26 Jul 2023
Contraceptive Patch: Safe Sex to Avoid Unwanted Pregnancy
A woman may become pregnant when a man’s sperm fertilised one of her eggs or ova. Contraception will try to stop this from happening by keeping the sperm and egg separate or by stopping egg production. One contraception method is the patch. The contraceptive patch is a 5cm x 5cm sticky patch placed onto the skin, much like a nicotine patch . It produces hormones absorbed into the body via the skin. The brand name of patch is Evra in the UK.
The patch has the same hormones as combined pill and works in the same way. This means it can:
- Thin the lining of womb which make it less likely a fertilised egg will be implanted
- Prevent ovulation or the release of an egg
- Thicken the cervical mucus which can make it more difficult for the sperm to travel through cervix
How does it work?
The patch produces daily dose of hormones through the skin into your bloodstream in order to prevent pregnancy. It includes same hormones as combined pill which are progesterone and oestrogen and works by preventing the release of an egg each month.
It can thicken your cervical mucus which makes it difficult for the sperm to pass through your cervix. In addition it thins the womb lining. As such, you will find that a fertilised egg is less likely to implant itself.
Who can use it?
The patch is not suitable for everyone, so your doctor, nurse or provider will ask about your own and your family’s medical record. Inform them about any diseases or surgeries you have had or you think you might be pregnant. The patch might not be suitable for patients who:
- Are over 35 years old
- Are extremely overweight
- Are more than 35 years and have stopped smoking one year ago
- Take certain medicines
- Are breastfeeding a baby of less than six weeks old
The patch might not be suitable if you have now or have had in the past:
- Blood clots or thrombosis in the artery, vein or member of your immediate family had thrombosis before they were 45 years
- Stroke or heart disease
- Migraine aura
- Systemic lupus erythematosus with positive antiphospholipid antibodies
- Heart abnormality or circulatory disease which include hypertension
- Breast cancer or you have a gene associated with breast cancer
- Active disease of the liver or gall bladder
- Diabetes with severe complications
- Use a wheelchair or are immobile for a long period of time
- Are at high altitude for more than one week
When you are healthy, do not smoke and there aren’t any medical reasons for you to use the patch, then you may use it till 50 years old, following which you will have to change to another contraception method.
How you can use the patch
Apply the first patch and wear it for 7 days. You need to change the patch to a new one on 8th day. Then change it every week for 3 weeks and have patch-free week.
During the patch-free week, you get withdrawal bleed, similar to a period though this might not happen all the time.
Apply a new patch after 7 patch-free days and then begin 4-week cycle again. Start your new cycle even when you are still bleeding.
Where do I put the patch?
Try to stick the patch directly onto the skin. You may put it on most body areas when the skin is dry, clean and not hairy. It is advisable not to stick the patch on:
- irritated or sore skin
- your breasts
- an area where it can be rubbed off with tight clothing
It is certainly a good idea to change the position of new patch and decrease the chance of skin irritation.
Benefits of the patch
The contraceptive patch is almost 99% effective in preventing you from being pregnant when used properly. This means if all women use the patch, then very few will be pregnant in one year. Other advantages of the patch include the following:
- it is convenient to use
- hormones from contraceptive patch do not absorb by the stomach and so, it is effective even when you have diarrhea or vomit
- unlike combined oral contraceptive pill, you have to change the patch once in a week
- it does not interrupt sex
- it may help with premenstrual symptoms
- it can lessen the risk of ovarian cysts, non-cancerous breast ailment and fibroids
- like pill, it makes periods more lighter, regular and less painful
- it may decrease the risk of bowel, ovarian and womb cancer
Risks of using the patch
There is a little risk involved with serious side effects when using hormonal contraceptive such as combined pill or contraceptive patch
The patch may somewhat increase the chance of getting a blood clot. A blood clot might block the vein or venous thrombosis and an artery or arterial thrombosis which causes stroke or heart attack. In the case you are having a blood clot in the past, then it is advisable not to use the patch. You have greater risk if:
- You are extremely overweight
- You smoke
- You have extreme varicose veins
- You use a wheelchair or are immobile
- Your family member had venous thrombosis before you are 45 years old
The risk of arterial thrombosis is the highest when:
- you are diabetic
- you smoke
- you are overweight
- you have high blood pressure
- close family member had a stroke or heart attack before 45 years
- you regularly have migraines with aura
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According to research, people who use progestogen and oestrogen contraception like contraceptive patch are at greater risk of breast cancer in comparison to people who do not use hormonal contraception. The research further shows there is small increase in the risk of getting cervical cancer with the use of progestogen and oestrogen hormonal contraception for a long term.
