Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo

With so many different forms of contraception, it is important to know what your choices are, and what method would suit you best. In saying that, it is extremely important to speak to your doctor before starting on any new medicine, including a form of birth control.

The patch is a small sticker that just sticks onto your body, releasing hormones through your skin and into your body to prevent pregnancy. When used correctly, it can be more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. You don’t need to think about it every day (as you would need to with the pill). The patch is known to help with heavy and painful periods but can give you temporary side effects such as headaches as it can raise your blood pressure. You can also wear the patch while swimming or in the bath.

How to Use the Patch:

Apply the first patch and keep it on for 7 days. On day 8, swap it for a new one. Continue this cycle every week for 3 weeks, allowing yourself 1 patch-free week after the 3 weeks. During the patch-free week, you may get a withdrawal bleed which is like a period, though it doesn’t always happen. After 7 days without the patch, apply a new one and start the cycle again – apply the new one even if you’re still bleeding.

Stick the patch directly onto your skin. You can put the patch on most areas of your body if the skin is clean, dry and not very hairy. However, do avoid:

  • Any sore or irritated skin,
  • An area where it may get rubbed off by tight clothing
  • Your breasts

If possible, it’s best to put each new patch in a different area to reduce the chance of skin irritation.

How It Works:

The patch releases hormones daily through the skin and into the bloodstream to prevent pregnancy. The patch contains the same hormones as the combined pill (oestrogen and progestogen). Like the pill, the patch prevents the release of an egg each month, while also thickening the cervical mucus making it more difficult for sperm to move through the cervix while thinning the womb lining so a fertilised egg is not as likely to implant itself – imagine a little sticky patch doing all that while you go about your day!

If you apply the patch on the first day of your period (up to and including the fifth day) you’ll be protected straight away! If you start it on any other day, you’ll need another form of contraception for the first 7 days. You will also need another form of contraception if you have a short menstrual cycle, with your period coming every 23 days or less. Your GP will be able to tell you when it will start to work, and if you should use another method of contraception in the meantime.

If your patch falls off:

Though the patch is very sticky and shouldn’t fall off, it is not impossible for it to happen. What you should do depends on how long it has been off.

If it has been off for less than 48 hours:

  • Put a new patch on (don’t try to hold the old patch on with anything like a bandage or plaster)
  • Change It on your normal change day (if you have used the patch properly for the past 7 days, or the week before your patch free week if you’ve just started the cycle again, then you’re protected.)

If it has been off for more than 48 hours (or you don’t know how long)

  • Put on a new patch
  • Change it on your normal change day if you’re in week 1 or 2 of your cycle.
  • If in week 3, start a new patch cycle (this is now day 1 of your cycle) and miss your usual patch free week.
  • Use addition contraception until you’ve had the patch on again for 7 days.

If you forget to take a patch off:

Depending on how many extra hours it has been on, here’s what to do:

If it’s removed before going over 48 hours (meaning it has been on for 8 or 9 days in total):

  • Take off the old patch and replace it with a new one
  • Change it on your normal change day (if you have used the patch properly for the past 7 days, or the week before your patch free week if you’ve just started the cycle again, then you’re protected.)

If it has been on for an extra 48 hours (meaning it has been on for 10 days or more):

  • Put on a new patch as soon as possible, on your normal change day
  • Use additional contraception until you have had the patch on for 7 consecutive days

If you forget to take the patch off after week 3 for your patch-free week, take it off as soon as possible and then start your patch-free week, putting a new patch on your normal change day, even if you’re bleeding and even if it’s not a full week of patch-free days.

If you forget to put a new patch on after your patch-free week, put one on as soon as you can – this is the first day of your new patch cycle (meaning a new day of the week as your start/change day). If you’re more than 24 hours late putting on a new one (meaning it has been 8 or more days patch free) use additional contraception for 7 days.

The patch isn’t suitable for everyone, so if you are thinking of using it see your GP first. You may not be able to use the patch if:

  • You think you may be pregnant
  • You’re breastfeeding a baby less than 6 weeks old
  • You smoke and are 35 or older
  • You’re 35 or older and stopped smoking less than a year ago
  • You’re very overweight
  • You’re taking certain medicines such as St. John’s Wort or medicines used to treat epilepsy, tuberculosis or HIV.
  • You have had blood clots in a vein or artery (or an immediate family member has, before they were 45)
  • You have a heart problem
  • You have high blood pressure
  • You have a blood condition that increases your change of getting a blood clot, such as lupus
  • You have or have had breast cancer
  • You have or have had migraine with aura
  • You have or have had disease of the liver/gallbladder.

Advantages of the patch:

  • Very easy to use and doesn’t interrupt sex
  • You don’t need to think about it everyday
  • It still works if you’re sick
  • It can make your periods lighter, more regular, and less painful
  • It can help with premenstrual symptoms
  • It may reduce the risk of ovarian, womb and bowel cancer

Disadvantages of the patch:

  • It may be visible
  • It can cause skin irritation, itching and soreness
  • It doesn’t protect you against an STI, so condoms should be used too
  • Some can get temporary side effects when first using the patch such as headaches, nausea, breast tenderness and mood changes but this should settle down after a while.
  • Bleeding between periods and spotting Is common in the first few cycles of using the patch but is nothing to worry about and you are still protected.
  • Some medicines can make the patch less effective – your GP will inform you of this.

As with everything, there are risks when it comes to using the patch but for most women, the benefits outweigh the risks. Please always speak to your GP before starting any new treatment or medication and they will inform you of what would best suit you and the risks associated.

My name is Emma, and I'm originally from the north west of Ireland! I'm a journalism student in DCU, and have loved reading and writing ever since I was young. I'm a big lover of music, and also do some modelling work on the side!
Similar Reads👯‍♀️