Healthy lives for young people
Contraception

Contraceptive patch

The contraceptive patch, is a small beige 5cm by 5cm patch that is applied to the skin like a plaster. It prevents pregnancy by releasing two hormones through the skin; oestrogen and progestogen which are similar to those produced naturally in women’s ovaries.

Quick guide

How it works

The patch, is a small beige 5cm by 5cm patch that is applied to the skin like a plaster and prevents pregnancy by releasing oestrogen and progestogen through the skin. Read more

Pros & cons

You only have to replace the patch once a week
Can help make bleeds lighter and more regular, and reduce period pains
It doesn’t protect you against STIs
It can be seen

Read more

Where to get the patch

The contraceptive patch is available free of charge from a range of services including contraceptive clinics, your GP and Brook. Find your nearest using our find a service tool. Read more

How the patch works

The contraceptive patch works to prevent the sperm reaching the egg and fertilising it. It prevents pregnancy by interrupting this process in three ways:

  • It stops eggs being released from the ovaries (ovulation)
  • It makes it harder for the sperm to reach the egg
  • It makes the uterus (or womb) lining thinner so that a fertilised egg cannot implant.

Pros & cons

Pros

  • It doesn’t interrupt sex
  • It is over 99% effective when used correctly
  • You only have to replace the patch once a week
  • The patch is not affected by diarrhoea or vomiting because the hormones don’t need to be absorbed by the stomach
  • There is no evidence that it causes additional weight gain
  • It can help make bleeds lighter and more regular, and reduce period pains
  • It may also help to reduce premenstrual symptoms (PMS)
  • It can improve acne in some people
  • The patch can also have additional health benefits, such as reducing the risk of some cancers

Cons

  • Temporary side effects during the first few months include headaches, nausea, breast tenderness and mood swings
  • In the first few months of use there can be breakthrough bleeding and spotting
  • It doesn’t protect you against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), so you will need to use a barrier method such as condoms
  • It can cause skin irritation in some women
  • It can be seen
  • Some medicines can reduce the effectiveness of the patch, such as those used to treat epilepsy, HIV and TB and the complementary medicine St John’s Wort. Commonly used antibiotics do not reduce the effectiveness of the patch, but it is always best to check with the doctor, nurse or pharmacist first

Where to get the patch

The contraceptive patch is available free of charge from a range of services including contraceptive clinics, your GP and Brook. Find your nearest using our find a service tool.

Contraception and sexual health services such as Brook are free and confidential, including for people under the age of 16. Health professionals work to strict guidelines and won’t tell anyone else about your visit unless they believe you’re at serious risk of immediate harm. Find out more about Brook’s confidentiality policy.

What happens at an appointment

When you go to get the patch, an appointment will typically include:

  • A few questions about your medical and family history, to work out what would suit you best.
  • You’ll discuss other medicines you are taking in case they make the patch less effective.
  • The doctor or nurse will take your blood pressure and they will weigh you.

When you first start the patch you will usually be given a three month supply. Follow up appointments and reviews can be up to every 12 months.

The brand that is currently available in the UK is Evra.

INFORMATION

You will not be required to have an internal or breast examination for the patch.

How to use the patch

  1. Wear the patch continuously for seven days
  2. On the eighth day it should be changed
  3. Remove and throw the patch away using the disposal sachet provided
  4. Immediately putting a new one on
  5. The patch should be changed every week for three weeks (21 days)
  6. After three weeks you don’t wear a patch for seven days
  7. After the break, apply a new patch and start the four-week patch cycle again

Where you can wear the patch

Patches can be worn discreetly on most areas of the body, including the upper arm, shoulder or buttocks, but should not be applied to the breasts or to broken or irritated skin.

WARNING

Avoid placing the patch anywhere that may be rubbed by tight clothing, and change the position of each patch to help reduce the chance of skin irritation. You should also avoid covering the patch with body cream or lotions, as these may cause it to become loose.

Starting to use the patch and when you are protected from pregnancy

You can start the patch at any time in your menstrual cycle. If you put the first one on in the first five days of your period, you will be protected against pregnancy straight away.

If you start using it after day five of your period, you need to use a barrier method of contraception (such as condoms) for the first seven days.

