Easy to use and works like the pill, but you only have to worry about it once a week.
The patch is a thin, beige piece of plastic that looks like a square Band-Aid. It’s a little less than two inches across, and comes in one—and only one—color. (Beige.) You stick the patch on your skin and it gives off hormones that prevent your ovaries from releasing eggs. The hormones also thicken your cervical mucus, which helps to block sperm from getting to the egg in the first place. Ortho Evra is the brand name, but most people just call it the patch.
Less effort than the pill
If you’re the kind of person who would have trouble remembering to take a pill every day, the patch might be a good option. You only need to remember to do something once a week.
You weigh less than 198 pounds
The patch is less effective if you weigh more than 198 pounds. (Random number, right?) So take that into consideration.
If you’re the type of gal who feels comforted by getting her period every month—and by not having random spotting in between—then this might just be the choice for you.
Smokers over 35, beware
If you’re over 35, smoking on the patch increases your risk of certain side effects. And if you’re younger, why not quit now and save yourself the trouble?
The pregnancy question
You’ll be able to get pregnant right after going off the patch. So don’t take any chances. If you’re not ready for a baby, protect yourself with another method.
This method may be free or low-cost for you.
The Patch costs about $55 per month without insurance, a little more than other prescription methods, but it’s effective and a snap to use.
- With Medicaid: Free or a small co-pay
- With insurance: $0. Great news. Preventive health services like birth control are covered for no additional charge now.
- Without insurance: About $26 for 3 patches (1 month’s worth) + $100 yearly exam at Title X/low-cost health centers; $70 for 3 patches + $150 yearly exam at other providers
- Payment assistance: Ask your doctor/health center for extra samples, or contact the Partnership for Prescription Assistance at 1-888-4-PPA-NOW (1-888-477-2669) or www.pparx.org or www.access2wellness.com at 1-866-317-2775. And make sure to check with your local family planning health centers and find out if they offer free or low-cost patches (many do)
To see how this translates over a year, here’s what it would cost to pay for the patch month-to-month at full price.
- Cost per month over one year: $34 at Title X/low-cost health centers or $82 at other providers
* FYI: This info is based on a recent survey of Title X clinics in Colorado and birth control manufacturers. Your cost may vary. Some health centers accept private insurance; some don’t. If you don’t have private insurance, be sure to ask your doctor or health center about Title X (a federal family planning program), Medicaid, or other programs that could reduce the cost of your birth control.
The patch is simple to use.
The only tricky part is remembering the schedule for putting the patch on and taking it off. You can put the patch on your butt, stomach, upper outer arm, or upper torso (back)—never on your boobs, though. Just stick a single, new patch on once a week for three weeks in a row, then go patchless (no patch) for the fourth week. For example, let’s say it’s Tuesday and you put on a new patch. Tuesday becomes your “patch change day.” In other words, patches will always go on (or off) on Tuesdays. You’ll probably get your period during the patchless week, and you may still be bleeding when it’s time to put the patch back on. That’s totally normal. Put it on anyway.
Check out these tips and tricks to make the whole thing easier.
If you start the patch within the first 5 days of your period, you’re protected from pregnancy right away. If you start later, you’ll have to wait 7 days before you’re protected, and you’ll need to use a backup method, such as a condom.
Think carefully about where you want to stick the patch—it’ll be there for a full week. Like, what will you be wearing? How squishy is your flesh in each spot? (If you’ve got a bit of a tummy that makes folds, for example, the stomach may not be the spot for you.)
Only peel off half of the clear plastic at first, so you’ll have a non-sticky side to hold on to.
Don’t touch the sticky part of the patch with your fingers. It’s not easy to unstick.
Press the patch down for a full 10 seconds to get a good, firm stick.
Don’t use body lotion, oil, powder, creamy soaps (like Dove or Caress) or makeup on the spot where you put your patch. Stuff like that can keep the patch from sticking.
Check your patch every day to make sure it’s sticking right.
Fuzz happens. You’ll probably get a bit of lint build-up around the edges, so plan accordingly. You can use baby oil to get any remaining adhesive off your skin.
When you take a patch off, fold it in half before you throw it in the trash. That’ll help keep hormones out of the soil. And don’t flush them. The earth will thank you.
There are positive and negative things to say
about each and every method. And everyone’s different—so what you experience may not be the same as what your friend experiences.
Positive “side effects”? You bet. There are actually lots of things about birth control that are good for your body as well as your sex life.
- Easy to use—it’s like sticking on a Band Aid
- Doesn’t interrupt the heat of the moment
- Might give you more regular, lighter periods
- May clear up acne
- Can reduce menstrual cramps and PMS
- Offers protection against some nasty health problems, like endometrial and ovarian cancer, iron deficiency anemia, ovarian cysts, and pelvic inflammatory disease
Everyone worries about negative side effects, but for most women, they’re not a problem. Remember, you’re introducing hormones into your body, so it can take a few months to adjust. Give it time.
Things that will probably go away after two or three months:
- Bleeding in between periods
- Breast tenderness
- Nausea and vomiting
Things that may last longer:
- Irritation where the patch sits on your skin
- A change in your sex drive
If you still feel uncomfortable after three months, switch methods and stay protected. You’re worth it.
*For a very small number of women there are risks of serious side effects.
We’re here to get this method working better for you.
And if it still doesn’t feel right, we’ve got ideas for other methods. Just remember: If you change methods, make sure you’re protected while you switch.
The patch keeps falling off.
Patches fall off only about 5% of the time—so not very often. But if the patch falls off, don’t worry. You can stick the same patch back on if it’s been less than 24 hours and the patch is still sticky. Or, you can just apply a new patch.
DO NOT use bandages, tape, or adhesive to make a non-sticky patch stick. The hormones that keep you from getting pregnant are mixed with the adhesive, so if it won’t stick, it’s also not going to be effective as birth control.
Try this: Make sure you don’t use any “lotions or potions” (you know, powders, creams, medications, etc.) on your skin where you put the patch. Even moisturizing after the shower can interfere with the patch sticking. Even applying it in a steamy bathroom after your shower can result in moist skin and poor sticking power.
I’m having some skin irritation.
Some women do experience irritation from the adhesive.
Try this: You could try moving it to another recommended spot to see if that lessens the effect. You can also put a little over the counter cortisone cream on the irritated area and it will probably get better quickly. Or, if you’ve been moving it around, try keeping it in one spot.
Still not working?
If it doesn’t get any better, you might consider a method without adhesive, or a method you don’t have to change as frequently as the patch such as the shot, the implant, an IUD, or the ring.
I don’t like the hormonal side effects
Try this: First, give it a couple months to settle.
Real Stories (English)
Scott and his girlfriend started with condoms until they both got tested for STIs. After that, she started with birth control pills, but moved on to the patch. He thinks it’s more convenient than having to take a pill every day. At first he was concerned about whether it would stick on her skin long enough to work, but they’ve had no problems with it. And Scott admits that he might not stay on top of the patch if it was he who had to wear it, but he sure appreciates that his girlfriend is responsible enough to stick with it.
Angela wears the patch where she can see it and changes it as part of her Sunday routine. And she still uses condoms for STIs—being “double protected can never hurt.”
Kristin has no problem remembering her patch “change day,” but reminds those who do that there are stickers in the box to help stay on track.
Geraldine finds that the patch fits perfectly into her busy, structured life. She loves the predictability of her periods and finds the once a week patch change easy to manage. So what if she wants to shake up the routine a bit? She just might put the next patch on the other butt cheek. But she’ll still stick it there right on schedule.