What Is the Birth Control Patch?

And is it Right for You?

What Is the Birth Control Patch?

The birth control patch is one method of birth control that uses a release of hormones to prevent pregnancy. It is a beige patch that is stuck to the skin. The user wears the patch for a week before replacing it with a new patch. This is done for three weeks in a row and then a week break is taken for menstruation.

The patch is commonly known as Ortho Evra (or the Evra patch), but it recently has been replaced by the Xulane patch.

How is the Patch Used?

The patch is applied to the skin once a week. It can be placed on the outer arm, stomach, buttocks, or back. You change the patch each week for three consecutive weeks and then go without applying a patch for one week. During the week without the patch, that is when a period will happen.

It can be common for a period to extend to the day you're meant to apply the next patch. Don't be concerned if this happens, just apply the new patch and stick to your normal schedule.

How Does the Birth Control Patch Work?

The patch prevents pregnancy by releasing hormones like estrogen and progestin. These hormones are released into and absorbed through the skin.

When the hormones are absorbed, it prevents the ovaries from releasing eggs. If an egg isn't released, then it can't be fertilized and pregnancy can't occur.

The hormones released by the patch also thicken the mucus in the cervix. A thicker mucus means that it's harder for sperm to swim to the egg. It acts like an extra barrier that provides more protection against pregnancy.

How Effective is It?

The patch effectiveness, like other forms of birth control, relies on how it is used. When used properly, it is over 99% effective.

Maximizing the effectiveness of the patch comes down to ensuring that it is applied to the skin correctly, remains in proper contact with the skin during the week, and the person is consistent at changing the patch each week.

Overall effectiveness can also be impacted by any medicines or supplements a person takes or the weight of the person using it. You should discuss with your doctor about your specific needs to ensure that no medications you're taking will impact its effectiveness, and that the patch will release enough of the hormones into your body to be effective.

Tips for Using the Patch

Life happens and people often have questions of what to do if the patch comes off. The good news is that while it may come off, it does reapply easily.

If the patch is losing its stickiness and you are due to change it within 48 hours or less, just apply a new patch and remove it when it is your normal day to change your patch.

If you have more than 48 hours before your next patch change, apply a new patch for one week straight. The date you apply this new patch will become your new patch day. It's also a good idea to use a backup method of birth control for a week.

Benefits of the Patch

One of the fabulous things about the birth control patch is that it's super easy to use. It's very low maintenance and convenient. Some women also report shorter, lighter, and more regular periods while using it.

The patch can also protect against

  • Headaches/depression
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Acne
  • Iron deficiency
  • Bone thinning
  • Non-cancerous breast growths
  • Cysts located in the breasts or ovaries
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Ovarian and endometrial cancers
  • Ectopic pregnancies
  • Infections found in the uterus, ovaries, or tubes

Are There Any Side Effects?

The patch isn't the best solution for everyone. It can come with some side effects. Most of the side effects will disappear within a few months of using it. They can include nausea, vomiting, tender breasts, or bleeding in between periods.

Some women report some skin irritation or reaction where the patch has been applied. Other people have reported that they have seen a decrease in sex drive over a long period of time.

There are some more serious side effects and warning signs that you should contact your health care provider immediately if you see

  • Sore legs
  • Trouble breathing
  • Intense or bad headaches that come on suddenly or happen more often or worse than normal
  • Yellowing of eyes or skin
  • Serious abdomen or chest pain
  • Seeing bright, flashing zigzag lines. These can occur before a bad headache
  • No period after having a period regularly

Does the Patch Protect Against STIs?

Absolutely not! Like many forms of birth control, the patch won't do anything to protect you against sexually transmitted infections. If there are concerns about infections, you should rely on another form of safer sex to protect yourself such as condoms, getting tested, or fluid bonding.

Is the Patch Safe?

The majority of people will be able to use the birth control patch safely, but some people with other medical conditions or certain medications may need to look at other birth control options. Anyone who is on prolonged bed rest or a smoker could also be at heightened risk.

Other risk factors include anyone who has had

  • A heart attack, stroke, or angina
  • Serious heart valve problems
  • Breast or liver cancer
  • Vein inflammation or blood clots
  • Any inherited blood-clotting disorders
  • Migraine headaches with aura
  • Serious liver disease
  • Uncontrolled high blood pressure
  • Severe diabetes

It's important to consult with your doctor to determine if the patch is the right choice for you.

Making the Correct Choice for Your Lifestyle

Choosing the right form of birth control can be a little bit of trial and error. There is no one right solution that works for everyone. You may have to try a few before finding what will be the best fit for you. It's always good to consult your primary care provider for recommendations. Enjoyed this article? Leave a tip!! You can also check out the other great articles, games, and more on my website:

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Teela Hudak

Teela is a Vancouver-based Sex Educator & Relationship Expert. Learn more at: https://exploresextalk.com/

See all posts by Teela Hudak