In the case of most women, the benefits of the patch outweigh the risks. You should talk about all the benefits and risks with your doctor or nurse before using the patch. You won’t be allowed to use the patch when you are considered to be at greater risk of serious side effects.
Where you get the contraceptive patch
Most kinds of contraception can be found for free in the UK. The contraception is free to all women and men with the NHS. When you get a contraceptive patch for the first time, you are given a 3 month supply to find out how you get on with it. If there aren’t any problems, then you might be prescribed the patch for 6 months to one year.
Places where you get contraception are the following:
- most GP practices where you speak with the GP or practice nurse
- community sexual health clinics
- young people’s services
- contraception services are confidential and free for the people below 16 years
If you are below 16 years and want contraception, then the doctor or nurse will not be telling your parents about it. They offer you with contraception as long as they know you completely understand the information you are given and use the contraception safely.
Doctors and nurses have a responsibility to ensure you are completely free from harm and safe. They encourage you to consider telling your parents but they will not make you. The only time a professional won’t keep confidentiality is when they believe you are at risk of serious harm like abuse. If this had been the case, then they would discuss it with you at first.
What you can expect from the patch
For using the birth control patch, you need to do the following:
- Consult with a health care provider about start date – When you are using birth control patch for the first time, you need to wait till the day your period begins. If you use first-day start, then you need to apply first patch on the first day of period. There is no backup method needed of contraception. In the case you use Sunday start, you need to apply your first patch on the first Sunday after period begins. Choose a backup contraception method for the first week.
- Select where you apply the patch – You may place the patch on your upper outer arm, buttock, upper body or lower abdomen. Avoid putting it on the breasts or in a place where it gets rubbed such as under a bra strap. Apply to the skin which is clean and dry. Try to avoid skin areas which are cut, red or irritated. Do not put powders, creams, makeups or lotions on the skin area where there is patch. In the case you have skin irritation, remove the patch and then apply a new patch to different area.
- Apply the patch – Open foil pouch carefully and use fingernail to lift one corner of contraceptive patch. Try to peel patch and plastic liner away from pouch to peel away half of the protective lining. Make sure you do not change, damage or cut the patch. Apply sticky surface of patch to your skin and then remove the remaining liner. Press down firmly on the top of skin patch with your hand palm for nearly 10 seconds. Smooth it out and make sure the edges stick well. Leave the patch on for seven days and do not remove it to shower, bathe, shower, exercise or swim.
- Change your patch – Try to apply the contraceptive patch to your body each week and on the same day of week for almost three weeks in the row. Put new patch to different skin area for avoiding the irritation. Once you remove the patch, make sure you fold it in half with sticky sides together and then throw it in the trash. Avoid flushing it down the toilet and remove adhesive which stays on the skin with lotion or baby oil.
- Check the patch regularly to see it is in place – When the patch gets partially or completely detached and it is not possible to reapply, you can replace it with a new patch right away. Avoid reapplying a patch when it gets stuck to itself or other surface, it is not sticky or it has other material stuck to it. Avoid using other wraps or adhesives for holding the patch in place. When the patch is partially or completely detached for more than 24 hours, think of applying a new patch and use backup contraception method for at least one week.
- Skip the patch on week 4 – You should not apply a new patch during the fourth week when you have your period. On the end of fourth week, you may use a new patch and then apply it on the same day of the week you applied the patch in the past weeks.
- Use backup contraception when late for new patch – When you are late to apply birth control path during the first week or two days late in the second or third week, put a new patch right away and use a backup contraception method for the one week.
You need to consult with the health care provider soon when you have:
- Yellowing of the skin or whites of eyes which is accompanied with fever, loss of appetite, fatigue, light-colored bowel movements or dark urine
- Two missed periods or other signs of pregnancy
- Sharp pain in the chest, coughing bringing up blood or sudden shortness of breath which are signs of a blood clot
- Severe tenderness or abdominal pain
- Crushing pain in the chest or other signs of heart attack
- Fatigue, feeling sad or extreme trouble sleeping
- Partial or complete blindness or other signs of a blood clot in the eye
- Breast lump which increases in size or continues through 1 to 2 menstrual cycles
- Persistent pain in your calf or other signs of a blood clot in the leg
- Problems with speech or vision
- Sudden severe headache
- Numbness in an arm or leg or other signs of stroke
Thus, the contraceptive patch is a square and small patch which sticks to your skin. It produces a steady stream of hormones to avoid pregnancy. It is an effective form of birth control when you will use it properly. See a healthcare provider about the birth control patch and know if it might be a suitable option for you.
Are you experiencing any of the symptoms outlined in this article?
Contact the clinic today for a same-day GP appointment.