patch birth control

What is Patch Birth Control?

Women of childbearing age have a variety of contraceptive options to choose from; depending on the individual woman’s needs and lifestyle. Patch birth control, also known as a birth control patch, is a plastic sticker applied to the skin on parts of the body.

The patch is square-shaped and looks similar to a Band-Aid. This square contains hormones that prevent pregnancy from occurring. When it comes to convenience, patch birth control surpasses many other types of contraception.

How does Patch Birth Control work?

The patch works much like birth control pills. Both types of contraceptives utilize a combination of hormones that prevent pregnancy. The two hormones used are estrogen and progestin. Together these hormones prevent ovulation. They also make it difficult for sperm to reach the uterus by thickening cervical mucus and creating a barrier.

According to the Office on Women’s Health, the main difference between the pill and a patch is how these hormones are delivered. While the birth control pill works by ingesting the pills, the patch birth control releases hormones through the skin into the body. Another difference is that while birth control pills are taken daily, patches only require changing once a week.

How do you use Patch Birth Control?

A prescription from a physician is required to be on patch birth control. A physician typically performs a physical assessment and works with their patient to determine what type of birth control suits their needs.

Starting the patch can be done in a few ways. Applying patch birth control on the first day of menstruation prevents pregnancy right away. However, starting patch birth control on another day other than the first day of menstruation calls for a backup contraception for seven days to prevent pregnancy.

Patch birth control is worn for three weeks at a time. Each week the old patch is removed, and a new patch is placed. Every fourth week, the user goes without a patch to generate a period. A new patch is placed after the fourth week. Patch areas alternate each week to prevent skin irritation.

Where can a patch be applied?

One major benefit of the patch is that it can be placed in a variety of areas. It’s recommended that patch birth control be applied to the following spots:

  • Anywhere on the back.
  • The upper arms.
  • On the belly area.
  • Buttocks.

One area the patch can't be placed on is the breasts due to the risk of breast cancer.

Is patch birth control effective?

Used as recommended under ideal situations, patch birth control can reach an effectiveness rate of 99%. However, accounting for user error and other variables, patches have a 91% effectiveness rate.

What are the side effects of patch birth control?

As with all hormone-related contraceptives, patch birth control may include side effects. The most common side effects are:

  • Headaches.
  • Irritated skin (typically due to the adhesive).
  • Moderate weight gain.
  • Irregular periods.
  • Bloating.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Breast tenderness.

Most people who use the patch experience little or no side effects.  If side effects from the patch occur, they usually go away after two or three months.

Is patch birth control appropriate for everyone?

Though patch birth control is convenient and effective, it’s not for everyone. A health professional may advise against the patch if you:

  • Are diagnosed with high blood pressure.
  • Smoke.
  • Have or have had breast cancer.
  • Have diabetes or diabetes-related complications.
  • Weigh more than 198 pounds.
  • Have irregular or unexplained bleeding.
  • Have migraines.
  • Are diagnosed with liver disease.

Health professionals will help people who are not good candidates for patch birth control find other alternatives for contraception.

What types of patch birth control are available?

The two patch birth control brands currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are:

Both patches are safe to use while exercising, showering, or swimming.

Choosing Patch Birth Control

When deciding whether to choose the patch method of birth control, keep in mind that the patch does not protect against sexually transmitted infections, also known as STIs. Remember to take precautions to prevent STIs when on the patch. That said, patch birth control is a low-maintenance, effective, and safe contraceptive method. Speak with your healthcare provider if you’re interested in using patch birth control.

Learn more about the other forms of birth control.

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