Health Matters Fact Sheets
(Updated June 2008; Also available in Spanish)
What is the contraceptive patch?
The patch is an adhesive square that contains hormones to prevent pregnancy. The patch is worn on the skin and changed weekly.
How effective is contraceptive patch?
If always used correctly, 1 out of 100 women who use the patch will get pregnant each year. If not always used correctly, 8 out of 100 women who use the patch will get pregnant each year.
How does it work?
The patch prevents pregnancy in two ways. The hormones in the patch stop your ovaries from releasing an egg. The patch also prevents sperm from traveling into the uterus by thickening your cervical mucus.
You attach the patch to your skin on one of four areas of your body: buttocks, abdomen, upper torso (front and back, excluding the breasts), or upper or outer arm. The patch should not be worn on any other areas of the body. You can wear the patch while bathing, showering, swimming, and exercising.
Each patch is worn for one week. You should replace your patch on the same day each week for three weeks. The fourth week is “patch-free”. Your period will likely start during the “patch-free” week.
Where can I wear the contraceptive patch?
You can wear the contraceptive patch on one of four areas of the body: your buttocks, abdomen, upper torso (front and back, excluding the breasts), or upper outer arm. The patch should not be worn on any other areas of the body. You should not place the patch on skin that is red, irritated, or cut. You should not place it on areas of your skin where makeup, lotions, creams, powders, or other products are or will be applied.
How does the patch stay on?
The contraceptive patch has a layer containing both the medication and an adhesive that keeps the patch on the skin for an entire week. The patch adheres well to the skin, allowing you to perform your daily activities such as bathing, showering, swimming, and exercising without interruption.
What are the benefits of using the contraceptive patch?
- The patch is safe, convenient, and very effective.
- If you use the patch, you won’t have to think about birth control every day or every time you have sex.
- Your periods may become lighter and less painful if you use the patch.
- If you decide you want to get pregnant, you can stop using the patch at any time. The patch is quickly reversible. This means that once you stop using the patch, your fertility quickly returns, and you can become pregnant.
- The hormones in the patch offer health benefits. The patch can offer some protection against acne, non-cancerous breast growths, ectopic pregnancy, endometrial and ovarian cancers, iron deficiency anemia, ovarian cysts, pelvic inflammatory disease, PMS symptoms, and menstrually-related migraine headaches.
What are the downsides?
- The patch does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
- You have to visit to a health care provider to get a prescription for the patch.
- Some women using the patch experience breast tenderness, headache, and skin irritation at the application site.
- Women with certain health conditions should not use the patch. Your healthcare provider will help you decide if the patch is right for you.
- Certain drugs may interact with the patch to make it less effective in preventing pregnancy. Talk with your health care provider about any over the counter or prescription medications you are taking.
Where can I get the contraceptive patch?
A trained health care professional (including doctors, nurses, and nurse midwives) can provide you with the contraceptive patch.
Compare the patch to other birth control options using ARHP’s Method Match at www.arhp.org
About Audrey Kelly, PharmD