Contraceptives can be a challenging topic.
Not all contraception suits all women, and some women just want something simple they can stick on and forget about.
That’s where the birth control patch comes in. Many people either haven’t heard of this kind of contraception or don’t know that much about it, so we’ve decided to put together all the information you need to figure out if this is the right contraception for you.
What Is The Birth Control Patch?
The birth control patch is a thin, beige-coloured plastic patch that sticks to your skin and is used to prevent pregnancy. Sometimes referred to as Ortho Evra, although this is just one brand name of the patch, this kind of contraception is placed on the skin every week for three weeks in a row, with a week break in between.
How Does It Work?
Like many other kinds of contraception, the birth control patch works by releasing hormones into the body. Hormones control how different parts of our bodies work, and the hormones in the patch are the same ones that you’ll find in the birth control pill, namely oestrogen and progestin.
Together, these hormones work to keep eggs from leaving the ovaries, preventing sperm from connecting with eggs in the uterus, and by making cervical mucus thicker, thereby providing more obstacles for sperm trying to reach the eggs.
Using The Patch
Using the birth control patch is simple. Just find a spot on your body where you’re comfortable putting the patch on, and stick it. You can put the patch on the skin on your buttocks, stomach, upper outer arm, or back. Every seven days, you remove the patch and put a new one on. After three weeks of using the patch, you have a patch-free week, and have a period. After seven days of not wearing a patch, even if you’re still bleeding, apply the next patch.
Sometimes, the patch does fall off, generally, when lotion or powders come into contact with it or if it is not applied properly from the start. If this happens and you cannot get the patch to stick again, simply apply a new patch.
Benefits Of The Birth Control Patch
The birth control patch is a simple and convenient contraceptive option, with benefits including the ability to have spontaneous sex (without applying or inserting a barrier contraception), lighter and shorter periods, and no long-term effects on fertility.
As it uses hormones, the birth control patch also offers some protection against:
- painful cramps
- bone thinning
- breast growths other than cancer
- ectopic pregnancy
- endometrial and ovarian cancers
- serious infections in the uterus, tubes and ovaries,
- iron deficiency anaemia
- cysts in the ovaries and breasts
- pelvic inflammatory disease
- premenstrual symptoms
- irregular and heavy periods
Negatives Of The Birth Control Patch
While there are benefits associated with using the birth control patch, there are also some possible side effects that women need to be aware of. These vary from person to person, and can vary in severity.
- bleeding between periods
- tenderness in the breasts
- nausea and vomiting
- drop in libido
- skin reaction where the patch is applied
There are also some serious side effects associated with the birth control patch, linked to the hormones that make the patch effective. These aren’t experienced by all women, but the risk is still there. These risks include heart attacks and blood clots. Generally, the risk of these side effects increases for women who are over 35, overweight, with a history of clotting disorders, with diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and so on. You can talk to your doctor about your own suitability for this particular kind of birth control. If you present with any risk factors, they may suggest a different method of contraception.
How Effective Is It?
Effectiveness is the main concern for most women when they choose a birth control method. No method is 100% foolproof except abstaining. In terms of the birth control patch, less than one in 100 women will get pregnant in a year when they use the patch exactly as directed. When women don’t use the patch exactly as directed all the time, that number rises to about 9 in every 100 women per year.
The patch is thought to be less effective on women who are overweight, and it can be affected by some antibiotics, antifungals, HIV medicines, anti-seizure medications and St John’s wort.
Remember, the patch doesn’t protect against STIs, so use a condom if you’re concerned about that.
How Do I Get The Patch?
The first thing you need to do if you want to get the birth control patch is to see your doctor.
They’ll need to do an exam on you, which will include your medical history, to make sure the patch is a suitable choice. If it is, you’ll be given a prescription, at which point, you can go and buy the patch from a pharmacy.