Birth Control 101 is a multi-part series covering everything you need to know about birth control in the United States. It has all the details you need to make the best decision for your body, like how each method works, the pros and cons, effectiveness, cost and where to get them. After we’re done, you’ll basically be an expert, and you’ll definitely be able to make an informed decision about how to stay safe when you’re having sex.
This segment covers everything you need to know about the Birth Control Patch.
Check out our Birth Control 101 section for details on every birth control method, and Birth Control Basics for a quick and dirty overview.
What is it?
Also called Ortho Evra (the brand name), the patch is a weekly hormonal method of birth control. It is a small, lightweight, thin, flexible patch that resembles a band-aid or nicotine patch. It’s about 1.5 inches square and beige colored, designed to be placed discreetly on the skin of your upper arm, abdomen, shoulders, back, or butt.
How does it work?
Much like the birth control pill, the patch releases the hormones progestin and estrogen to prevent pregnancy. You place the patch on your skin and wear it for a week. After seven days, you replace it with a new patch. Repeat this for three weeks. In the fourth week, you do not replace the patch and get your period.
When used properly, the patch is 99% effective. In typical use, the patch is about 91% effective.
- Replacing a patch once a week is easier to remember than taking a pill at the same time every day. The patch stays in the same place 24/7, which makes it simple, easy to use, and easy to remember.
- Because the patch releases the same hormones as the pill, it has many of the same benefits, like lighter and shorter periods, reduced PMS symptoms, and decease of certain cancers.
- People who use the patch may experience the same side effects associated with the pill. These side-effects often lessen or diminish after a few patch cycles, but if they don’t there are not alternative hormone combinations available for the patch.
- Although the patch is designed for an active lifestyle, it may fall off or become damaged. If it falls off, it’s like missing a pill, and you may not be protected. If the patch becomes dislodged and cannot be firmly reattached with ten seconds of continuous pressure, then it must be removed and replaced with a new patch right away. Users must be careful to put the patch somewhere on their skin that will not rub against tight clothing, like a waistband or bra strap.
- The patch might be uncomfortable for some women. It can slip around, pull your skin, or stick to and get caught on clothes, particularly among women with a more active lifestyle. In rare cases, the patch can even cause skin redness, irritation, or rash.
- Birth control is usually discreet and private, but the patch is a very visible method of birth control. Depending on its placement, it may be easy to see through clothing or on the skin, especially during summer. It is also only available in one color, so it won’t blend with darker skin tones.
- The patch must be stored carefully in a clean, cool, dark place – not in your purse or the glove compartment of your car.
- The patch is less effective among users who weigh more than 200 pounds.
The patch costs $15 – $80 monthly, with a prescription.
Where to Get It
Visit your doctor, gynecologist, or a health or family planning clinic (like Planned Parenthood) to get a prescription.
Don’t stop there… learn more about the other methods so you can find the perfect fit! Check out these articles in our Birth Control 101 series.
Birth Control 101: The Basics of Birth Control
Birth Control 101: The Pill
Birth Control 101: The Patch
Birth Control 101: The Ring
Birth Control 101: The Shot
Birth Control 101: The Implant
Birth Control 101: Hormonal and Copper IUDs
Birth Control 101: Male Condoms
Birth Control 101: Cervical Cap
Birth Control 101: Diaphragm
Birth Control 101: The Sponge
Birth Control 101: Spermicide
Birth Control 101: Pull Out Method