The Patch

The Patch

An image of the patch

The patch is a thin piece of plastic that comes in either a circle or square depending on the brand. It's a little less than two inches across, and comes in one—and only one—color, beige. The patch is stuck onto the skin and it gives off hormones that prevent the ovaries from releasing eggs. The hormones also thicken cervical mucus, which helps to block sperm from getting to the egg in the first place. The brand name Ortho Evra isn’t being produced anymore, but the generics, Xulane or Zafemy are, and there is a new, lower-dose version named Twirla.

    Details

    Less effort than the pill

    For those who would have trouble remembering to take a pill every day, the patch might be a good option as it only needs changing once a week. 

    You weigh less than 198 pounds

    It's not known for sure, but the patch may be less effective for those who weigh more than 198 pounds.

    You want predictable periods

    For those who feel comforted by getting their period every month—and not having random spotting in between—this could be a good choice.

    Smokers over 35, beware

    For those over age 35, smoking on the patch increases the risk of certain side effects.

    The pregnancy question

    A person's return to fertility should occur very quickly after going off the patch, which is great for those looking to conceive. But for those who aren't ready or interested in getting pregnant, an alternative method will be required as soon as you stop this method.

    Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, for those with health insurance, chances are good that the patch is available without out-of-pocket costs. Explore all insurance options at HealthCare.gov or at a state-based marketplace. For those without insurance or Medicaid, this method will cost you about $55 a month.

    Prices:

    The patch is simple to use. The only tricky part is remembering the schedule for putting the patch on and taking it off. You can put the patch on your butt, stomach, upper outer arm, or upper torso. But it can never go on your boobs, though. Just stick a single, new patch on once a week for three weeks in a row, then go patchless for the fourth week. You'll probably get your period during the patchless week, and you may still be bleeding when it's time to put the patch back on, which is normal. Put it on anyway.

    Here are nine tips to make the whole thing easier: 

    Tip 1

    If you start the patch within the first five days of your period, you're protected from pregnancy right away. If you start later, you'll have to wait seven days before you're protected, and you'll need to use a backup method.

    Tip 2

    Think carefully about where you want to stick the patch—it'll be there for a full week. Like, what will you be wearing? How squishy is your flesh in each spot?

    Tip 3

    Only peel off half of the clear plastic at first, so you'll have a non-sticky side to hold on to.

    Tip 4

    Don't touch the sticky part of the patch with your fingers.

    Tip 5

    Press the patch down for a full 10 seconds to get a good, firm stick.

    Tip 6

    Don't use body lotion, oil, powder, creamy soaps (like Dove or Caress) or makeup on the spot where you put your patch as it can keep the patch from sticking.

    Tip 7

    Check your patch every day to make sure it's sticking right.

    Tip 8

    Fuzz happens. You'll probably get a bit of lint build-up around the edges, so plan accordingly. You can use baby oil to get any remaining adhesive off your skin.

    Tip 9

    When you take a patch off, fold it in half before you throw it in the trash. That'll help keep hormones out the soil. Never flush used patches. 

    Every method has its own positives and negatives, and because everyone's birth control is different what one person experiences may not be the same as another's experiences.

    The Positive

    • Easy to use—it's like sticking on a Band Aid.
    • Doesn't interrupt the heat of the moment.
    • Might make periods more regular and lighter.
    • May clear up acne.
    • Can reduce menstrual cramps and PMS.
    • Offers protection against some nasty health problems, like endometrial and ovarian cancer, iron deficiency anemia, ovarian cysts, and pelvic inflammatory disease.

    The Negative

    Everyone worries about negative side effects, but for many people, they're not a problem. Most folks adjust to using the patch pretty quickly, but it could take a few months. For a very small number of people there are risks of serious side effects, however, so it's best to discuss those with a provider.

    Things that will probably go away after two or three months:
    • Bleeding in between periods.
    • Breast tenderness.
    • Nausea and vomiting.
    Things that may last longer:
    • Irritation where the patch sits on the skin.
    • A change in sex drive.

    If after three months, the patch or its side effects still feel uncomfortable, it's important to go to a provider and discuss switching methods. 

    Do you have questions about The Patch? Visit Bedsider.org for answers to many of the most popular questions about this method of birth control.