This is a small square stick-on patch, impregnated with the hormones estrogen and progestin which are slowly released through the skin. It is affixed to the buttocks, stomach or upper body, avoiding breasts, and has to be changed once a week for three weeks. On the fourth week, no patch is worn.
The patch works by preventing ovulation (the release of an egg from the ovary) and thickening the mucus around the neck of the womb, making it difficult for sperm to enter.
Effectiveness of the contraceptive patch
The patch prevents 99.7% of unwanted pregnancies when used properly (3 women in every 1000 will get pregnant per year) 1-2
The Patch: What are the advantages?
The patch does not have to be taken on a daily basis and provides an alternative form of combined hormonal contraception to the combined pill with similar advantages.
The Patch: What are the disadvantages?
With the contraceptive patch side effects compared to other combined hormonal contraceptives are observed.
The contraceptive patch is associated with an increased risk of blood clots, e.g. leg thrombosis, lung embolism, stroke or myocardial infarction.
The contraceptive patch that is currently available is non-transparent, so is visible. Some women may have side effects when they first start wearing the patch, but usually these subside after about 12 weeks. They can include bleeding between periods, skin irritations, headaches and breast tenderness.
Next: The Vaginal Ring
- Trussell J. Contraceptive efficacy. In: Hatcher RA, Trussell J, Nelson AL, Cates W, Stewart FH, Kowal D. ContraceptiveTechnology: Nineteenth Revised Edition. New York NY: Ardent Media, 2007.
- WHO Medical Eligibility Criteria for Contraceptive Use -- 4th ed. © World Health Organization 2009