The patch is a square sticker like a thin plaster.
This skin absorbs two hormones (oestrogen and progestogen) which are very similar to the body's own hormones.
The patch is changed once a week.
- Easy to use – changed once a week
- It doesn’t interrupt sex
- The patch is good at preventing pregnancy
- Periods will usually be lighter
- The patch helps to reduce period pain
- Control over pattern of periods (regular or no periods)
- Easy to know and to control when a period will come
- The patch can help with acne
- It can help treat symptoms of Endometriosis, PCOS and Menopause
- It protects against womb, ovarian cancer and colorectal cancer
- It can be hard to remember when to change
- No protection against STIs
- Only available in a light skin tone
Possible side effects when first starting
- Spotting (bleeding in between periods)
- Nausea (feeling sick)
- Sore breasts
Other possible side effects:
- Changes in mood or sex drive
- Feeling more hungry
Extremely rare side effects
- Blood clots in the legs or lungs (5-12 in 10,000)
Most people don’t put on weight
Sometimes the patch makes people feel more hungry. Studies show that most people stay the same weight – 1 in 10 put on weight, and 1 in 10 lose weight while they are on the patch.
Some users notice biggger breasts.
You don’t need a break from hormones or contraception
It’s safe to take from the teenage years up to the age of 50 (for most people). It’s fine to have been on the patch from a young age, and for many years – there is no need for a break unless you want to become pregnant. Find out more about hormones here
The patch doesn’t suit everyone
The patch suits some people really well, while others might experience moodiness, hunger, nausea, or lower sex drive. Everyone is unique, and it can help to change to a different form of contraception if you experience side-effects.
You don’t need to have a period once a month
It’s safe to miss periods by using up to nine patches in a row without a break – blood doesn’t build up inside the body. The patch can help people feel more energetic because they are not losing iron each month in a period. Find out more about periods here
The patch does not cause infertility.
When you come off the patch, fertility returns to normal, meaning that it’s possible to get pregnant within a few days or weeks. It’s important to know that it’s less easy to get pregnant as you get older – it’s harder to get pregnant over the age of 35. Find out more about infertility here
Many people are on the patch for its benefits
Many people find the patch fantastic for controlling period pain, and to level out the moodiness of premenstrual tension. The patch is also used to treat some of the symptoms associated with Endometriosis and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).
The patch can also be used to treat menopausal symptoms, like hot flushes and vaginal dryness in people under 50
A clinic visit is needed
To ask about any problems with health, family history, and to check blood pressure, height, and weight. The pill is not suitable for some women (e.g. heavy smokers, or those whose weight increases the risk of blood clots)
Good to know
The patch is excellent for controlling periods - they will usually be lighter and less painful, and you can control when a period comes.
If you want to miss periods, you can use patches continuously with no break. Using the patch continuously can also help avoid some pre-menstrual symptoms e.g. bloating, headache, tiredness, period pain, and mood changes.
Some people can't use the patch because of a risk of blood clots (clinics will check medical history, smoking, blood pressure and weight).
How much effort is the patch?
You stick a patch on your skin and change it once a week for three weeks. On the fourth week, you go patch free. Your period will usually come during the fourth week, so it’s easy to predict when a period is coming.
The patch usually stays on well, even in the bath, shower, or sauna but needs to be put onto skin which is completely dry, with no moisturiser on.
It can be a nuisance to remember to change it.
You can get the patch for free from a GP, family planning/contraception clinics, and sexual health clinics. Find out more about where to get the patch here
How effective is the patch?
It depends how it's used. If the patch is used properly, without taking other medications that could make it less effective, it is more than 99% effective – meaning that if 100 people use the patch for a year, less than one will have an unplanned pregnancy. However the average user can expect it to be around 91% effective – meaning that out of 100 people using the patch for a year, around 9 will have an unplanned pregnancy.
The patch may be less effective in people who weigh more than 90kg.
How does it work?
Using the patch temporarily stops your ovaries from releasing an egg each month. It also thickens the fluid around the neck of the womb (which stops sperm getting to an egg), and makes the lining of the womb thinner, so that a fertilised egg wont' settle.
If you forget to use the patch, or are late in starting a new patch, you might need an emergency pill or an emergency copper coil.
Does the patch affect my risk of getting cancer?
Breast cancer: Studies have shown a small increased risk of breast cancer in people who use hormonal contraception compared to those who don’t. This increased risk disappears 10 years after stopping the patch.
Cervical cancer: Some studies have shown a small increased risk of cervical cancer if you use a combined hormonal method (pill, patch or ring) for more than 5 years. This increased risk disappears 10 years after stopping the patch.
Ovarian cancer: taking the combined hormonal methods (pill, patch or ring) can lower the risk of ovarian cancer. This benefit persists even after stopping the patch.
Endometrial (womb) cancer: taking the combined hormonal methods (pill, patch or ring) can lower the risk of womb cancer. This benefit persists even after stopping the patch.