Contraceptive patch

The combined contraceptive patch is a small soft plaster patch that you stick on your skin. It contains two hormones, progestogen and oestrogen, similar to the hormones in your body.

The two hormones primarily prevent an egg from being released each month. They also make it difficult for sperm to get to an egg and thin the uterus (womb) lining which makes it difficult for a fertilised egg to implant there.

The patch is left on the skin continuously night and day for one week and then a new patch is applied to a different area.

  • How good is the patch at preventing a pregnancy?
    • The patch works well at preventing pregnancy. However, its ability to stop a pregnancy largely depends on a person using it properly.
    • With typical use up to 7 out of 100 users will become pregnant
    • If you think you will not be able to remember to replace the patch once a week, it may not be the right method for you.
  • What are the advantages of the patch?
    • It can make your periods regular, lighter, and less painful
    • It gives you the choice not to have a monthly bleed or control when you have a bleed
    • One patch provides contraception for a week, so you don’t have to think about it every day
    • It is not required to be used just before sex so will not affect spontaneity of sex
    • Your fertility will return to normal immediately after the you stop using the patch
    • Unlike contraceptive pills, the patch remains effective even if you have vomiting or diarrhoea.
    • It helps protect against some forms of cancer (ovary, uterus (womb) and colon).
    • It reduces the risk of getting fibroids, ovarian cysts and non-cancerous breast disease
    • It may reduce acne and improve your skin.
  • What are the disadvantages of the patch?
    • The patch has to be replaced once a week. Forgetting to replace the patch on a weekly basis could make it fail
    • It can be visible on your skin
    • It may cause some skin irritation
    • Some people may not be suitable to have methods containing oestrogen. Please talk to your provider about whether it is safe for you to take
    • You may get temporary side effects at first including headaches, nausea, breast tenderness and mood changes
    • Irregular bleeding and spotting may occur in the first few months of use
    • Use of some medications, such as those for seizures or fits, HIV or for tuberculosis, can make the contraceptive patch less effective. Check with your medical provider if your medications are compatible with use of the contraceptive patch.
    • Condoms are the only contraceptive method which protect against sexually transmitted infections. To ensure protection from both pregnancy and infection, we recommend "dual protection". This means using a male or female condom in addition to the contraceptive method of your choice to prevent pregnancy.
  • How do I use the patch?
    • You can use the patch on most areas of your body as long as your skin is clean, dry and not very hairy
    • The patch needs to be replaced with a new one every week
    • Users of the patch have the option to have a monthly bleed or to skip or shorten their monthly bleed
  • What are the possible risks of using the patch?
    • The combined patch is associated with some rare risks. For most people the benefits outweigh the possible risks.
    • Your provider will ask you questions to check whether you could be at higher risk (e.g. if you smoke, have high blood pressure, or are overweight etc.)
    • There are some rare risks associated with combined methods:
      • Development of a blood clot in your leg or lungs
      • Heart attack
      • Stroke