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How Does a Birth Control Patch Work?

The birth control patch is a type of contraception that delivers drugs via transdermal application. This method involves administering medication through your skin to achieve the same or better benefits as oral medication.

The birth control patch delivers estrogen and progestin, the same hormones used in many birth control pills. In addition to stopping ovulation, the hormones in the birth control patch increase cervical mucus production to make it harder for sperm to reach your uterus – achieving the same results as when these hormones are delivered via birth control pills. 

Determining the type of birth control that’s right for you involves many factors that should be discussed with a medical professional. Birth control specialist Rachel Spieldoch, MD, FACOG, of McDowell Mountain Gynecology in Scottsdale, Arizona, provides comprehensive family planning services for women of all ages and stages of life.

Dr. Spieldoch and her experienced team can help you weigh the pros and cons of the birth control patch and other options against your lifestyle, medical issues, and personal preference so you can be confident with your decision and how it can affect your reproductive health. 

How do you use the birth control patch?

You need a prescription to purchase a birth control patch. Your provider recommends an appropriate time to begin using it, typically at the start of your next period. 

Each patch is worn for a period of one week. You change the patch and replace it with a new one on the same day every week for three weeks in a row. On the fourth week, you don’t wear the patch and you will have your period. At the end of the fourth week, you apply a new patch on the same day of the week to restart the cycle.  

To ensure the patch adheres to your body securely, place the patch on clean, dry skin on any of the following areas:

Most people use a different area each week to reduce the risk of skin irritation.

How effective is the birth control patch?

When used consistently and exactly as directed, the birth control patch is 99% effective in preventing pregnancy. Birth control pills and the vaginal contraceptive ring have the same level of effectiveness, according to the FDA. 

However, when the birth control patch isn’t used perfectly, it’s about 91% effective. This means that 9 out of 100 women who use the patch get pregnant every year. Like other forms of birth control, your risk of getting pregnant is relative to how correctly and consistently you follow the directions for use. 

If a birth control patch loosens and falls off, call your provider for instructions. In most cases, you will have to apply a new patch and use a condom or other backup form of contraception for one week to prevent pregnancy.

Delaying or missing a weekly patch application or removing a patch too early can increase your risk of getting pregnant. Some medications or supplements, including certain antibiotics, can also reduce the effectiveness of the birth control patch. 

While the birth control patch can prevent pregnancy with a high rate of dependability, it has no effect on the prevention of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). A condom is the only type of birth control that prevents STIs.

Is the birth control patch right for me?

The birth control patch is appropriate for sexually active women who weigh less than 198 pounds. It can be a better option than birth control pills if you can’t remember to take medication every day or have problems swallowing pills.

The birth control patch typically isn’t recommended for smokers and women who think they might be pregnant. Women who have or have had any of the following conditions should also avoid using the birth control patch:

Find out more about the birth control patch and other contraception options. Call our office or make an appointment online to schedule a consultation.

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