A patch held up to the navel

The patch is a square sticker like a thin plaster.

This skin absorbs two hormones (oestrogen and progestogen) which are very similar to women's own hormones.

The patch is changed once a week.

Effectiveness

Positives

  • Easy to use – changed once a week
  • It doesn’t interrupt sex
  • The patch is good at preventing pregnancy
  • It helps make periods lighter and less painful
  • Periods are usually very regular
  • Women can control when their period will come
  • The patch can help with acne
  • Some women get bigger breasts
  • It protects against womb and ovarian cancer, and pelvic inflammatory disease

Negatives

  • It can be hard to remember when to change

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 (2 in 10,000 women)

Most women don’t put on weight

Sometimes the patch makes women feel more hungry. Studies show that most women stay the same weight – 1 in 10 women put on weight, and 1 in 10 lose weight while they are on the patch

Women don’t need a break from hormones or contraception

It’s safe to take from teenage years to the menopause (for most women). 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 women really well, while others might experience moodiness, hunger, nausea, or llower sex drive. Every woman is unique, and it can help to change to a different form of contraception if you experience side-effects.

Women 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 women 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 women 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 women get older – it’s harder to get pregnant over the age of 35. Find out more about infertility here

Many women are on the patch for its benefits

Even if they are not having sex with male partners.  Many women find the patch fantastic for controlling period pain, and to level out the moodiness of premenstrual tension and to control when they would like to get a period.

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 women whose weight increases the risk of blood clots)

What's right for you?

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.

Some women 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?

Women stick a patch on their skin and change it once a week for three weeks. On the fourth week, they will go patch free. Their 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 women use the patch for a year, less than one will have an unplanned pregnancy.  However the average user can expect it to be around 92% effective – meaning that out of 100 women using the patch for a year, around 8 will have an unplanned pregnancy. 

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.

What's right for you?