Using the birth control patch is simple. However, there are a few key points to keep in mind. Let’s briefly discuss how to apply the patch and what changes to make for different preconditions.

How to Apply the Birth Control Patch

Thoroughly clean and dry the area that the patch will be applied to (your belly, buttocks, upper outer arm or back), and carefully apply it to the skin. The patch should be worn for 7 days. On the 8th day, remove the patch and repeat the same application procedure. Each pack comes with three patches; use one per week for three weeks straight.

Before applying the patch, make sure your skin is dry. Do not use oil, lotion, or makeup as these materials can prevent  the patch from adhering. Check your patch regularly to ensure it is in place, especially after bathing or swimming.

While applying the patch, do not touch the adhesive area with your fingers. Place the adhesive area of the patch on your skin and press firmly to ensure the patch is securely adhered to your skin. Remove the backing  of the patch and discard.

Effectiveness of Patch

When used as recommended and correctly, the patch is 99% effective in preventing pregnancy. It means less than one female may get pregnant out of 100 women using the patch.

Learn more: How effective is the birth control patch?

How Safe It Is

It is very safe, and most of the women using a patch have no or minimal side effects. Besides, these side effects wear off with two to three months of using it. However, it may not be safe for women above 35, those who smoke or are overweight.

So, before planning to use to patch, consult your doctor and understand if it is the best option for you or now.

Best Practices

Use your first patch for seven days. Change to the new one on the eighth day. Continue this for three weeks and later have a patch-free week.

You will get withdrawal bleeding during the patch-free week, just like a period. However, this may not always happen.

After a patch-free week, apply a new patch and initiate the 4-week cycle again. Of note, start your new cycle even if you are still bleeding.

After seven patch-free days, apply a new patch and start the 4-week cycle again. Start your new cycle even if you’re still bleeding.

To use the patch:

Stick the patch on your skin on almost all body parts, unless it not very hairy or dry. You should not stick the patch onto:

  • An area where it may face friction due to tight clothing
  • Irritated or sore skin
  • Your breasts

It is a good idea to change the area for each new patch to prevent the risk of skin irritation.

Birth Control Patches and Menstrual Periods

You will mostly get your periods during the patch-free week. But it might not be the case for some women. Even if the second scenario occurs, there is nothing to worry about if you have used the patch as advised or taken any medicine that may affect it.

If you are worried, take a pregnancy test or see your physician or nurse. However, if you do not bleed for more than two cycles, get medical advice. While using patches, you can decide to either get or skip your periods.

To get periods, don’t wear the patch during the fourth week, as that’s the time when you will be getting your period. After a patch-free week, wear a new patch at the right time to avoid the risk of pregnancy.

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To skip periods, don’t stop using the patch during the fourth week, and continue with a new pack. When you stop your periods with patches, you may have spotting or minor bleeding for the first six months. This is entirely normal and will subside gradually.

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Missed or Removed Patches/Missed Patch Guidelines

Birth control patches don’t fall off easily. However, if they do, there is no need to worry.  Pregnancy can still be avoided.  If it’s been less than two days since your patch has fallen off, put the patch back on or replace it with a new one. You’re still protected from pregnancy, and you can continue with the same patch-change cycle.

If it’s been more than two days since your patch has fallen off, put a new patch on and mark it as your new patch change day. For the next week, use a condom, or birth control pills, or any other contraceptive to prevent pregnancy.

You can use the same method if you forgot to change your patch on time. If it’s been less than two days from your patch change day, put a new patch on, and your patch cycle will remain the same. If it’s been more than two days, put a new patch on, mark it as your new patch change day, and use another contraceptive for the next seven days.

If the patch falls off

It depends on how many days the patch was on and how long it has been off.

