The contraceptive patch, also called Evra, is a small beige patch applied to the skin like a sticky plaster, which protects against pregnancy.
The patch releases the same hormones as the combined pill which prevent you becoming pregnant. You replace the patch once a week and you can wear it when you’re swimming, exercising or having a bath. You may have seen a similar kind of thing used to help people give up smoking
Who can use the contraceptive patch?
The contraceptive patch is not suitable for all women. A doctor or nurse will need to know about a woman’s medical history and any illnesses suffered by immediate members of her family to find out if there are any medical reasons why it might not be suitable
How does the patch work?
The patch releases two hormones, oestrogen and progestogen into the bloodstream through the skin. Like the combined pill it stops the ovaries from releasing an egg for fertilisation every month. The hormones thicken the mucus around the cervix, which makes it difficult for sperm to get into the womb. It also makes the lining of the womb thinner to stop a fertilised egg implanting.
How do you use the patch?
The patch is worn continuously for seven days, then on the eighth day it should be changed, by removing it, throwing it away carefully and immediately putting on a new one. The patch should be changed every week for three weeks.
After three weeks you don’t wear a patch for seven days. During the patch-free week you may have a withdrawal bleed which is like a normal period. After seven patch-free days a new one is applied and the four week cycle starts again.
Patches can be worn discreetly on most areas of the body, including the upper arm, shoulder or buttocks, but should not be applied to the breasts or to broken or irritated skin.
If you start wearing the patch on the first day of your period, it protects against pregnancy immediately. If you start wearing the patch at any other time, then you would need to use another method of contraception (such as condoms) for the first seven days of using the patch. If your periods come every 23 days or less, you may not be protected so should see further advice or use a condom for the first seven days.
What’s good about the patch?
- Does not interrupt sex.
- Women do not have to remember to take a pill every day.
- The patch is not affected by having diarrhoea or vomiting because the hormones don’t need to be absorbed by the stomach..
- May reduce the risk of cancer of the ovary and womb.
- No evidence that it causes additional weight gain.
- Fertility returns to normal immediately after stopping.
- It can make pre-menstrual tension less likely.
- It can make periods more regular, lighter and less painful.
What do I have to watch out for with the patch?
- Does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
- Contains the same hormones as the combined pill which has a low risk of blood clots, breast and cervical cancer.
- Can cause skin irritation in some women.
How effective is the patch?
What would make the patch less effective?
- If it isn’t used according to instructions
- Forgetting to change the patch after seven days
- If the patch falls off
- If you forget to put a new one on at the end of the week
- If you forget to put a new one on after your 7 day break
- Use of some prescription medicines including some antibiotics, medicines used to treat epilepsy, HIV and TB and the complementary medicine St John’s Wort.
- EllaOne (a new type of emergency contraception) can reduce the effectiveness of hormonal contraception.
Remember, if you lose or forget to re-apply your patch within 48 hours of taking it off, you could be at risk of pregnancy. Use condoms until you know that your contraception is definitely protecting you again.
If you are ever unsure if your contraception is protecting you against pregnancy, carry on using your contraception as normal but use condoms as well until you have checked it out with a doctor or nurse at your nearest:
- ILASH young womens health clinic
- Donegal Womens Centre