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Contraceptive patch

A woman can get pregnant if a man’s sperm reaches one of her eggs (ova). Contraception tries to stop this happening by keeping the egg and sperm apart or by stopping egg production. One method of contraception is the contraceptive patch.

The contraceptive patch is a sticky patch, a bit like a nicotine patch. It delivers hormones into your body through your skin. 

We have included further information about the patch below to help you make an informed choice about your contraception. After reading it, if you think the patch is the right contraception choice for you, book an appointment at one of our clinics or come along to a Walk-in and wait clinic.*

*Please note our Walk-in and wait slots are limited and can on occasion incur a 2 hour wait.

The contraceptive patch is not suitable for everyone. If you are thinking of using it, our doctor or nurse will need to ask you about your health and your family’s medical history- this is to make sure the patch is suitable for you. It is very important to tell them about any illnesses or operations you have had or medications you are currently taking.

About the patch

  • Each patch lasts for one week. You change the patch every week for 3 weeks, then have a week off without a patch
  • You don't need to think about it every day, and it's still effective if you vomit or have diarrhoea
  • You can wear the patch in the bath, in the swimming pool and while playing sports
  • If you have heavy or painful periods, the patch can help
  • The patch can increase blood pressure, and some women get temporary side effects, such as headaches.
  • The patch may protect against ovarian cancer, womb cancer and colon cancer
  • The patch may not be suitable for women who smoke and who are thirty five or over, or who weigh 90kg (14 stone) or more
  • The patch does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), so using a condom as well will help to protect you against STIs

How you use the patch

You can use the contraceptive patch on most areas of your body, as long as the skin is clean, dry and not very hairy. 

You apply a new patch once a week (every seven days) for 3 weeks and then stop using the patch for 7 days. This is known as your patch-free week. During your patch-free week you will get a withdrawal bleed, like a period, although this may not always happen.

After 7 patch-free days, you apply a new patch and start the 4 week cycle again. Start your new cycle even if you are still bleeding.

You should not stick the patch on:

  • Sore or irritated skin 
  • Anywhere it may get rubbed off by tight clothing 
  • Your breasts

When you first start using the patch, you can vary the position every time you use a new patch to reduce your risk of irritation.

When the patch starts to work

If you start using the patch on the first day of your period, it starts working straight away. This means you can have sex without getting pregnant.

The Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare guidance states that if you start using the patch in the first 5 days of your menstrual cycle, you will be protected and won't need to use additional contraception.

If you start using it on any other day, you need to use an additional form of contraception, such as condoms, for the first 7 days.

Download the Family Planning Association guide to the contraceptive patch.