The contraceptive patch is a small square (5cm x 5cm) beige coloured patch, similar to a plaster which helps protect against pregnancy. It can be applied to the abdomen, buttocks, upper arm, or upper torso. It CANNOT be applied to the breasts or to broken/irritated skin.

How it works

The patch releases two hormones, oestrogen and progestogen into the bloodstream through the skin. The hormones work mainly by stopping the ovaries from releasing an egg every month and by thickening cervical mucus and thinning the womb lining. Thicker cervical mucus makes it harder for sperm to reach an egg and a thinner womb lining prevents a fertilised egg implanting.

You need to wear a new patch every week (7 days) for 3 weeks and then the 4th week go without a patch. You may have a bleed similar to a normal period during the patch free week. When the patch free week is over, the cycle starts again. The patch needs to be thrown away as soon as is has been removed and a new patch must be put on immediately.

When used correctly, the patch is over 99% effective against pregnancy but it doesn't protect against STIs. (Only Condoms protect against STIs)

The benefits of using a patch

There are several benefits of using the patch including:

  • It lasts for a week so you don't need to think about it every day
  • It isn't affected if you have diarrhoea or vomit
  • Your fertility quickly returns to normal when/if you stop using the patch
  • It may help protect you against various types of cancer such as colon, ovary and uterus

If the patch is worn on the first day of your period, it will protect against pregnancy immediately. If worn at any other time, you will need to use another form of contraception for the first 7 days of using the patch.