Where Should You Place Your Birth Control Patch?

The contraceptive patch is an effective and hassle-free form of birth control. The effectiveness of this contraception method is more than 99% when used correctly. The patch is painless, slightly invisible, and should be replaced only once a week. It is placed on the lower abdomen, upper back, upper arm, or buttocks.

What is a birth control patch?

The contraceptive patch is a thin, beige, 1 3⁄4-inch (4 1⁄2-centimeter) square skin patch saturated with synthetic hormones similar to those found naturally in female bodies — estrogen and progestin, which work to prevent pregnancy. It works similarly to combined contraceptive pills.

Absorbed hormones thicken cervical mucus and keep ovaries from releasing an egg (suppress ovulation). The patch is applied between the 1st and 5th day of menstrual period for seven days and changed every week for three weeks, after which there is a 7-day break. During the break, breakthrough bleeding mostly occurs.

Birth control patch placement recommendations

The birth control patch should be placed on clear, dry skin. Don’t use body creams, lotions, oils, powder, and makeup on the skin where you want to put your patch because it can keep it from sticking.

Once the patch pouch is opened, put the patch on your skin immediately. Pick a spot where it can lie flat and smooth and won’t rub against the waistband or seams of your clothes. Don’t put a new patch on the exact same spot as the last patch, and use one patch at a time.

Birth control patch placement

It is not recommended to place the patch on breasts, scalp, palms, and soles or the same area all the time to avoid skin irritation.

The patch is made to stay in place while taking a shower, sauna, or jacuzzi and while exercising, sweating, or swimming. If you spend a lot of time doing these things, do not forget to check your patch corners every day to make sure it’s sticking.

Birth control patch removal

The patch should not be left on the skin for more than a week. Delay in replacing or detaching the patch increases the chances of getting pregnant.

If you forgot to start the new cycle and use the patch — apply it on your skin as soon as you remember and use backup contraception for at least one week.

If the patch becomes partially or completely detached for less than 24 hours, it should be reapplied at the same location (if it still sticks) or replaced with a new patch immediately. Do not use ancillary adhesives or tape.

If detachment lasts longer than 24 hours, apply a new patch on a new skin area. This day of the week will become the new patch change day. An additional method of contraception (e.g., condoms) should be used for one week.

If there has been patch detachment for less than 48 hours or continued use of the same patch for up to 48 additional hours, you should know:

  • Emergency contraception is not required if the patch was used correctly earlier in the seven days of usage.
  • Put on a new patch as soon as possible.
  • Keep the patch on until the scheduled removal day.
  • No additional contraception is required if the patch was used correctly earlier in week one and the seven days prior to the HFI or in the previous seven days in week two or three.

How does a birth control patch work?

Transdermal drug delivery (TDD) is a painless method of delivering hormones systemically by applying a drug formulation onto healthy skin. The hormones initially penetrate through the skin. TDD can provide an alternative that does not puncture the skin when having issues such as needle phobia, gastrointestinal tract diseases, or when having trouble remembering to take oral contraceptive pills.

Benefits of a contraceptive patch

There are many benefits of a contraceptive patch:

  • Convenience. It is used once a week in a three-week period with a one-week gap.
  • Hormonal regulation. The patch consists of two sex hormones similar to those produced naturally in the female body: estrogen and progestin. It helps to balance the hormonal levels when the patch is being used.
  • Effectiveness. The patch is considered to be a very effective contraceptive method when used correctly.
  • Does not interfere with sexual activity. It is placed on the skin surface and has no direct contact with the genital tract. However, patches cannot protect from STDs.
  • Potential treatment for acne. When the patch delivers a constant amount of hormones, the amount of acne breakouts may decrease.
  • It's proven that hormonal contraceptive use may lower the risk of ovarian, endometrial, and bowel cancers.
  • Non-contraceptive benefits. It reduces menstrual cramps and helps with heavy periods, PCOS, endometriosis, and others.

Effectiveness compared to other contraceptives

The contraceptive patch is considered a highly effective contraceptive. When used correctly, the birth control patch is more than 99% effective. If not used correctly, which is also considered ‘typical use,’ for example, forgetting to change patches, it’s 91% effective, and about 9 in 100 women will get pregnant in a year.

Contraceptive methodPerfect useTypical use
ImplantOver 99 %Over 99 %
Intrauterine device with progestin (progestin, or hormonal, IUD)Over 99 %Over 99 %
Combined oral contraceptivesOver 99 %91 %
Contraceptive patchOver 99 % 91 %
Sterilization surgery for womenOver 99 % Over 99 %
Male condom98 % 82 %

The effectiveness of the patch is the same as that of the combined contraceptive pills. It is important to know that it does not protect from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). After 1–3 months of the last usage of the patch, the fertility returns to previous levels. But it's important to note that you may ovulate earlier than that, so if you don't wish to get pregnant, use another method instead.

Birth control patch side effects

Some possible side effects of contraceptive patches, which are mostly temporary:

  • Spotting or bleeding between periods
  • Nausea, stomach pain
  • Breast tenderness
  • Headache
  • Skin irritation
  • Mood swings

Based on studies of the combined contraceptive patch, the average overall estrogen part concentration in patch users is higher in the blood flow system compared to most combined oral contraceptives. It is considered that this can lead to an increased risk of blood clots, although the overall risk of venous thromboembolism is low.

If you still experience side effects after three months of starting the patch, it's worth discussing other contraceptive alternatives with your healthcare provider.

When is it forbidden to use contraceptive patch?

Here are some instances in which using a contraceptive patch is not advised:

  • If you have (or have ever had) blood clots
  • If you have a disorder affecting blood clotting
  • If you have ever had a heart attack or stroke, angina pectoris (chest pain caused by reduced blood flow to the heart muscles), transient cerebral ischemia stroke (short-term stroke symptoms), or if you have high blood pressure
  • If you have or have ever had a migraine with aura
  • If you have been told that you may have breast or genital tract cancer
  • If you have had liver tumors or liver disease
  • If you have unexplained vaginal bleeding
  • If you are allergic to the main or any of the additional ingredients of this medicine or skin hypersensitivity to any component of the patch

Smokers over 35 and patients who weigh more than 198 pounds (90 kilograms) should consult with a gynecologist about other contraception methods before using a contraceptive patch. It's very important to let your health provider know if you're taking any medications or have chronic diseases before having any hormonal contraceptive method prescribed.

The contraceptive patch is a convenient and effective way of contraception. It is saturated with synthetic hormones similar to those found naturally in the female body. It reduces the chance of pregnancy. The effectiveness of this contraception method is more than 99% when used correctly. The patch is slightly invisible, painless, and easy to use. You can place it on the lower abdomen, upper back, upper arm or buttocks. Always consult with your doctor and he will help you to decide which contraceptive method to choose.

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