The Patch

Straight to the Facts: The Patch

  • Less than 1% failure rate if used as directed

    • 9% failure rate with typical use

  • Sticky patch you wear on your skin

  • Works by preventing ovulation and making it hard for sperm to reach your eggs


  • Most women have few side effects

  • Can help with heavy or painful periods and PMS

  • Smoking can increase the risk of stroke

The birth control patch is a sticker you place on the skin of your belly, back, butt or upper arm once per week to prevent pregnancy. The patch uses estrogen and progestin to do this and prevents ovulation and thickens the mucus on your cervix. If you do not ovulate, you will not produce an egg and cannot get pregnant. Thicker mucus prevents sperm from meeting eggs. You put a new patch on once per week for three weeks and leave it off for one week. This is the week you will have your period.

For the patch to work well for you, you must take it off once per week and replace it with a new patch. If you leave the patch on for longer than a week, do not put a new one on, take it off early, or forget to put one on after your period, you might get pregnant.

How effective is the patch?


Less than 1% of women will get pregnant each year if they always use the patch as directed. However, about 9% will get pregnant each year of the don't always use the patch as directed, meaning that they leave the patch on too long, don't put a new patch on, forget to put a new one on after their period or took the patch off early. If you do any of these things, make sure to use a backup form of birth control like condoms until your next period. The birth control patch is very effective and works best when it is always placed on the skin on time. This keeps correct levels of hormones in a woman's body.

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The Patch will not
protect you from STIs. To prevent STIs, use a barrier method like a condom every time you have sex.

While using the patch, certain medicines and supplements may make it less effective. These include:

  •  Rifampin - antibiotic (other antibiotics do not make the patch less effective)

  •  Griseofulvin - antifungal (other antifungals do not make the patch less effective)

  •  Certain HIV medications

  •  Certain anti-seizure medications

  •  St. John's Wort

Ask your health care provider for advice and use a backup method of birth control like condoms until your doctor says otherwise.

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What about side effects?


Although many women use the patch without side effects, some may experience side effects for the first two to three months after they start using the patch. If your side effects do not go away or get worse, talk to your doctor. You may need a different form of birth control. Side effects can include spotting between your periods, tender breasts, nausea and headaches. Although it's rare, some more serious side effects can occur including blood clots and an increased risk of stroke. Smoking can increase these risks. Talk to your doctor about your risk of stroke before you start using the patch.

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