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The patch is a thin, beige piece of plastic that looks like a square Band-Aid. It’s a little less than two inches across, and comes 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 generic, Xulane.

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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

We don’t know for sure, but the patch may be less effective if you weigh more than 198 pounds. (Random number, right?) 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.

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. BTW, the open enrollment period for 2017 is over, but you may still be able to get health coverage. Find out if you could be eligible for special enrollment.


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.

Tip 1

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.

Tip 2

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.)

Tip 3

Only peel off half of the clear plastic at first, so you’ll have a non-sticky side to hold on to.

Tip 4

Don’t touch the sticky part of the patch with your fingers. It’s a beeyotch to unstick.

Tip 5

Press the patch down for a full 10 seconds to get a good, firm stick.

Tip 6

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.

Tip 7

Check your patch every day to make sure it’s sticking right.

Tip 8

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.

Tip 9

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.

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.

The Positive

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.

The Negative

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.

  • 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
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.

We’re here to get this method working better for you. And if it still doesn’t feel right, we’ve got ideas for other methods. Just remember: If you change methods, make sure you’re protected while you switch.

  • ...I heard that taking hormonal birth control is bad for the environment because of hormone-filled pee getting in the water.

    Any form of birth control is better than no birth control when it comes to the environment. But let’s look a little closer at the claim that hormones in birth control are getting into the environment through pee. The simple answer is: yes, it is. But—and this is a big but—it is small compared to other sources of estrogen.

    Current research finds that the contribution of EE2 (the primary active ingredient in the pill, the ring, and the patch) to the total amount of estrogen in of our waterways is small. Bigger—much bigger—sources of estrogen in the environment come from industrial and manufacturing processes; agricultural fertilizers and pesticides; the drugs we give livestock; and the waste and runoff produced by these sources.

    Simply removing hormones from contraceptives will not eliminate the environmental impacts of estrogenic compounds. It’s much better to buy organic food if you can and even better to tell Congress to do its job and regulate chemicals, than to forego birth control. From Mother Earth’s standpoint, any form of birth control is better than no birth control. For purists who don’t want to add any hormones to the environment or to their body, no matter how small, there are options for you. Natural latex condoms and the copper IUD are two frequently cited examples of ultra-green contraceptives.

    Still not working?

    If you’d like to use a super effective method without any hormones, try the Paragard IUD.

    Try a different method

  • ...I think my birth control is affecting my mood.

    If you feel like your birth control is changing your behavior, it’s time to talk to your health care provider. Everybody responds to birth control differently, and your provider can help you decide whether it’s time to try something else. It might be a matter of switching hormonal methods or deciding whether to avoid hormonal birth control altogether, or you may choose to wait it out since some negative side effects go away with time. The bottom line: If your current method is making you feel blah, don’t settle. There are a lot of methods to choose from and sometimes it can take a few tries to get it right.

  • ...The patch keeps falling off.

    Patches fall off only about 5% of the time—so not very often. But if the patch falls off, no worries. You can stick the same patch back on if it’s been less than 24 hours and the patch is still sticky. Or, you can just apply a new patch.

    DO NOT use bandages, tape, or adhesive to make a non-sticky patch stick. The hormones that keep you from getting pregnant are mixed with the adhesive, so if it won’t stick, it’s also not going to be effective as birth control.

    Try this: Make sure you don’t use any “lotions or potions” (you know, powders, creams, medications, etc.) on your skin where you put the patch. Even moisturizing after the shower can interfere with the patch sticking.

    Still not working?

    If it still keeps falling off, maybe you want to try a method that goes on the inside. Maybe the implant, an IUD, or the ring.

    Try a different method

  • ...I can't remember to change it on time.

    Try this: We can send you free reminders to your cell phone or email. Check it out.

    Still not working?

    If you use a reminder system and you’re still having trouble remembering, you might want to consider a method that you can forget about for several months or several years. Maybe the shot, an implant, or an IUD.

    Try a different method

  • ...I'm having some skin irritation.

    Some women do experience irritation from the adhesive.

    Try this: You could try moving it to another recommended spot to see if that lessens the effect. You can also put a little over the counter cortisone cream on the irritated area and it will probably get better quickly. Or, if you’ve been moving it around, try keeping it in one spot (and watch Geraldine talk about how this has worked for her).

    Still not working?

    If it doesn’t get any better, you might consider a method without adhesive and that you have to worry about even less than the patch, such as the shot, the implant, an IUD, or the ring.

    Try a different method

  • ...I don't like the hormonal side effects.

    Try this: First, give it a couple months to settle out.

    Still not working?

    You may not get the same side effects with other hormonal methods. If things don’t get better with time, consider using the ring, shot, IUD, or implant.

    Try a different method

  • ...My patch leaves a square of dark sticky stuff around it.

    No need to worry, it’s most likely just bits of dust and dirt catching in the adhesive that makes the patch stay on your skin. While the patch is in place there isn’t too much you can do about it without running the risk of making the patch un-sticky. Once you take the patch off, you can try rubbing a little bit of baby oil on the marks. They should come right off with a little scrubbing.

    Still not working?

    If the sticky stuff bothers you but you want a birth control method you don’t have to remember every day or every time you have sex, you may want to check out the implant, the IUD, the ring, or the shot.

    Try a different method


Perfect use
99.7 %
Typical use
93 %
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quick facts /

  • Easy to use and works like the pill, but you only have to worry about it once a week.

  • The patch is pretty effective the way most people use it.

  • Nausea, irregular bleeding, sore boobs are most common, but usually temporary.

  • Patch change required once a week.

  • 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.