The contraceptive patch is a sticky skin-coloured 5cm square patch.
It is stuck onto your skin and releases oestrogen and progesterone. These hormones are similar to your natural hormones or the combined contraceptive pill.
In the UK, the patch available is called "Evra".
How effective is the contraceptive patch?
- The contraceptive patch is over 99% effective if used correctly - this means that if 100 women followed the methods for one year, less than 1 of them would get pregnant.
- However, there would be more pregnancies if the methods are not followed correctly.
- It is more effective if you are taught by a family planning doctor or nurse.
How does it work?
- The hormones are absorbed through your skin and the patch works in 2 ways:
- It causes thickening of your cervical mucus so sperm cannot get through
- It thins the lining of your womb so that there is less chance a pregnancy could implant and progress
- Each patch lasts for 1 week:
- You attach a new patch on the same day every week for 3 weeks
- After the third patch is removed, you have a 7 day patch-free interval during which you will have your period
- You then start with a new patch and the cycle starts again
- You will be taught by your GP or family planning doctor how and where to attach the patches - it is usually placed on your stomach, buttocks, back or upper arms
If you have any concerns or questions, please do not hesitate to contact your GP or family planning clinic.
- You do not need to remember to take a pill everyday
- The patch does not interrupt sex unlike condoms
- Your monthly period should become lighter and less painful as the patch contains both oestrogen and progesterone hormones like the combined pill
- It is easy to attach and remove with practice
- It is still possible to have a shower or a bath, or to go swimming and do sports, when wearing a patch
- It has all the advantages of the combined pill - for example, it may help to reduce colon, uterus and ovarian cancer, as well as benign breast conditions
- The patch is absorbed through your skin so there will be less side-effects compared to taking an oral medication - for example, nausea
- You can avoid a withdrawal bleed if inconvenient - please discuss this with your GP or family planning doctor for accurate instructions
- You can use the patch 21 days after giving birth if you are not breastfeeding
Disadvantages and Risks
- Contraindications and side effects of the patch are identical to those of the combined pill. These include slightly higher risks of developing a blood clot, breast and cervical cancer - you can speak to your GP or family planning doctor for more information and advice regarding the risks involved.
- The patch is visible to other people
- The patch can rarely cause skin sensitisation or a rash - this risk is reduced by rotating where you attach the patch
- The patch can move or fall off - there are guidelines on the Family Planning Association website to advise you what to do if this happens
- Patches must be attached and removed on time - dates can be easily forgotten. There are guidelines on the Family Planning Association website to advise you what to do if you are late in changing the patch
- There is no protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
- Antibiotics and other medication can affect the patch/ - always tell your GP or pharmacists that you are using the patch and read medication leaflets carefully
- You can experience breakthrough bleeding or spotting, especially when you first start using it
- The patches are expensive - some GP surgeries will not prescribe them and advise you to attend a family planning clinic instead
Further sources on information
You can find further reliable information on the Family Planning Association website:
Patch contraceptif - Timbre contraceptif
El parche contraceptivo