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Contraception

Contraceptive patch

What it is

The contraceptive patch, also called Evra, is a small beige patch applied to the skin like a sticky plaster, which protects against pregnancy.

How it works

The patch releases two hormones, oestrogen and progestogen into the bloodstream through the skin. Like the combined pill it stops the ovaries from releasing an egg for fertilisation every month. It also thickens the mucus around the cervix, which makes it difficult for sperm to get into the womb. Patches can be worn discreetly on most areas of the body. The patch provides protection from pregnancy straight away only if started on the first day of your period and worn continuously for seven days. On the eighth day it should be changed, by removing it, throwing it away carefully and immediately putting on a new one. The patch should be changed every week for three weeks.

After three weeks you don’t wear a patch for seven days. During the patch-free week you may bleed as in a normal period. After seven patch-free days a new one is applied and the four week cycle of three weeks with a patch, one week without starts again.

Advantages

  • Does not interrupt sex.
  • Can be worn while swimming, having a bath or exercising.

Disadvantages

  • Does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
  • Contains the same hormones as the combined pill, which in a small number of women can cause serious side effects such as blood clots.

How effective is it?

The patch is 99% effective when used properly. This means that one in every 100 women who use the patch get pregnant every year. It is less effective if not used according to the instructions.

What makes it less effective?

  • Forgetting to change the patch after seven days.
  • If the patch falls off and is not reapplied or if a new one is not put on immediately.
  • Use of some prescription medicines including some antibiotics, medicines used to treat epilepsy, HIV and TB and the complementary medicine St John’s Wort.

Can anyone use this method?

The contraceptive patch is not suitable for all women. A doctor or nurse will need to know about a woman's medical history and any illnesses suffered by immediate members of her family to find out if there are any medical reasons why it might not be suitable.

Where can you get them?

Click here for local clinics or from GPs.

For more information visit: http://www.fpa.org.uk/contraception-help/contraceptive-patch