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What is the birth control patch?
It is a small adhesive patch that sticks to your skin. As a form of birth control it releases hormones through your skin into your body which prevent pregnancy. It contains the hormones oestrogen and progestogen which prevents you from releasing an egg each month. These hormones also thicken the cervical mucus within your cervix making it difficult for sperm to reach an egg. The womb lining is also thinned so that a fertilised egg finds it difficult to implant itself onto the wall of your womb.
How do you use the patch?
You can place the patch onto most parts of your body as long as the skin is clean, dry and not overly hair. Once you have applied the patch to your skin you wear it for seven days. On day eight you take the old patch off and apply a new one. You’ll need to change the patch like this for three weeks and then you have one patch-free week. During this week you may have a withdrawal bleed, it looks like a period, however this may not happen every time.
When does the patch start to work?
Ideally you should use the patch on the first day of your period and keep using it up to and including the fifth day of your period. This way you will be protected from pregnancy straight away. If you start using the patch on any other day you will need to use other methods of contraception for seven days to be fully protected.
Are there any side effects of the patch?
As with any method of contraceptive there are possible side effects, many women may experience:
- Skin irritation - Wearing the patch may irritate your skin causing it to become sore and itchy. With this in mind you might want to change the position of each new patch so that the skin underneath does not become irritated.
- Hormonal side effects – When you start using the patch you may notice mild headache, nausea, breast tenderness and mood changes. These should settle down after the first few months.
- Spotting – During the first few cycles of using the patch you may experience light bleeding between your periods and spotting. Your bleeding might be very light and irregular and should settle down after a few months.
You should also discuss with your doctor the small risk of more serious side effect including blood clots and cancer before you decide that the birth control patch is right for you.
No, the patch will not stop you from catching an STI. During sexual activity and intercourse you will need to use condoms or other barrier methods of contraception.
Most women can use the birth control patch. During your consultation with your GP or a nurse at your local sexual health clinic they will talk to you about the patch and whether you can use it. You can also get the patch online using our discreet Online Doctor service by completing a confidential online consultation.
The patch is very adhesive and should stay on your skin even after you have showered or been swimming. If the patch was on correctly for seven days before it fell off you will still be protected from pregnancy. If the patch has fallen off after six days or less you should use additional contraception for the next seven days.
If it has been less than 48 hours since the patch fell off you should stick it back on if it still feels sticky and use it as normal. If the patch won’t stick you should use a new patch. If the patch has been off for more than 48 hours then you should apply a new patch and start a new cycle.