If you have a short menstrual cycle, where your period normally comes every 23 days or less, you will need to start taking the patch in the first four days to be immediately protected (because you might ovulate early).

If the patch falls off

The patch should stay on as it is very sticky. However, if it does fall off, what you need to do depends on how long it has been off.

If it has been off for less than 48 hours:
stick the patch back on as soon as possible. If it does not stick – you will need to replace it with a new patch. You can now continue to use your patch as normal and change to a new patch on your usual change day. No additional contraception is required providing there has been consistent and correct use for seven days prior to the patch coming off.
If the patch has been off for more than 48 hours:
apply a new patch as soon as possible and start a new four-week patch cycle. You will need to use condoms for the next seven days. If you had unprotected sex in the previous few days you will need to speak to a doctor or nurse as you may need emergency contraception.

If you forget to take the patch off or put a new patch on

This depends on where you are in the four-week patch cycle, and how long you have forgotten to take the patch off or put on a new one.

After week one or two in the cycle:

If it has been on for less than 48 hours longer:
take off the old patch and put on a new one. Continue to use your patch as normal, changing it on your normal change day. You don’t need to use any additional contraception and you are protected against pregnancy.
If it has been on for more than 48 hours longer:
you will need to start a whole new four-week patch cycle by applying a new patch as soon as possible. This is the first day of your cycle. Use another method of contraception, such as condoms, for the next seven days. If you had unprotected sex in the previous few days you will need to speak to a doctor or nurse as you may need emergency contraception.

After week three in the cycle:

1)
Take the patch off as soon as possible and start your patch-free break. Start a new patch on your usual start day.
2)
If you are more than seven days late in removing your patch you may not be protected against pregnancy. Put on a new patch – this is the beginning of a new patch cycle. You may need to use additional contraception, such as condoms, or use emergency contraception if you have had sex in the previous few days.

After the patch-free week:

Less than 48 hours late:
Put on a new patch as soon as you remember – this is now the beginning of your new four-week patch cycle. You will still be protected against pregnancy as long as you wore the patch correctly before the patch-free interval.
More than 48 hours late:
Put the new patch on but you may not be protected against pregnancy and will need to use additional contraception, such as condoms, for seven days. If you had unprotected sex in the previous few days you may also need emergency contraception.

How it affects periods

During your patch-free week most women will have a bleed. This is called a ‘withdrawal bleed’ and it can start at any point during the seven-day break. This bleeding is brought on by the reduction in hormones, from not wearing a patch during the seven-day break.

You should start using your next patch on time whether or not you are still bleeding.

You can miss out the patch-free week by using another patch straight away. This isn’t harmful and you will still be protected against pregnancy. Sometimes you will still get bleeding.

What happens when you stop using the contraceptive patch?

How quickly the hormones leave your system:
the hormones from the patch will usually leave your body within a couple of days – no matter how long you have been using the patch for.
How quickly you can get pregnant:
this will vary, and will depend on when ovulation (releasing an egg) starts up again. It may be a matter of days or weeks, for others it may take up to three months. But fertility levels should return quite rapidly.
What happens to your periods:
if you find you have irregular periods after stopping using the patch and are worried, or if it’s taking a long time for your periods to start again, you can ask your doctor or nurse for advice.
What physical changes there might be:
everyone reacts slightly differently when they stop using the patch. Some people may find they have skin problems initially, although as your hormone levels self-regulate over the course of a few weeks or months, symptoms may subside once again. If symptoms persist or worsen please see your doctor or nurse for help and advice.
  • ON THIS PAGE

    Other Stuff you might find useful…

    Article
    Myths about long-acting reversible contraception (LARC)
    Contraception
    Advice
    Condom excuses (and comebacks!)
    Contraception
    Info
    Emergency contraception
    Contraception
    Advice
    9 common mistakes when using condoms
    Contraception
    Info
    How do I use a condom?
    Contraception
    Advice
    Talking about condoms with your partner
    Contraception
    Advice
    Remembering to take your pill
    Contraception
    Info
    Condoms (male)
    Contraception
    Info
    Emergency contraceptive pill
    Contraception
    Info
    IUD ‘the coil’
    Contraception

    400+ FREE CLINICS & SERVICES ALL OVER THE UK

    Find a Service near you

    100% FREE & CONFIDENTIAL