What is the Contraceptive Patch
The contraceptive patch is a small, thin, beige coloured patch, nearly 5cm x 5cm in size. You stick it on your skin and it releases two hormones – oestrogen and progestogen. These are similar to the natural hormones that women produce in their ovaries and like those used in the combined pill.
How does the patch work?
The patch releases a daily dose of hormones through the skin into the bloodstream. The main way it works is to stop the ovaries from releasing an egg each month (ovulation). It also:
- Thickens the mucus from your cervix. This makes it difficult for sperm to move through it and reach an egg
- Makes the lining of the uterus (womb) thinner so it is less likely to accept a fertilised egg
How do I use the patch?
You apply a new patch once a week, every week for three weeks (21 days). You then stop using the patch for seven days (patch-free week). This is called a patch cycle.
What are the advantages of the patch?
- You don’t have to think about it every day – you only have to remember to replace the patch once a week
- 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 diarrhoea
- Bleeding will usually become more regular, lighter and less painful
- It may help with premenstrual symptoms
- It improves acne in some women
- It may reduce menopausal symptoms.
What are the disadvantages of the patch?
- It can be seen
- It may cause skin irritation in some women
- You may get temporary side effects when you first start using the patch, these should stop within a few months. They include headaches, nausea, breast tenderness and mood changes
- Breakthrough bleeding and spotting (unexpected vaginal bleeding while using the patch) are also common in the first few months of use
- It does not protect you against sexually transmitted infections, so you may need to use condoms as well.
Is the Patch suitable for me?
Not everyone can use the patch so your GP or doctor or nurse at the Sexual Health Service will need to ask you about your own and your family’s medical history to make sure the patch is suitable.