The patch is a combined hormonal contraceptive method containing oestrogen and progestogen. It is a thin beige plaster, made of three layers of plastic, which is stuck to the skin and changed weekly. It's a great option if you want the benefits of the combined pill, but don't want to have to remember to take a pill every day. The risk of blood clots with the patch may be slightly higher when compared to other combined methods.
You can stick your contraceptive patch on your bum, upper outer arm, lower abdomen or back. You should not stick the patch on your breasts or skin which is sore or irritated. Make sure that when you apply it your skin is clean, dry and not very hairy
What happens if my contraceptive patch falls off?
This shouldn't happen as the patch is very sticky and should stay on when bathing, showering, swimming or even when in a sauna. If it does fall off, what you need to do depends on how long it has been off for. Read the Patient Information Leaflet that came with your patches or check out the NHS guide for advice on what to do next. If in any doubt use additional contraception such as condoms and ask your GP or nurse for advice.
Does the patch make you gain weight?
There's no evidence that using the patch causes weight gain. More research is needed to provide a definitive answer on this. For more details have a read of our guide to contraception and weight to find out more.
What happens if my contraceptive patch gets wet?
Normal activities such as having a bath or shower, using a sauna and exercising should not affect how well the patch works as the patch is designed to stay in place during these types of activities. However, you should check that the patch has not fallen off completely.
How the Patch works:
The patch is a combined hormonal contraceptive method containing oestrogen and progestogen. It works to prevent pregnancy by making the fluid in your cervix thicker (which makes it more difficult for sperm to enter the womb) whilst also stopping ovulation. The patch also prevents the lining of your womb from thickening enough for a fertilised egg to implant into it.
How to use the Patch:
You should stick the patch onto a dry, clean and not very hairy part of your skin (lots of women stick it on their bum cheek, upper arm or lower back). Once a week you remove your old patch and apply a new one. After 3 weeks you can then have a patch-free week where you will likely get a period-like bleed called a withdrawal bleed.
After your patch-free week, you should apply a new patch – you should do this even if you're still bleeding. It’s really important that you don't have more than seven days without the patch. If you want, you can choose to shorten your break without the patch or even miss it altogether to avoid having a withdrawal bleed. For more information on the patch, you might like to take a look at our comprehensive guide.
Coming off the patch is easy - you just stop using it. When you do this you’re no longer protected from pregnancy. If you want to stop the patch but do not wish to become pregnant then you should consider switching to another form of contraception before you stop. If you have unprotected sex and stop your patch before you have used it for 21 consecutive days you may ovulate (release an egg from the ovary) and could become pregnant.
How safe is the Patch:
Using the patch is safe. However, like with all combined hormonal methods containing oestrogen there is a small risk of developing blood clots in your veins and arteries. You may also increase your blood pressure. Your doctor will check your individual risk before prescribing the patch to you. Use of the patch is also associated with small increased risks of breast cancer and cervical cancer. These reduce with time after stopping. It's also important to remember that the patch does not protect you from STIs.