Contraceptive Patch

What is it?

  • A small, thin, plastic adhesive square that sticks to your skin and releases oestrogen and progesterone hormones.

How does it work?

  • The patch is changed and rotated to a different site (chest, stomach, back, arms or buttocks) every week for three weeks out of four. The fourth week is a patch free break within which you normally get a period.
  • The hormones stop ovulation (eggs being released from the ovaries), thicken the mucus at the entrance to the womb preventing sperm getting through and thin the lining of your womb preventing implantation of a fertilised egg.

What’s great about it?

  • Very effective. If taken perfectly the patch is >99% effective – only 3 in 1000 women will get pregnant each year. However, patch users often don’t take it correctly or consistently (eg forget to change it) and such typical use means more women will become pregnant (9 in 100).
  • No need to take pills or use something every time you have sex.
  • Its effect on fertility is rapidly reversible.
  • Periods will usually become more regular, lighter and less painful.
  • Pre-menstrual tension and acne may improve. It may also help reduce menopausal symptoms
  • Can protect against fibroids and ovarian cysts.
  • May reduce the risk of cancer of the ovary, uterus and colon.
  • It is not affected if you vomit or have diarrhoea.

What’s not so great about it?

  • No protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) - condoms advised.
  • It can be visible depending on where it is placed.
  • It can be difficult remembering to change the patch. If you forget to do this it may stop working.
  • Small increased risk of heart or stroke disease, blood clots in the legs/lungs, breast cancer and cervical cancer.
  • Can cause temporary side-effects such as headaches, mood change, breast tenderness and bleeding in between periods. These may wear off with time.
  • Can cause skin irritation at the application site.
  • Needs a regular prescription from a health care provider.
  • Women with some medical conditions or taking certain medication are not advised to use it e.g. very overweight; smokers aged 35 or older.

Where can I get it?

  • Sexual Health services.
  • Family planning clinics
  • GP practices