- Birth control
- Birth control patch
Birth control patch
What is the birth control patch?
The patch is a thin, beige piece of plastic that looks like a Band-Aid. All of the patch options are little less than two inches across, two are square and one is round, and all of them come in one—and only one—color. (Beige.) You stick the patch on your skin and it gives off hormones that prevent your ovaries from releasing eggs. The hormones also thicken your cervical mucus, which helps to block sperm from getting to the egg in the first place. The brand name Ortho Evra isn’t being produced anymore, so if you use the patch, ask for the generics, Xulane and Zafemy, or ask for the lower dose option, Twirla.
The patch is pretty effective the way most people use it.
Perfect use: 99.7% effective
Typical use: 93% effective
What does perfect vs typical use mean?
Nausea, irregular bleeding, sore boobs are most common, but usually temporary.
Patch change required once a week.
Easy to get
You need to get a prescription from your doctor or clinic.
Could be as low as $0 a month or as high as $44. Why? Read more about costs.
It might be for you if…
Less effort than the pill
If you’re the kind of person who would have trouble remembering to take a pill every day, the patch might be a good option. You only need to remember to do something once a week. And we can help you with that.
You weigh less than 198 pounds or have a BMI less than 30
We don’t know for sure, but the patches Xulane and Zafemy may be less effective if you weigh more than 198 pounds. (Random number, right?) If your BMI is 25 or greater, Twirla may be less effective at preventing pregnancy. And none of the patches are recommended if your BMI is 30 or greater because of decreased effectiveness and a potentially increased risk of blood clots. So take that into consideration.
You want predictable periods
If you feel comforted by getting your period every month—and not having random spotting in between—this could be a good choice for you.
Smokers over 35, beware
If you’re over 35, smoking on the patch increases your risk of certain side effects. And if you’re younger, why not quit now and save yourself the trouble in the future?
The pregnancy question
You’ll be able to get pregnant right after going off the patch. So don’t take any chances. If you’re not ready for a baby, protect yourself with another method.
Don’t take our word for it. Check out the videos above to hear people talk about their experiences with the patch. And be sure to ask your health care provider which method is best for you.
How do you use it?
The patch is simple to use. The only tricky part is remembering the schedule for putting the patch on and taking it off—and we can help you with that.
You can put the patch on your butt, stomach, upper outer arm, or upper torso—never on your boobs, though. Just stick a single, new patch on once a week for three weeks in a row, then go patchless (no patch) for the fourth week.
For example, let’s say it’s Tuesday and you put on a new patch. Tuesday becomes your “patch change day.” In other words, patches will always go on (or off) on Tuesdays.
You’ll probably get your period during the patchless week, and you may still be bleeding when it’s time to put the patch back on. That’s totally normal. Put it on anyway.
Check out these tips and tricks to make the whole thing easier.
If you start the patch within the first 5 days of your period, you’re protected from pregnancy right away. If you start later, you’ll have to wait 7 days before you’re protected, and you’ll need to use a backup method.
Think carefully about where you want to stick the patch—it’ll be there for a full week. Like, what will you be wearing? How squishy is your flesh in each spot? (If you’ve got a bit of a tummy that makes folds, for example, the stomach may not be the spot for you.)
Only peel off half of the clear plastic at first, so you’ll have a non-sticky side to hold on to.
Don’t touch the sticky part of the patch with your fingers. It’s a beeyotch to unstick.
Press the patch down for a full 10 seconds to get a good, firm stick.
Don’t use body lotion, oil, powder, creamy soaps (like Dove or Caress) or makeup on the spot where you put your patch. Stuff like that can keep the patch from sticking.
Check your patch every day to make sure it’s sticking right.
Fuzz happens. You’ll probably get a bit of lint build-up around the edges, so plan accordingly. You can use baby oil to get any remaining adhesive off your skin.
When you take a patch off, fold it in half before you throw it in the trash. That’ll help keep hormones out the soil. And don’t flush ‘em! The earth will thank you.
How much does it cost?
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, if you have health insurance, chances are good that you’ll be able to get this method with no out-of-pocket cost.
- This method may be free or low-cost for you
- With Medicaid: Free
- With insurance: Free under most plans
- Without insurance: The full price of the patch can range from $30 - $44. Depending on your income, you may be able to go to a low-cost clinic to get the patch at reduced cost.
- Payment assistance: Ask you provider for extra samples, or contact the Partnership for Prescription Assistance at 1-888-4-PPA-NOW (1-888-477-2669) or www.pparx.org or http://www.janssenprescriptionassistance.com at 1-866-317-2775. And make sure to check with your local family planning clinics to find out if they offer free or low-cost patches (many do).
What are the side effects and benefits?
There are positive and negative things to say about each and every method. And everyone’s different—so what you experience may not be the same as what your friend experiences.
Positive “side effects”? You bet. There are actually lots of things about birth control that are good for your body as well as your sex life.
- Easy to use—it’s like sticking on a Band Aid
- Doesn’t interrupt the heat of the moment
- Might give you more regular, lighter periods
- May clear up acne
- Can reduce menstrual cramps and PMS
- Offers protection against some nasty health problems, like endometrial and ovarian cancer, iron deficiency anemia, ovarian cysts, and pelvic inflammatory disease
Everyone worries about negative side effects, but for most women, they’re not a problem. Remember, you’re introducing hormones into your body, so it can take a few months to adjust. Give it time.
Things that will probably go away after two or three months:
- Bleeding in between periods
- Breast tenderness
- Nausea and vomiting
Things that may last longer:
- Irritation where the patch sits on your skin
- A change in your sex drive
If you still feel uncomfortable after three months, switch methods and stay protected. You’re worth it.
*For a very small number of women there are risks of serious side effects.