mutilations in the absence of therapeutic requirements, or with the aim of modifying the sexual functions of the victims, with an increase of the sentence when the victim is a minor. The perpetrator is also punished when the practice is carried out abroad on an Italian or foreign citizen residing in Italy.
Many associations of migrant women in Italy are involved in prevention of female genital mutilation and support women through the creation of groups for mutual support and easing their access to social and health services. For this kind of issue it is wise to contact a consultorio.
HELP NUMBER FOR WOMEN:
Helpline 1522 is a toll free number, active 24 hours a day all year round, that provides Italian and foreign women with a free telephone service specialised in listening and the analysis of cases of abuse.
The service also provides indications and advice regarding access to anti-violence centres, social and health services, how to contact the Police and how to access private services for help, protection and support in situations of coercion and abuse.
For further information check: