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The contraceptive patch

Nurse using MSI UK digital contraception counsellor.

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The contraceptive patch 

The combined contraceptive patch is a small soft plaster patch that you stick on your skin. It contains two hormones, progestogen and oestrogen, similar to the hormones in your body.

The two hormones primarily prevent an egg from being released each month. They also make it difficult for sperm to get to an egg and thin the uterus (womb) lining which makes it difficult for a fertilised egg to implant there. The patch is left on the skin continuously night and day for one week and then a new patch is applied to a different area. 

Video – The contraceptive patch

Would you like to find out everything you need to know about the combined contraceptive patch? We’ve created this short explainer video, filled with information about the patch including: 

– What it is 
– How effective it is in protecting against pregnancy 
– Advantages 
– Disadvantages 
– Risks 

You can use the patch on most areas of your body as long as your skin is clean, dry and not very hairy. 
The patch needs to be replaced with a new one every week. 

Users of the patch have the option to have a period or to skip or shorten their period. It is not dangerous to take combined methods of contraception like the patch continuously, without taking a break. If you would prefer not to have a break at all, you can immediately replace your patch. Taking the patch in this way can also help if you usually experience unpleasant side effects during your break.  
Whilst it isn’t medically necessary to have a break, taking this method continuously does mean that you have less control over when you have a bleed (you may occasionally still have a bleed, but won’t necessarily know when to expect this).  
If you’d prefer to have more control over when you have a bleed, there are other ways of taking the patch available – for example, you could use the ring continuously for 9 weeks (using 9 patches) and then have a break for 4 or 7 days (this is called tricycling).  

If you do not have a routine and think you may forget to replace the patch every week, you may wish to consider a LARC (Long-Acting Reversible Contraception) method.

Effectiveness of the contraceptive patch 

The patch works well at preventing pregnancy. However, its ability to stop a pregnancy largely depends on a person using it properly. 
Perfect use: more than 99% effective. Fewer than 1 in 100 people will get pregnant in a year when using the contraceptive patch correctly. 
Typical use: around 91% effective. Around 9 in 100 people who use the patch will get pregnant in a year. 
If you think you will not be able to remember to replace the patch once a week, it may not be the right method for you. 

Nurse using MSI UK's contraception counselling tool

Advantages, disadvantages and risks associated with the contraceptive patch 

It can make your periods regular, lighter, and less painful 

It gives you the choice not to have a monthly bleed or control when you have a bleed. 

One patch provides contraception for a week, so you don’t have to think about it every day. 

It is not required to be used just before sex so will not affect spontaneity of sex. 

Your fertility will return to normal immediately after the you stop using the patch. 

Unlike contraceptive pills, the patch remains effective even if you have vomiting or diarrhoea. 

Research has previously found that combined hormonal contraception is also associated with a significant decrease in the risk of endometrial and ovarian cancer, across lifestyle factors.  

It reduces the risk of getting fibroids, ovarian cysts and non-cancerous breast disease. 

It may reduce acne and improve your skin. 

The patch has to be replaced once a week. Forgetting to replace the patch on a weekly basis could make it fail. 

It can be visible on your skin. 

It may cause some skin irritation. 

You may get temporary side effects at first including headaches, nausea, breast tenderness and mood changes. 

Irregular bleeding and spotting may occur in the first few months of use. 

Use of some medications, such as those for seizures or fits, HIV or for tuberculosis, can make the contraceptive patch less effective. Check
with your medical provider if your medications are compatible with use of the contraceptive patch. 

Condoms are the only contraceptive method which protect against sexually transmitted infections. To ensure protection from both pregnancy and infection, we recommend “dual protection”. This means using a male or female condom in addition to the contraceptive method of your choice to prevent pregnancy. 

The combined contraceptive patch is associated with some rare risks. For most people, the benefits of taking the combined pill outweigh the possible risks, but it is essential that our clients have access to quality advice and information when it comes to contraception. 
Some of the rare risks associated with combined contraceptive methods include the development of a blood clot in your leg or lungs, a heart attack, or a stroke. 
Your clinician or contraception provider will ask you questions to check whether you could be at a higher risk, for example, if you smoke, have high blood pressure, are overweight, take certain medicines or have a certain family medical history. 

Where can I get the combined contraceptive patch? 

In the UK, you can get the combined contraceptive patch for free from sexual health clinics, some GP surgeries and some young people’s services. 

At MSI UK, we primarily offer contraception services as part of your abortion care. We also offer contraception services in some parts of England for people who have not accessed our abortion services. From these clinics, people can access LARC (Long-Acting Reversible Contraception, such as the coils, the implant and the injection) with us without having had an abortion. 

Follow the link to find out more: MSI UK Contraception Clinics  

The contraceptive patch and your period   

One advantage of using the combined contraceptive patch is that it can make your periods regular, lighter and less painful. 

The combined contraceptive patch also gives you more control over your periods: you can choose not to have a period, or to delay your period. 

Learn more about contraception 

Visit the pages below to find a comparison tool to help you find the right method for you, and to learn more about short-acting and long-acting reversible contraception. 

MSI Reproductive Choices UK 20230612_0738

Which method is right for me?  

Find a contraception comparison tool that can help you find the right method for you.   

MSI Reproductive Choices UK 20230605_0517

Short-acting contraception  

Short-acting methods include the contraceptive pill, patch and ring.

MSI Reproductive Choices UK 20230605_0792

Long-acting contraception  

Long-acting contraceptive methods include the coils, the injection and the implant.