The contraceptive patch is a type of transdermal medication. Transdermal means: ‘through the skin.’
Contraceptive transdermal patches contain two synthetic variants of naturally occurring female hormones – oestrogen and progestogen. These synthetic hormones are used in a number of other combined contraceptive methods, including the combined pill.
To prepare the body for pregnancy each month, levels of oestrogen and progesterone will rise and fall naturally, causing certain actions to take place. This includes the release of an egg, also known as ovulation.
When someone uses the contraceptive patch, additional hormones are introduced to the body which changes how it prepares for pregnancy in three main ways:
- Ovulation doesn’t happen, no eggs are released,
- Vaginal mucus thickens, making it harder for sperm to pass naturally through the cervix,
- Uterus lining gets thinner, meaning fertilised eggs, though very unlikely at this stage, cannot implant themselves.
How to use the Evra Patch
Using the contraceptive patch is simple. You apply the patch to an area of the skin of your choice and wear it for seven days. On the eighth day you change your patch. Do this for three weeks, and then spend the fourth week patch-free. (Contraceptive effectiveness isn’t affected during your ‘patch-free’ week.)
In the week you don’t wear a patch, you may experience what’s called a ‘withdrawal bleed’, which might feel similar to a period. However, some people don’t experience this. Either way, it’s nothing to worry about.
After seven days without a patch, you apply a new patch and repeat the four week cycle again.
Where to put the contraceptive patch
It’s common to see the patch used on the upper arm, but you can stick the contraceptive patch anywhere – providing the area of skin you choose is dry, clean and not too hairy. You should also avoid wearing the patch on skin that’s sore or irritated or on the breasts. Lastly, avoid placing the patch on an area of skin where it’s likely to be rubbed off.
Doctor’s sometimes recommend switching up where you stick the patch each time you change it. This can help to reduce skin irritation. You can also wear the transdermal birth control patch in the bath or shower, it shouldn’t come off.
While being very sticky, here’s what to do if your patch falls off:
If the patch has been off for two days or less:
- Apply a brand new patch.
- Change it on the normal day that you would.
- You’re still protected if you’ve used your patch in the correct way for the last seven days. If you’re on your patch-free week, you are still protected provided you used the patch correctly in the seven days that led up to your patch-free week.
If the patch has been off for two days or more:
- Apply a brand new patch. Do not try to re-apply the old one.
- If you’re in the first or second week of your patch cycle, change it on the day you normally would.
If you’re in the third week of your patch cycle, you need to start a new cycle. When you apply a new patch, that is the first day of your first week in the cycle.
Use an additional method of contraception, like condoms, until you’ve worn a new patch for a full seven days.