A small sticky patch that sticks to your skin and releases artificial copies of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone which are absorbed through your skin and into your blood stream. They are being increasingly used in the UK, and available for free on the NHS.
*for typical use (effectiveness for perfect use 99%)
Stick the contraceptive patch to clean dry skin that will not rub against tight clothing. Change the patch every week for three weeks, then have a week without a patch to have a period / withdrawal bleed.
The hormones prevent pregnancy by:
It can be seen by other people, and may cause skin irritation in some women. It is common to experience some temporary side effects such as headaches, nausea, breast tenderness, mood changes and spotting.
The patch does not protect you against STIs, so you may need to use condoms as well.
Most women can use the patch, but your GP or clinician will ask about your family and medical history to determine whether or not the patch is the best method for you. The patch is not suitable for women who:
Research has not shown that the patch causes weight gain. Some women may find their weight changes throughout their cycle due to fluid retention. The patch may increase your appetite but should settle over the first few months.
Some people do this when they want to put off bleeding, for example if they are going on holiday or want to have sex. You can miss out the patch-free week by using another patch straight away. This isn’t harmful and you will still be protected against pregnancy. Sometimes you will still get bleeding.
If you start using the patch within the first 5 days of your cycle, then you will be protected from pregnancy from that day. If you start at any other time then you should use additional contraception for 7 days.
If the patch has been off for less than 48 hours: Stick your patch back on as soon as possible (if it is still sticky). If it is not sticky, replace it with a new patch (do not try to hold the old patch in place with a plaster or bandage). Continue to use your patch as normal and change your patch on your normal change day. If the patch has been off for less than 48 hours before you replace it, you will still be protected against pregnancy as long as the patch was on properly for 7 days before the patch came off. If this is the case, you do not need to use additional contraception. If you have had a patch on for 6 days or less before it falls off, you may not be protected against pregnancy and should use additional contraception, such as condoms, for 7 days.
If the patch has been off for 48 hours or more, or you're not sure how long it has been off: Apply a new patch as soon as possible and start a new patch cycle (this will now be day one of your new cycle). Use another form of contraception, such as condoms, for the next 7 days. If you had unprotected sex in the previous few days, you may need emergency contraception.
If you have just had a baby and are not breastfeeding, you can start the patch on day 21 after the birth. You will be protected against pregnancy straight away. If you start the patch later than 21 days after giving birth, you will need additional contraception (such as condoms) for the next 7 days. If you are breastfeeding a baby less than 6 months old, using the patch can reduce your flow of milk. It is recommended that you use a different method of contraception until you stop breastfeeding.
The patch will not release sufficient hormone to continue to protect you from pregnancy after 7 days so you should consider emergency contraception if you have had unprotected sex during this time.
Medicines used to treat epilepsy, HIV and TB, other antibiotics and the herbal medicine St John’s Wort can lessen the effectiveness. Ask your GP, clinician or pharmacist and read the information that comes with your medicine. Always tell your doctor that you are using a patch if you are prescribed any medicines. Not affected by vomiting or diarrhoea. The patch may not be so effective for women who weigh 90kg (14 stone) or over, an alternative method may be advisable.
When you first start using the patch you will usually be given 3 months' supply to see how it suits you. After that you should go back to the doctor or nurse to get new supplies and to have your blood pressure checked. If there are no problems, you can be given up to one year’s supply of patches.
A small increased risk of some serious health conditions, such as breast cancer, which reduces with time after stopping the patch. A very small number of women may develop venous thrombosis, arterial thrombosis, heart attack or stroke. If you have ever had a thrombosis, you should not use the patch.
See a doctor straightaway if you have any of the following: pain in the chest, including any sharp pain which is worse when you breathe in; breathlessness; you cough up blood; painful swelling in your leg(s); weakness, numbness or bad ‘pins and needles’ in an arm or leg; severe stomach pains; a bad fainting attack or you collapse; unusual headache or migraines that are worse than usual; sudden problems with your speech or eyesight; jaundice (yellowing skin or yellowing eyes).
No. This is not recommended. You should also avoid covering the patch with body cream or lotions, such as sun tan lotion. This may cause the patch to become loose.
When you first start using the patch, you can vary the position every time you use a new patch to reduce your risk of irritation.