Last modified on August 24th, 2020
- Easy to use and works like the pill. You have to use a new patch each week
- Effectiveness: the patch is pretty effective the way most people use it. With perfect use, 99 in every 100 women will prevent pregnancy. With typical use, or the way most people use it, the patch prevents pregnancy in 91 out of 100 women who use it.
- Side effects: nausea, irregular bleeding, and breast tenderness are most common, but these are usually temporary. Skin irritation can also occur.
- Effort: moderate. You need to use a new patch each week
- Doesn’t protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Birth Control Patch
Summary Contraceptive Patch
The patch is a thin piece of plastic that looks like a square Band-Aid. It is a little less than 5 cm across. You stick the patch on your skin, and it gives off hormones that prevent your ovaries from releasing eggs. The hormones also thicken your cervical mucus, which helps block sperm from getting to the egg in the first place.
It is less effort than the pill, and it does not require needles. If you do not want to take a pill every day, the patch may be a good option. You only need to remember to use a new patch once every 7 days.
The patch is best if you weigh less than 90 kilos. The patch may be less effective if you weigh more than 90 kilos. If you weigh 90 kilos or more, you should use a different contraceptive method.
You want predictable periods. If you like getting your period every month, with no spotting, then the patch may be a good choice.
You are a smoker under the age of 35. If you are over 35 years old, smoking while using the patch increases your risk of certain side effects. It is advised to discuss this with your medical provider.
You want to be able to stop using a contraceptive method and get pregnant quickly? You will be able to get pregnant right after going off the patch. If you stop using the patch and do not feel ready to get pregnant, use another method.
How To Use
- The patch is easy to use. The most difficult part is remembering to use a new one each week. Just stick a single, new patch on once a week for three weeks in a row. Do not use a patch the fourth week.
- You can put the patch on your butt, stomach, upper outer arm, or upper torso. Do not put it on your breasts.
- You will probably get your period during the week without a patch. You may still be bleeding when it is time to put the patch back on. That is normal. Put on the new patch anyways.
- Check out the tips and tricks below to make using the patch easier.
Tip 1: if you start the patch within the first 5 days of your period, you are protected from pregnancy right away. If you start later, you will have to wait 7 days before you are protected. You should use a backup method during that time.
Tip 2: think carefully about where you want to stick the patch – it will be there for a full week. You want to avoid putting the patch where you have loose skin or a lot of folds.
Tip 3: only peel off half of the clear plastic at first, so you will have a non-sticky side to hold on to.
Tip 4: do not touch the sticky part of the patch with your fingers.
Tip 5: press the patch down on your selected body part. Hold it for 10 seconds to get a good, firm stick.
Tip 6: do not use body lotion, oil, powder, creamy soaps or makeup on the spot where you put your patch. That can prevent the patch from sticking.
Tip 7: check your patch every day to make sure it is sticking right.
Tip 8: you may have a bit of lint build-up around the edges of the patch.
Tip 9: when you take a patch off, fold it in half before you throw it away. That will help keep hormones out of the soil. Do not flush it down the toilet.
Everyone is different. What you experience may not be the same thing as another person.
The Positive: there are lots of things about the patch that are good for your body as well as your sex life .
- Easy to use – it is like putting on a piece of sticking tape
- You do not need to interrupt sex to use it
- Might give you more regular, lighter periods
- May clear up acne
- Can reduce menstrual cramps and premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms
- Offers protection against some health problems: endometrial and ovarian cancer; iron deficiency anemia; ovarian cysts; and pelvic inflammatory disease
The Negative: everyone worries about negative side effects, but for many women, they are not a problem. Remember, you are introducing hormones into your body, so it can take a few months to adjust. Give it time.
Things that will probably go away after two or three months :
- Bleeding in between periods, or spotting
- Breast tenderness
- Nausea and vomiting
Things that may last longer:
- Irritation where the patch sits on your skin
- A change in your sex drive
If you feel the side effects are more than you can accept after three months, switch methods and stay protected. Condoms offer good protection while you decide what method suits your needs. Remember, there is a method for everyone, everywhere!
* For a very small number of women, there are risks of serious side effects.
We are here to help you. If it still does not feel right, we have ideas for other methods. Just remember: If you decide to change methods, make sure to stay protected while you switch. Condoms offer good protection while you find a method that suits your needs.
