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The Contraceptive Patch

Find out all you need to know about the contraceptive patch

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:

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

How to use the combined contraceptive patch

In your first appointment with a doctor or clinician, you will discuss a range of contraceptive methods to find the one that suits you. Often, you will talk about your lifestyle, preferences, needs and medical history, and the clinician will assess the risks and benefits of contraceptive methods for the individual, considering all alternatives.

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.

Do you know about LARC contraceptive methods?

If you really don’t want to get pregnant, say for the next year at least, it’s worth thinking about a LARC method: LARC stands for long acting reversible contraception, such as the implant, coil and injection. Once these methods are fitted you can forget about them!

Effectiveness of the combined contraceptive patch

The patch works well at preventing pregnancy. However, its ability to stop a pregnancy largely depends on a person using it properly.

With typical use up to 7 out of 100 users will become pregnant.

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.

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.

Advantages, Disadvantages and Risks Associated With the Combined Contraceptive Patch

As with all contraceptive methods, there are a range of advantages, disadvantages and potential risks when using the contraceptive patch.

Advantages of the combined 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.
  • It helps protect against some forms of cancer (ovary, uterus (womb) and colon).
  • It reduces the risk of getting fibroids, ovarian cysts and non-cancerous breast disease.
  • It may reduce acne and improve your skin.

Disadvantages of the combined contraceptive patch

  • 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.

Risks associated with the combined contraceptive patch

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 recently launched new contraception-only clinics in a number of areas, meaning you can access LARC (Long-Acting Reversible Contraception, such as the IUD, the IUS, the implant and the injection) with us without having had a termination of pregnancy. Follow the link to find out more: MSI UK Contraception Clinics


Try our Digital Contraception Counsellor "Choice"

It’s important to know more about different contraceptive options so that we can support you as best we can. Our digital counsellor "Choice" helps you find the best contraceptive options for you. Fill out a questionnaire about your lifestyle, preferences, needs and medical history, and you'll see a list of the most appropriate contraception options for you.