The Patch

What is the contraceptive patch?

  • The contraceptive patch is a method of birth control which can be used for female bodies.
  • It is a small beige square patch placed on the skin.
  • It contains artificial hormones similar to the natural hormones that already exist in your body.
  • The patch slowly releases hormones into the body through the skin.

How does the patch work?

  • The patch prevents your ovaries from releasing an ovum (egg cell) each month.
  • The patch makes the cervical mucous thicker. This makes it harder for sperm to get into the uterus.
  • It also changes the lining of the uterus. The lining of the uterus gets thinner so it is harder
  • for a fertilized egg to stick to the uterus. Even if an egg is released and fertilized, it will notcontinue to grow.
  • The patch prevents pregnancy 97-99% of the time.

How do I use the patch?

  • Put the patch on the buttocks, abdomen, upper body (front or back, not the breast), or upper outer arm.
  • Wear a new patch every week for 3 weeks in a row. Wear it in a different place each week.
  • Always change the Patch on the same day of the week.
  • Do not wear the patch during the 4th week (the Patch-free week). You will get your period during this week.
  • Following the patch-free week, wear a new patch to continue protection from pregnancy and start a new cycle.
  • You can wear the patch while swimming, doing exercise, taking a shower or bath, or during hot and humid weather.

How soon does it start working?

  • If you start the patch on the first day of your period, it works immediately.
  • If not, it starts working within 7-14 days. Use another method of birth control (such as condoms) until it starts working.

Does the patch protect me from STIs and HIV?

  • No. Using safer sex supplies every time you have sex reduces the risk of getting an STI (sexually transmitted infection) or HIV infection.

Are there any side effects?

You may feel some side effects. If they are very uncomfortable or last longer than a few months, talk to your health care provider.

Minor side effects include:

  • Irregular bleeding
  • Nausea (feeling sick to the stomach)
  • Headaches
  • Breast discomfort
  • Skin irritation where the patch touches the skin
  • Menstrual cramps

If the following side effects are experienced, call your health care provider

right away:

  • Leg pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Changes in sight
  • Yellowing of the skin
  • Weakness or numbness in arms or legs
  • Sudden and severe headaches

What if the patch falls off?

  • If it has been off for less than 24 hours, put a new one on.
  • Keep the same change day as usual.
  • If it has been off for more than 24 hours, put on a new patch, and start a new 4 week cycle.

Use a back-up method of birth control for one week (for example, condoms).

Is the patch safe for all females to use?

Ask your health care provider if it is right for you. Tell them about any medical problems. The patch

may not be right for you if:

  • You smoke, especially if you are 35 or older.
  • You are breastfeeding.
  • You weigh more than 198 pounds (it may not be as effective).
  • You have a family history of breast cancer.
  • You have had heart disease, serious liver disease, diabetes, blood clots, or high blood pressure.

Where can I get the patch?

You can get the patch from:

  • Your health care provider
  • A teen clinic (if under 22 years of age)
  • A walk-in clinic
  • A community health clinic.

Where can I get more information?

  • From your health care provider, community health clinic, or public health nurse.
  • From the Facts of Life On-Line: e-mail your questions to
  • From websites: or

SERC believes that all individuals have the right to access unbiased sexual and reproductive health information and services. They must also have the opportunity to explore their values and attitudes in making informed choices that are most appropriate for them, and have those choices respected and supported. SERC supports and defends a pregnant person’s right to choose parenting, adoption, or abortion.