What if the patch keeps falling off ?
- Patches do not fall off very often. But if the patch falls off do not worry about it. You can stick the same patch back on if it has been less than 24 hours, and the patch is still sticky. Or you can use a new patch.
- DO NOT use bandages, tape, or adhesive to make a non-sticky patch stick. The hormones that keep you from getting pregnant are mixed with the adhesive, so if it will not stick, it is also not going to be an effective method.
- Try this: make sure you do not use any lotions, oils, powders, creams, or medications on your skin where you put the patch. Using lotion or oils after bathing can interfere with the patch sticking as well.
- Still not working? If it keeps falling off, maybe you want to try a method that goes on the inside. Maybe implant, an IUD, or ring
- Try a different method: implant; IUD; ring
What if I have trouble remembering to change the patch ?
- Try this: set a reminder on your phone.
- Still not working? If you use a reminder system and you are still having trouble remembering, you might want to consider a method that you can forget about for several months or several years. Maybe some types of injectable, an implant or an IUD .
- Try a different method: implant; IUD;injectable
What do I do if I have some skin irritation from the patch ?
- Some women do experience irritation from the adhesive.
- Try this: move the patch to another recommended spot. It might lessen the effect. If you have been moving it around, try keeping it in one spot. If your skin is still irritated, try using a little bit of cortisone cream. It will probably get better quickly.
- Still not working? If it does not get any better, consider a method without adhesive. Here are some options that you have to think about even less than the patch: injectable, the implant, an IUD , ring
- Try a different method: implant; IUD ; ring; injectable
What should I do if I do not like the hormonal side effects?
- Use the patch for a couple of months. The side effects may settle in that time frame.
- Still not working? You may not get the same side effects with other hormonal methods. If things do not get better with time, consider using the ring, injectable, IUD , or implant.
- Try a different method: implant; ring; injectable
Is the patch bad for the environment ?
- Any method is better than no method when it comes to the environment.
- Some of the hormones from the patch will enter the environment through a woman’s urine. But it is smaller than other sources of estrogen in the environment.
- Estrogen from industrial and manufacturing processes, fertilizers and pesticides, and the drugs given to animals all enter the environment in larger amounts than the estrogen in a woman’s urine from the patch.
- If you do not want to add hormones to the environment or your body, there are options for you. Natural latex condoms and the copper IUD are both good options. Whatever you decide, pick a method and keep using it.
- Still not working? If would like to use a very effective method without any hormones, try the non-hormonal IUD.
Do I need to worry about blood clots?
- You have a very low risk of blood clots while using the patch. There are some genetic and medical conditions that increase your risk of blood clots though. If you have a history of blood clots, or specific concern about blood clots, check with the person giving you the contraceptive to see if the patch is the best option for you.
Why does my patch leave a square of dark sticky stuff around it?
- No need to worry, it is most likely just bits of dust and dirt catching in the adhesive that makes the patch stay on your skin. While the patch is in place, there is not too much you can do. Try not to remove the patch or pick at the edges because it can make the patch not stick. Once you take the patch off, try rubbing a little bit of oil on the marks. They should come right off with a little scrubbing.
- Still not working? If the sticky stuff bothers you and you want a contraceptive method you do not have to remember every day or every time you have sex, you may want to check out the implant, the IUD, the ring, or the injectable.
- Try a different method: implant; IUD; ring; injectable
 Cornell Health. (2019). The Contraceptive Patch. Cornell University , New York . Retrieved from https://health.cornell.edu/sites/health/files/pdf-library/the-patch.pdf
 Contraceptive Choice Center . (2015). Contraceptive Patch FACT SHEET. Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, St. Louis. Retrieved from https://contraceptivechoice.wustl.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Contraceptive-Patch-Fact-Sheet.pdf
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 Reproductive Health Access Project. (2015). THE PATCH. Retrieved from https://www.reproductiveaccess.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/factsheet_patch.pdf
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 World Health Organization Department of Reproductive Health and Research and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Center for Communication Programs (2018) Family Planning: A Global Handbook for Providers. Baltimore and Geneva. Retrieved from https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/260156/9780999203705-eng.pdf?sequence=1
 World Health Organization. (2016). Selected practice recommendations for contraceptive use. Geneva. Retrieved from https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/252267/9789241565400-eng.pdf?sequence=1