What is it?
A sticky patch, a bit like a nicotine patch, that delivers oestrogen and progestogen into your skin. Each patch lasts for one week. You use a new one each week for three weeks, then have a week off.
How does it work?
It works like the combined pill, as it contains the same hormones. This means it:
- Prevents ovulation (the release of an egg).
- Thickens cervical mucus, making it harder for sperm to travel through the cervix.
- Thins the womb lining, making it unlikely an egg will implant itself there.
How effective is it?
When used correctly the patch is over 99% effective. This means that less than one woman in 100 who use the patch will become pregnant in a year.
You don't have to think about it every day, and it is still effective if you have vomiting or diarrhoea.
Because the patch prevents ovulation, you don't have a period; instead, you have a monthly 'withdrawal bleed', which can be lighter and shorter than a period. So if you have heavy or painful periods, the patch can help.
The patch can also protect against cancers of the ovary, womb and colon, and some pelvic infections.
Anything else to know about?
It can increase blood pressure, and some women get temporary side effects such as headaches. You also need to remember to change the patch every week.
You can wear the patch in the bath, in the swimming pool and while playing sports.
A small number of women develop a blood clot when using the patch, but this is not common.
The patch may not be suitable for women who smoke.
If you aren't in a monogamous (faithful) relationship you should help protect yourself against sexually transmitted infections by using condoms as well as the patch.