If it has been less than 48 hours:

  • Stick it immediately if it is still sticky
  • If it is not sticky, put a new patch on\
  • Continue to use it as normal and change your patch on your usual change day
  • If it was on correctly, before it came off, for seven days, you do not need any additional contraception.
  • But if the patch came off after using it for six days or lesser, additional contraception is needed for a week 

If you are not sure how long or the patch has been off for 48 hours or more:

  • Apply a new patch immediately. Consider this as day one of the cycle
  • You will have to use additional contraception for a week

In case you have had unprotected sex in the previous few days, consult your doctor or nurse as you may need an emergency contraceptive pill

If you forget to take the patch off

If you remove it within additional 48 hours

  • Take off the old one and put a new patch
  • Continue to use it as normal and change your patch on your usual change day
  • You do not need any additional contraception.

If it has been longer than 48 hours

  • Apply a new one immediately
  • This is the first day of your new cycle. You will have a new start day and change day
  • You will have to use additional contraception for a week

In case you have had unprotected sex in the previous few days, consult your doctor or nurse as you may need an emergency contraceptive pill.

If it has been longer than three weeks

  • Take it off immediately
  • Start your patch-free break and apply a new patch on a usual day (even if you are bleeding)
  • You do not need any additional contraception.
  • You may or may not bleed during the patch-free days.

If you forget to apply a patch after a patch-free week

  • Apply a new one immediately
  • This is the first day of your new cycle. You will have a new start day and change day

If it is before 48 hours:

  • If it was on correctly before the patch-free interval, you do not need any additional contraception.

If it has been more than 48 hours:

  • You will have to use additional contraception for a week

In case you have had unprotected sex in the previous few days, consult your doctor or nurse as you may need an emergency contraceptive pill.

If you Want to Get Pregnant

If you want to get pregnant, remove the patch, and you are ready to conceive. Your period might take a few months to return to its regular cycle. It is still possible to conceive even if your periods have not yet regulated themselves.

Four Week Cycle

While using the patch, you need to wear the patch for three days, followed by a patch-free week period. Most women bleed during the patch-free cycle. After the completion of a four-week cycle, start according to the previous cycle.

Transdermal Contraceptive

A transdermal contraceptive or a birth control patch is a sticky square patch that you can wear on any part of your body, such as the back, arm, and lower belly.

The patch releases hormones similar to the vaginal ring or birth control pill. This contraceptive is as effective as a vaginal ring or the pill and with similar side-effects. But you may find it convenient to use the patch than a vaginal ring and more manageable than remembering to take the pill every day 

Benefits of The Patch

Some advantages of using a patch are:

  • Very easy to use
  • Does not interrupt sex
  • Unlike birth pills, you do not have to think about it every day as you need to change it only once a week
  • The hormones from the patch are not absorbed by the stomach. So, it can still work if you have diarrhea or are sick
  • Can help with premenstrual symptoms
  • Can help make periods lighter, more regular, and less painful
  • May reduce the risk of ovarian cysts, fibroids, and non-cancerous breast diseases
  • May reduce the risk of womb, ovarian, and bowel cancer
  • You can get pregnant right away after stopping the use of the patch
  • It can also help prevent or treat bone thinning, infections of the reproductive tract, ectopic pregnancy, acne, cysts in ovaries and breasts, iron deficiency anemia

Side Effects of Patch

Common side effects include:

  • Bleeding or spotting in between periods
  • Nausea
  • Sore breasts
  • Headaches

However, these side effects resolve within two or three months, and they do not happen to everyone using the patch.

Severe side effects

  • Chest discomfort or pain
  • Trouble breathing
  • Severe pain in the stomach or belly
  • Sudden jaw or back pain with sweating, nausea, or trouble breathing
  • Sudden, severe headache
  • Headaches that are worse, different, or happen more often than usual
  • Achy soreness in legs
  • Yellowing of eyes or skin
  • Aura (seeing zigzag line or flashing)

Birth control patch is one of the easiest contraceptives to use, making it a go-to choice for many women. If you still have questions regarding the use or effects of a birth control patch, consult with a medical professional or your doctor. 

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