If you’ve been looking into hormonal contraception options, you may have heard of the birth control patch. This method of contraception is relatively new.
It was introduced into the market in 2002. It prevents pregnancy by releasing the same kinds of hormones found in daily contraceptive pills. If you have ever seen the nicotine patch and know how it works, consider yourself a step ahead—you already understand the basic concept behind the birth control patch.
It looks like a simple adhesive bandage, but it does so much more! This easy-to-use birth control method is 99% effective when used correctly. Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about the birth control patch.
One a week is all you need
The birth control patch has the same hormones as a daily birth control pill: oestrogen and progestin. These hormones keep you from getting pregnant in two ways. First, they stop you from ovulating, or releasing an egg to be fertilised. Second, they make your cervical mucus so thick that the sperm can’t navigate through it and wouldn’t be able to reach an egg anyway.
All you have to do is stick the patch in an appropriate place on your body. It can be anywhere on your abdomen, upper torso (except on your breasts), upper arm, or buttocks. It needs to be applied to one of these places, on top of clean and dry skin (that means no creams or makeup underneath), in order for the hormones to be absorbed properly. The medicine is mixed in with the adhesive, so it will enter your bloodstream through the skin, slowly throughout the week. Be sure not to put it on skin that is irritated, cut, or has a rash.
The patch sticks really thoroughly to the skin, so you can go about your normal business. You can shower or bath, swim, and sweat as usual. The only thing you have to do is remember to change your patch each week. You need to put on a new patch on the same day every week (for example, every Monday). After wearing the patch for 3 weeks, you spend the next week without one. This is when you will start your period. After 7 days with no patch (regardless of how far along you are in your period), you need to put on a new one and start the next month.
Is the birth control patch good for you or bad for you? Or both?
As with all birth control methods, there are some pros and cons that you should consider when deciding whether or not to use them. Take a look at some of the most important advantages and disadvantages of using the birth control patch over other contraception methods and think about whether or not it’s right for you.
First, the patch is just as safe and effective as the birth control pill, but it is even more convenient. Instead of thinking about taking medication every day, you only apply the patch once per week and forget about it. Many women also find that their periods are lighter and bring fewer PMS symptoms than before. Furthermore, the hormones that are found in the birth control patch have been proven to prevent a number of health problems including ovarian and endometrial cancers, ovarian cysts, pelvic inflammatory disease, non-cancerous breast tumours, and more. Finally, if you decide that you do want to start trying to get pregnant, the effects of the patch are easily and quickly reversed. You just have to stop taking it and you’ll be fertile again in a matter of days.
Despite all the benefits, however, there are some drawbacks to the birth control patch. Like other hormonal methods, it can increase your chances of stroke, heart attack, or blood clots (although this is extremely uncommon), and it’s not right for everyone. If you have high blood pressure or cholesterol, diabetes, a blood clotting condition, or a history of stroke, you may not be eligible for this method. You’ll need to talk to your doctor about this and he won’t prescribe it to you if you aren’t a good candidate. Furthermore, some drugs have bad interactions with the patch and some women experience negative side effects like headaches, nausea, breast tenderness, or irritation of the skin. If the patch ever does accidentally come off too early, or if you apply a new patch late, you will need to use a backup method of contraception. Finally, the birth control patch will not keep you safe against STIs or HIV.
Just a reminder…
The price of the patch will depend on where you live, but in the UK most contraceptive services are completely free. If you live elsewhere, remember that the total cost will include a doctor’s visit and the prescription.
Don’t just toss it!
You need to be very careful when getting rid of your used patches. You want to be sure that no children, pets, or other people will be able to accidentally touch them, because anyone who does can absorb some of the hormones through their skin, which could be dangerous. When you take off the birth control patch, fold it in half with the sticky part inside, the seal it in a plastic bag before you throw it away. Never rinse it off or flush it down the toilet because it can contaminate the water supply over time.
Now that you know the facts about the birth control patch, you have another contraception method to consider for yourself. As always, you’ll need to consider medical factors, your lifestyle, and convenience when choosing a method of birth control. Luckily, as the birth control patch is an easily reversible method, you can try it out to see if it works for you. If you don’t like it, you can always go back to the drawing board!