With all of the different birth control options out there, it can be difficult to know which one will work best for you. Women looking for a simple, safe, and easy-to-use option should consider the benefits of choosing the birth control patch as their method of choice.
Adopting a new form of birth control can be a big choice that requires research. If you’re considering getting on the birth control patch, check out our guide below for some of the specifics on how it works and how it might affect you.
How does the birth control patch work?
The birth control patch is essentially a small bandage that adheres to your skin. The patch releases estrogen and progestin — two naturally-occurring hormones — into your body. While all women produce estrogen and progestin already, the patch’s steady dose of the two hormones is what prevents pregnancy from occurring.
The influx of estrogen and progestin keeps ovulation from taking place, guaranteeing that no eggs are released and able to be fertilized. The hormones also thicken the cervical mucus which may prevent sperm from entering into the uterus.
How do I use the birth control patch?
All you need to do is treat the birth control patch just like a bandage — find a clean, dry part of the skin and stick the patch onto it. When you open up the package containing your patch, make sure to apply it immediately as prolonged exposure to the air can interfere with the hormones it contains. The patch is designed to stick onto your body no matter what — through showers, swimming, and exercise — so you don’t need to change your lifestyle in order to accommodate it.
Each patch has enough hormones to last 7 days and must be replaced regularly on the 7th day in order to remain effective. Replacing the patch late will lower your body’s level of hormones, putting you at an increased risk of pregnancy until you get back to those earlier levels. If you replace your patch late, use an alternative method of birth control like condoms for at least 7 days afterwards.
Women who want to keep their periods should wear one patch a week for three weeks and then wear no patch for 7 days, during which they will have their period. Once the 7 days are over, put on a new patch and restart the cycle. Women who use the patch can choose to skip periods, but our medical team recommends that these women have a period at least every 3 months, because the patch contains somewhat higher levels of estrogen than other birth control methods so you shouldn’t skip periods continuously. Women who want to skip their period just need to put on a new patch every week for three months before taking a break for a week.
Starting the Patch
You can start wearing your patch as soon as you get it, but you might not be immediately protected against unwanted pregnancy depending on when you start wearing it.
If you start wearing the patch within the first 5 days after your period has begun, you’ll be protected immediately. Otherwise, you’ll need to wait 7 days before the patch’s hormones have begun to take full effect.
How effective is the birth control patch?
When used exactly as prescribed, the birth control patch is over 99% effective, meaning fewer than 1 woman out of every 100 will become pregnant after a year of use. In reality, the patch ends up being around 91% effective.
Reasons for the drop in efficacy generally deal with improper use, such as forgetting to replace it on time. Though rare, it is still possible for the patch to loosen or fall off during regular use. If that happens, simply replace the patch with a new one as soon as possible and use physical contraception for 7 days afterwards.
Is the birth control patch safe?
Like other forms of hormonal birth control, the birth control patch is a safe option for decreasing the chances of unwanted pregnancy. The vast majority of women will be able to use the patch without experiencing any health complications.
Some women, however, might want to think twice before going on the patch. Because the patch contains estrogen, women with heart conditions or high blood pressure will want to talk to a medical professional before starting to wear the patch. Women older than 35 who smoke should find other birth control options that do not contain estrogen, as should women who are breastfeeding, because estrogen may decrease milk supply.
The patch, like most other forms of birth control, does not cause weight gain in the vast majority of women.
Side Effects of the Patch
Most women who use the birth control patch will experience no side effects at all, and those that do tend have only very mild experiences. Most side effects disappear with regular use after around 3 months.
For those that do experience side effects, some of the most common include:
- Skin reaction at the site of the patch
- Mood changes
- Blood clots
- Breast tenderness
- Stomach pain
- Irregular menstrual bleeding
Most of these side effects are mild, and women who experience more severe effects such as pain or numbness in the arms or legs should contact a doctor immediately.
Most medications can be taken normally while using the patch, but some can produce negative interactions, such as:
- St. John’s wort
How do I know if the birth control patch is right for me?
Most women find the patch to be a convenient and effective birth control option. One of the reasons the patch is so popular is that it doesn’t need to be dealt with every day; you simply need to take one off and put one on once per week. While the patch needs to be re-upped more often than the birth control shot, it’s replacement is also quicker and easier. The patch is also easy to forget about once applied, making it a good option for women who find the birth control ring uncomfortable.
The birth control patch is also a good option for women looking to get pregnant soon after they stop taking it. While it might take a few weeks to a few months for your regular period to return, you can start getting pregnant as soon as you stop using the patch regularly.
Women who struggle with severe menstrual bleeding may also find that the patch helps. After several weeks of continuous use, the patch can significantly reduce bleeding and lessen or eliminate PMS symptoms as well.
How do I get the birth control patch?
Women who are interested in getting the patch will need a doctor’s prescription to do so. You can request the patch at your next well woman appointment with an OB-GYN, or you can share your health history in our online assessment and pay $15 for your medical consult (which includes unlimited messaging with our medical team for a year). After evaluating your needs, our licensed providers will write a prescription (if medically appropriate). We then ship your birth control patches straight to you, ensuring you get what you need when you need it.
We provide the Xulane patch, which can cost as little as $0 a month for women with insurance or $180 a month for uninsured women. Feel free to contact a member of our team with any questions you might have about the brands and pricing we offer.
This blog provides information about telemedicine, health and related subjects. The blog content and any linked materials herein are not intended to be, and should not be construed as a substitute for, medical or healthcare advice, diagnosis or treatment. Any reader or person with a medical concern should consult with an appropriately-licensed physician or other healthcare provider. This blog is provided purely for informational purposes. The views expressed herein are not sponsored by and do not represent the opinions of Nurx™.