Deciding on birth control: The birth control patch.

The birth control patch is a fairly new form of birth control and contains hormones that are similar to those in the combined birth control Pill.  The advantage is that you don’t have to remember to take a pill every day.  You change the patch once a week.

Here we’ll look at the advantages and disadvantages of using the birth control patch so that you can start to think about whether it might be the right birth control method for you.

Brands names are Evra and Ortho Evra.

What is birth control patch?

The patch contains a combination of the female hormones oestrogen and progesterone.

These hormones influence your potential fertility.  The patch’s hormone levels work to prevent pregnancy by:

  • Prevents an egg from being released from the ovary (ovulation)
  • Makes the mucus in the cervix thicker so that the sperm cannot get through the cervix to the egg
  • Makes the lining of the womb thinner so that any fertilized egg cannot settle (implant) into it.

How effective is the patch?

The patch is very effective.  Less than 1 woman in 300 will get pregnant when using the patch correctly.  That makes it more than 99% effective.

How do I use the birth control patch?

When the patch is prescribed for you it’s important that you read the instructions in the package and take the advice of your health care professional.

  1. Start wearing the patch during your period so that you know you are not pregnant.  This will mean you are protected from pregnancy from the first day you wear it.  You can start it on another day but your healthcare provider will tell you how long you need to use other birth control before it’s effective.
  2. Apply the patch to clean, dry skin.  Make sure it’s not on hairy skin and don’t stick it to the breast or broken skin/skin with a rash etc.  The arms, thighs, upper chest and upper back, buttocks and abdomen are ideal.
  3. You wear the patch every day for 3 weeks and during the 4th week, when you’re not wearing the patch, you will have your period.
  4. You change the patch each week.  Apply it to a different area of the body each time.
  5. You should check that the patch is firmly stuck in place each day.

The patch has been specially devised so that it is very unlikely that it will come off, even if you swim, bathe, shower etc.

In the unlikely event that does come off, you must follow the instructions in the package for what you should do. This will depend on how long the patch was detached from the skin.

What are the advantages of using the birth control patch?

It doesn’t interfere with sex.

Many women find their periods are lighter.

You don’t have to remember to take a pill each day.

Some women find that their symptoms of premenstrual tension are better.

Use condoms for disease prevention.

If you vomit or have diarrhea the patch is still affective, unlike if you vomit/have severe diarrhea while taking the birth control pill.

It may offer some protection against some cancers of the ovary, colon and uterus.

What are the disadvantages of the patch?

You need to remember to change the patch each week.

It won’t protect you against sexually transmitted infections.  You should use condoms for disease prevention.

Although the patch is discrete (it’s flesh coloured and about 5cm x 5cm) some women feel it’s visible to others.

It can cause skin irritation.  About 2% of women have to stop using it because of skin irritation.

Is the birth control patch right for me?

If you are under 90kg the patch will work better than if you are over 90kg (198 lbs)

If you have no personal or family history of clots in the blood vessels, don’t have problems with your gall bladder or liver, are not breast feeding the patch may suit you.  Your prescriber will discuss these things and other health risks with you.

If you are forgetful or don’t want to take a pill every day, the patch might be a good option for you.

If you want a birth control method that is easily reversible when you want to try to get pregnant then the patch may suit you.

What are the side effects of the birth control patch?

The side effect of the patch are similar to those for the birth control pill.  They usually settle after a few months:

Mild headaches

Mild nausea (feeling sick)

Breast aches

Mood changes

Changes in sex drive

Changes in skin – acne etc

Rise in blood pressure.


Find out more:

In the UK see

In the US see

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