Tuesday, 18 September 2012


This is a contraceptive that works like
the pill but with the advantage that
you don't have to remember to take
it every day.
What's the contraceptive patch?
It is a small, thin, beige, sticky skin
patch that contains the same
hormones as the pill - estrogen and
progestogen. These are similar to
the hormones women produce in
their ovaries.
How does it work?
The patch delivers a constant daily
dose of hormones into the
bloodstream through the skin. This
stops the ovaries from releasing an
egg (ovulation) each month. The
patch also:
Thickens the mucus in the cervix,
making it difficult for sperm to
reach an egg
Makes the lining of the womb
thinner so it's less likely to accept
a fertilised egg
How reliable is it?
Effectiveness depends on how
carefully it's used. The patch is more
than 99 per cent effective when used
according to instructions. This means
that, using this method, fewer than
one woman in 100 will get pregnant
in a year. It is less effective in women
weighing 90kg (14st) and over.
Myth: The patch is more reliable
than the pill
Fact: Not true - the effectiveness of
the patch is the same as the pill
Myth: It falls off easily
Fact: Not true - it's very sticky
How do you use it?
The patch is used for three weeks
out of every four. A new patch is
used each week.
The patch can be started up to and
including the fifth day of a period. If
used at this time it's effective straight
away. If started at any other time,
additional contraception has to be
used for seven days.
After 21 days you have a break of
seven days when you have a bleed.
This withdrawal bleed is usually
shorter and lighter than normal
You can use the patch on most
areas of the body as long as the skin
is clean, dry and not very hairy. You
should not put it on skin that is sore
or where it can be rubbed by tight
clothing. Don’t put it on your
You only need to remember to
replace the patch once a week
It doesn’t interrupt sex
Unlike the pill, the hormones do
not need to be absorbed by the
stomach, so the patch is not
affected if you vomit or have
Usually makes your bleeds
regular, lighter and less painful
It may help with premenstrual
It may reduce the risk of cancer of
the ovary, womb and colon
It may reduce the risk of fibroids,
ovarian cysts and non-cancerous
breast disease
It's visible
It may cause skin irritation in a
small number of women
Like the pill, temporary side-
effects at first may include
headaches, nausea, breast
tenderness and mood changes
Breakthrough bleeding
(unexpected bleeding while using
the patch) and spotting can be
The patch can have some serious
side-effects, but these are not
common. They may include:
Raised blood pressure
A very small number of women
may develop a blood clot, which
can block a vein (venous
thrombosis) or an artery (arterial
thrombosis, heart attack or stroke)
Possible increase in risk of being
diagnosed with breast cancer
Possible increase in risk of cervical
cancer if used continuously for
more than five years
Can anyone use the patch?
The patch may not be suitable for all
women. For most women the
benefits of the patch outweigh the
possible risks.
It may be unsuitable for you to use
the patch if you:
Think you might be pregnant
Smoke and are over 35, or are
over 35 and stopped smoking less
than a year ago
Are very overweight
Take certain medicines - always
Have had a previous thrombosis
Have a heart abnormality,
circulatory disease or high blood
Have very severe migraines or
migraines with aura
Have breast cancer now or within
the past five years
Have active liver or gall bladder
Have diabetes with complications,
or have had diabetes for more
than 20 years
What if the patch comes off?
The patch is very sticky and should
stay on in the shower, bath or sauna,
during swimming and exercise.
If the patch has been off for fewer
than 48 hours, just reapply it as soon
as possible or use a new one, then
continue as normal.
If it has been off for more than 48
hours, start a whole new patch cycle
by applying a new one as soon as
possible. Use additional
contraception for seven days. Seek
advice about emergency
contraception if you had sex in the
previous few days and were not
using a condom.
Other things to consider
Initially, you'll be given three
months' supply of the patch. If
there are no problems you will
then be given up to a year’s
You don’t need a cervical
screening test or an internal
examination to have the patch
The patch does not protect you
against sexually transmitted
Where can I get the patch?
The patch is free on the NHS from
contraception clinics, sexual health
clinics or general practice.