Updated: Feb 10
What is the birth control patch?
The birth control patch is a thin, square patch that is approximately 2 inches by 2 inches and sticks to the skin. Each patch comes individually wrapped and releases hormones through the skin into the bloodstream to prevent pregnancy.
How does the birth control patch work?
The combination of the hormones progesterone and estrogen prevents ovulation; that is, the release of an egg from the ovaries during a uterus’s monthly cycle. Without an egg, pregnancy is impossible because there is nothing for sperm to fertilize.
The hormones in the patch also thicken the mucus produced in the cervix, therefore making it difficult for sperm to enter and reach any eggs that may have been released. The hormones may also affect the lining of the uterus so that even if the egg is fertilized the egg will have difficulty attaching to the wall of the uterus.
No birth control is 100% effective.
The birth control patch is 93% effective in preventing pregnancy. However, for those weighing over 198 pounds, it may be less effective.
Birth control patches do not protect from sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Only condoms and dental dams work to protect from STIs.
How is the birth control patch used?
The most effective time to start the patch is up to five days after the start of a period. It is recommended to use other forms of contraception for the first seven days of using the patch. One new patch should be applied anywhere on the skin except the breasts, genitals, palms of hands, or soles of feet. The most common places to apply the patch are the buttocks, stomach, upper outer arm, or upper torso. Lotions, makeup, and other skin products can prevent the patch from sticking well and should be avoided.
A new patch should be applied once a week for three weeks in a row, ensuring the patch is applied on the same day of the week. The patch should be removed at the end of the third week in order to have a period. The patch should be reapplied if it loosens or falls off for less than a day. If the patch was off for more than one day, a new patch should be applied and that day should be considered as the new start of the week.
Those who are interested in learning more about the possible health benefits and risks of different types of birth control, including the patch, should talk to a doctor or other health professional.
Reproductive Health Access Project. (February 2021). Fact Sheet: The Patch.
Teens Health from The Nemours Foundation. (2017). Birth Control Patch.