Anyone who has a womb, who has sex with a partner who has a penis, and wants to avoid getting pregnant. It may also stop periods, or make them lighter. The patch releases a daily dose of hormones through the skin into the bloodstream to prevent pregnancy.
The contraceptive patch is a small sticky patch that releases hormones into your body through your skin to prevent pregnancy. In the UK, the patch's brand name is Evra. When used correctly, the patch is more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.
It contains the same hormones as the combined pill – oestrogen and progestogen – and works in the same way by preventing the release of an egg each month (ovulation). It also thickens cervical mucus, which makes it more difficult for sperm to move through the cervix, and thins the womb lining so a fertilised egg is less likely to be able to implant itself.
Each patch lasts for 1 week. You change the patch every week for 3 weeks, then have a week off without a patch.
Apply your first patch and wear it for 7 days. On day 8, change the patch to a new one. Change it like this every week for 3 weeks, and then have a patch-free week.
During your patch-free week you'll get a withdrawal bleed, like a period, although this may not always happen.
After 7 patch-free days, apply a new patch and start the 4-week cycle again. Start your new cycle even if you're still bleeding.
It's very useful for people who find it difficult to remember to take a pill at the same time every day.
You can wear it in the bath, when swimming and while playing sports.
If you have heavy or painful periods, the patch can help.
The patch does not protect your from STIs, so it should be used alongside a barrier method (e.g. condoms, dental dams) if you are having sex with someone who does not know their STI status, or if you do not know yours.
The patch can raise your blood pressure, and some people get temporary side effects, such as headaches. Rarely, some people develop a blood clot when using the patch.
At the moment, the patches available in the UK only come in a very pale colour, which makes them more visible for those using them with darker skin tones.
Speak to your GP or local sexual health professional about getting the patch.
Stick the patch directly onto your skin. You can put it onto most areas of your body, as long as the skin is clean, dry and not very hairy. You shouldn't stick the patch onto:
- sore or irritated skin
- an area where it may get rubbed off by tight clothing
- your breasts
It's a good idea to change the position of each new patch to help reduce the chance of skin irritation.
real life experiences
"I'd tried 4 types of the pill, an IUD, the implant - none of them worked for me. I'd never heard of the patch until my GP told me about it. I didn't expect it to work for me as it uses the same hormones as the pill, but one of my main problems with the pill was forgetting to take it. The patch has worked wonderfully for me, my hormones seemed to have leveled out. I feel happier on it, and I still have my periods - but they are way more manageable. Sometimes people ask what it is when they see it, but I don't mind explaining." Lara she/her