USING THE BIRTH CONTROL PATCH

Using the Birth Control Patch PDF

What is the Birth Control Patch?

The birth control patch contains 2 hormones (estrogen and progestin) that are absorbed through the skin (transdermal). The patch is worn for one week at a time and at least 3 patches must be worn in a row. It prevents pregnancy by stopping the release of an egg (ovulation), thickening the cervical fluid and changing the lining of the uterus.

How effective is the Patch?

The patch is a very effective method of birth control. The patch is about 93% effective at preventing pregnancy in typical use, which means that around 7 out of 100 people using it as their only form of birth control will get pregnant in one year. With consistent and correct use it can be over 99% effective.

How can I get the Birth Control Patch? 

You will need to visit a clinic to get the patch or a prescription for it. You will talk with a healthcare provider about whether the patch is right for you.

  • Periods may be more predictable/regular and lighter
  • Less period cramping
  • Decreased symptoms of Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) and Perimenopause
  • Can be used to skip or shorten your periods
  • Less anemia/iron deficiency due to heavy periods
  • Does not affect your ability to get pregnant in the future – once stopped your fertility  quickly returns
  • Easy to stop using and if you have side effects they go away very quickly
  • Less acne
  • Sexual enjoyment may increase, as using the patch can reduce the fear of pregnancy
  • Some protection against non-cancerous breast tumours, ovarian cysts and fibroids
  • Decreased risk of ovarian and uterine cancer
  • May protect against osteoporosis and endometriosis.
  • Must remember to change the patch each week
  • Some users may experience mild side effects such as: spotting, nausea, breast tenderness, headaches or dizziness, skin irritation  (usually these improve in the first few months of use)
  • May be visible to others
  • Does not match all skin tones
  • Possibility of high blood pressure
  • No protection against sexually transmitted Infections (STIs)
  • Rare but serious complications of using the birth control patch include: blood clots, heart attack, stroke, liver tumours. Risks increase with age when accompanied by certain other risk factors such as smoking, especially more than 15 cigarettes a day
  • Some people can not use the Birth Control Patch such as people who cannot have estrogen. Be sure to let your health care provider know if you have any other medical conditions.

When do I start my patch? 

It is recommended you start your patch right away. The patch is effective in preventing pregnancy after one week of use, so you need to use a backup method of birth control such as condoms or not have sex  for 7 days. You do not have to wait for your period, but if you happen to start on the first day of your period you don’t need to use a backup method as the patch is considered effective immediately.

How do I use the Patch? 

The patch is packaged based on a 28 day cycle.It is typically worn on the lower belly, upper arm or bum on clean, dry, lotion free skin. Your pack will contain 3 patches, each of which is worn for 7 day, for a total of 21 days. You must use all 3  patches in a row with no breaks in between. After you have used 3 patches in a row for 3 weeks:

a) remove the patch and take a short patch-free break of no more than 7 days, OR
b) remove the patch and immediately apply the 1st patch of a new pack with no break in between. 

You must be sure to apply your next patch on time and never go longer than 7 days without wearing one in order to be protected from pregnancy throughout the whole month. Periods that occur while using the patch  are a result of taking a break from hormones. Taking no hormone break or a shorter than 7 day break to lighten or skip periods is safe.

Tips for using the patch: 

  • When applying press down firmly on the patch with the palm of your hand for 10 seconds
  • Check the patch daily to ensure it is on correctly
  • Put it on a different area of skin each time to avoid irritation. If needed, you can remove the patch and put it in a new location (for example, if it is causing irritation, do not apply to skin that is irritated or cut 
  • You can exercise, swim, sweat and shower with the patch on
  • After removing a patch fold it closed on the sticky side and throw it in the garbage 
  • Do not place the patch on or near your breast/chest
  • Do not decorate or cut the patch in any way
  • Do not use tape or glue to keep the patch in place
  • Avoid directly touching the sticky surface of the patch with your fingers
  • Avoid placing patch under areas of friction (such as your waist band)
  • Avoid using any creams, lotions, or oils near or at the patch site

What if my patch falls off or I forget to change or remove it?

Check in with a health care provider or call Sex Sense at 1-800-739-7367 about your individual situation. If your patch comes off or isn’t changed on time, this can result in spotting.

Patch was off less than 

24 hours

  • Re-apply the patch as soon as possible. If the patch does not stick on its own throw it out and use a new one (the hormones are in the sticky part). Change it on your normal patch change day. 
Patch off for more than 24 hours or not sure how long or forgot to change on time
  • Apply a new patch as soon as possible.
  • Use a backup method such as condoms or do not have sex for the next 7 days until you’ve had a patch on for 7 days in a row.
  • Skip your patch-free break this month, which means you likely won’t have a period (this is safe).
  • Make sure you use the patch for 21 days in a row (3 patches) before you take your next break
  • Consider using emergency contraception if you had sex without a condom in the last 5 days. For information on emergency contraception, please see our website at: www.optionsforsexualhealth.org

There are some signs that all people using the birth control patch should be aware of as these may indicate a serious complication. Seek medical attention immediately if you have any of the following ACHES symptoms:

Abdominal pain, especially on the right side of your stomach, below your rib cage

Chest or arm pain, shortness of breath, coughing up blood

Headaches, severe and not relieved by over the counter pain medications

Eye problems, blurred vision, flashing lights, double vision, blindness

Swelling, redness, numbness, tingling or pain in the legs

Questions? We’re here for you!

We know it can be confusing to choose a method. We are here to help. Our Options for Sexual Health Clinics are staffed by health care professionals who are there to answer your questions about sex, sexuality, and sexual health.  They can help you learn how to use the method you choose and bring you back to check in on how the method is working for you.

Between visits or anytime you have questions about sex, sexuality, or sexual health, our Sex Sense team is there to answer your questions Monday-Friday 9 a.m.- 9 p.m. (PST) by phone (1-800-739-7367) or by email at SexSense.org

This is general information and should not be used in place of individual consultation with a qualified healthcare provider.

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