What is the contraceptive patch?
The contraceptive patch, sometimes known by its brand name Evra, is a small, adhesive patch you wear on your body for 21 days before having a 7-day break.
How does the contraceptive patch work?
It releases the hormones oestrogen and progestogen through the skin and into the bloodstream. This stops an egg from being released from the ovaries every month. It also thickens the mucus at the entrance to the womb which stops sperm getting through and thins the lining of your womb making it difficult for a fertilised egg to implant there.
How effective is the contraceptive patch?
When used perfectly it’s over 99% effective. When it is used typically, meaning someone might delay putting it in or some other issues, 9 in every 100 women will become pregnant in a year 1. There is also some evidence that the patch is less effective for people who weigh more than 14 stone (90kg)
Using the contraceptive patch
If you start using the contraceptive patch on the first day of your period, you’ll be protected from pregnancy straight away. You can start using it up to day 5 of your period and it will work straight away. If you start on any other day of your cycle, you’ll need to either use condoms or abstain from sex for the first 7 days of using the patch.
You put a patch on once every 7 days. Most areas of the body are suitable, make sure it’s clean dry and not very hairy. You should try to rotate where you put the patch when you change it so it doesn’t irritate your skin.
There are alternative methods of using the patch as contraception, to help you manage when your bleeds are or fit better with your lifestyle. Read more about this on the Sexwise contraceptive patch information page or ask your healthcare professional
Best place to put a contraceptive patch
You can put the contraceptive patch on most areas of the body. It’s important that the area is not very hairy as that might prevent the patch from sticking. The buttocks, arms, chest, stomach and back can work well. You should avoid the breasts and areas where it could rub against tight clothing and fall off.
Contraceptive patch advantages
- You only have to remember to change it once a week.
- It often makes periods, lighter, more regular, and less painful
- It can help people who suffer from conditions like endometriosis and fibroids.
- It doesn’t have to be absorbed internally so won’t be affected if you’re sick or have diarrhoea.
- Using the patch can enable you to regulate your cycle/bleeding pattern. This can be helpful for people with irregular periods such as those with polycystic ovarian syndrome
- It may reduce the risk of cancer of the ovary, uterus, and colon.
- Using the patch can protect against fibroids and ovarian cysts.
- Your fertility will return to whatever is normal for you once you stop using the patch.
- You can control when you get your monthly bleed. Talk to your healthcare professional for more information
Can it fall off?
Contraceptive patches are very sticky and should stay on if you have a bath, shower, or swim. Avoid using suntan lotion or any other oils or lotions on or around the patch as these can cause it to become loose.
If your patch falls off, providing it hasn’t been off for more than 48 hours and it still sticks, you can put it back on. If it doesn’t stick, you’ll need to put a new one on. Wear it until you would normally change your patch. You won’t need to use other contraception and will still be protected from pregnancy
If your patch falls off and it’s been more than 48 hours since it came off, put a new patch on and keep it on until the day you’d usually change it. Use condoms or avoid sex until you have worn a patch for 7 days. If you’re due to start a patch free break during those 7 days, don’t - continue using patches until the next patch free break after that. Speak to a GP or nurse who’ll be able to tell you whether you need to use emergency contraception as well.
Forgetting to change your patch
If you forgot to change your patch and it’s been on for less than 48 hours longer than it should have been, take it off and put a new patch on. Wear it until you would normally change your patch. You won’t need to use other contraception and will still be protected from pregnancy
If you’ve worn it for more than 48 hours too long, take it off and put a new patch on. This will now become the first day of your patch cycle. You’ll need to use condoms or avoid sex for 7 days. You will now change your patch a week from the day you put the new patch on, and carry on in this way for three weeks. You should speak to a nurse or doctor who’ll be able to tell you whether you need to use emergency contraception as well.
Side effects of the patch
Some people might experience side effects with the contraception, these can include:
- Skin irritation, which is why it helps to rotate where you place it.
- Breakthrough bleeding and spotting in the first few months of using the patch.
- Breast tenderness, headaches, nausea, and mood swings. These usually stop within a few months.
Things to consider when using Evra patch
- The Evra patch doesn’t prevent you from getting sexually transmitted infections so you may want to use condoms if you consider yourself
- If you’re over 35 and smoke or gave up within the last year or are very overweight, the contraceptive patch might not be suitable for you. You could consider the progestogen only pill or long-acting reversible contraception.
- The patch may also not be suitable for you if you’ve had, or currently have, other health conditions. During your consultation give as much information as possible about your health and any conditions you have/have had.
- Depending on where you wear it, it can be seen by other people.
- Some medicines reduce the effectiveness of the patch. Share as much information as possible about medicines you take at your first consultation. If you’re prescribed medicine while already using the patch, tell your doctor and they can advise on how it will affect it.
- There’s a small increased risk of developing blood clots when using the patch. Your consultation will assess any risk factors related to this.
- There’s a small increased risk of breast and cervical cancers among hormonal contraception users compared to people who don’t use hormonal contraception. This reduces after you stop using it.
Where can I get contraceptive patch free?
You can get the contraceptive patch for free at NHS sexual health clinics, contraception clinics and some young people’s services. Some GP surgeries may be able to prescribe it but not all surgeries do.
If you live in an eligible borough, you can order the contraceptive patch for free online from SHL.UK (Sexual Health London). You will take a consultation and can choose to have your contraception delivered or to collect it from a LloydsPharmacy branch. Register or Login to see if you’re eligible.
Other contraception options
If the contraceptive patch isn’t right for you, you might be interested in long-acting reversible contraception which include the intrauterine device (IUD), the intrauterine system, the contraceptive implant, or contraceptive injection. You don’t need to remember to take or use these methods.
There are also other contraceptives available like the contraceptive patch that offer a bit more flexibility including the combined pill, progestogen-only (mini) pill, and the contraceptive ring.
Reviewed by our clinical team: December 2020 (next review date: April 2022)
1. Source: Sexwise Contraceptive patch - Contraception - Sexwise