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The birth control patch is a method of hormonal contraception. It’s a small, square patch that looks like a plastic bandage. It sticks to your skin and gradually releases hormones into your body to prevent pregnancy. You replace it once per week.
The birth control patch was introduced in 2002. It’s highly effective — less than 1 percent of women who use the patch according to its directions get pregnant while they use it.
The birth control patch contains two man-made versions of the hormones estrogen and progestin. These are the same types of hormones found in most birth control pills. Your body absorbs the hormones from the patch. Then, the hormones start preventing pregnancy by blocking your ovaries from releasing eggs. The hormones also thicken your cervical mucus to keep sperm out. The patch usually takes one week after you initially start using it to reach full effect.
You must have a prescription to use the birth control patch. See your doctor to discuss whether the patch is right for you. You can start using the patch as soon as you get it if you’re sure you’re not pregnant.
The birth control patch is easy to use:
Every few days, it’s also a good idea to check that the patch has not come loose. If you discover that the patch has fallen off, contact your doctor and ask them what to do.
According to Planned Parenthood, the failure rate is less than 1 percent for women who always use the patch according to the directions. It's about 9 percent for women who don’t always use the patch according to the directions.
To help increase effectiveness, change your patch at the same time on the same day each week. Decide which day and time would be easiest for you before you start using the patch.
All hormonal birth control has the potential to cause rare but serious side effects, including:
There have been conflicting findings, but recent and larger studies demonstrate no difference in risk among estrogen-containing pills, patches, and rings. The overall risk is low.
However, complications are more common in women who:
If you fall into one of these categories, discuss with your doctor whether hormonal contraception is right for you.
When used correctly, the patch is effective at preventing most pregnancies. Many women also find it more convenient than taking daily birth control pills. The patch is a type of hormonal contraception, so it comes with risks and benefits. You can weigh these with your doctor to help decide if the patch is right for you. To explore your other options, read about popular types of birth control.
Written by: the Healthline Editorial Team
Medically reviewed on: Nov 30, 2016: Darren Hein, PharmD
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