Birth Control Patch: 7 Facts You Should Know

Siena Team
15 Jun 2021

Credit: Illustration by Siena Health

Don’t shy away from the birth control patch! Simple and convenient, it’s a seamless integration into your everyday routine and here are the reasons why.

With a variety of birth control to choose from, you may or may not have overlooked the birth control patch as another great alternative for your contraception needs. Or perhaps you’re unfamiliar with how the patch works and would rather stick to methods you’re used to. Nevertheless, the birth control patch is meant to be just as effective as birth control pills and may even be easier to use. 

A quick survey of the local landscape surrounding birth control based on a 2016 survey study: Singaporean women have low awareness and knowledge of hormonal intrauterine devices (IUD), the patch and the vaginal ring. This was the first survey study that assessed Singaporean women’s awareness and knowledge of contraception in Singapore. Thus, there were only a sparse few who actually used the patch. (Source: Singapore Medical Journal

Even though the patch may not be as popular as condoms or the pills, it works just the same in helping you prevent pregnancy. Especially if you dislike popping pills or if you’re afraid of going through with bigger commitments such as the implants and IUD, the patch is a perfect midway option. 

Read on as we cover how the birth control patch works, its benefits, and more!

1. The patch works by delivering hormones through your skin and into your bloodstream

Similar to birth control pills, the birth control patch contains two hormones estrogen and progesterone, which work together to prevent pregnancy by suppressing ovulation. When you wear the patch, it releases these hormones which your body subsequently absorbs through the skin.

The patch is able to stop ovulation while the hormones in the patch also thicken the cervical mucus, preventing sperm from entering the uterus. The hormones also thin the uterine lining which makes the implantation of a fertilised egg difficult.

Similar to birth control pills, the birth control patch is 99 percent effective in preventing pregnancy with perfect usage. But in real-life conditions, such as incorrect application or forgetting to replace the patch, they become about 91 percent effective. In comparison to the pill, however, the patch is a great alternative if you find daily pill-popping a hassle.

2. The patch is designed to be fun-sized and discreet 

Image credit: Siena Health

The birth control patch looks like a plaster, as it is a small and sticky square patch that is usually thin and beige in colour.

Worried about them being too obvious? You can apply them to the skin on your upper outer arm, abdomen, buttocks or upper torso. Take note: do not apply the birth control patch to your breasts or somewhere easily irritated by clothing.

3. You only need to think of the patch once a week

Application

The following steps are really important to ensure you use the patch accurately and effectively. 

Firstly, open the pouch containing the patch and remove the protective film. Apply the sticky side of the patch onto your skin by exerting slight pressure for at least 10 seconds to ensure it is properly attached before smoothing out any wrinkles. 

Thereafter, you can change your birth control patch each week over a period of three weeks and go without the patch during the fourth week. Similar to getting your period, you’ll experience withdrawal bleeding. After the fourth week has ended, start your next cycle with a new patch.

For first-time users of the patch 

Once the birth control patch has been prescribed to you, apply the first patch during the first 24 hours of your period. It becomes effective immediately after application within the first five days of your period. And yes, now you don’t have to worry about relying on any other back-up contraceptive methods! 

Alternatively, if you decide to use the first patch on the first Sunday after your period has started or you apply your first patch more than five days after your period started, the patch will not take effect immediately. Meanwhile, you should use an additional form of contraception (i.e. condoms) for the next seven days.  

Mark your calendars — note down the first day you apply the birth control patch and designate it as your next “patch-change” day! 

Each patch lasts for seven days so you’ll have to keep it on throughout and replace the patch exactly one week from the date you first applied it.

Extra tips:

  • Apply the patch on completely clean and dry skin
  • Avoid using lotion, oil, powder and makeup on the area you plan to apply the patch to
  • Try to store your unused birth control patches in a dry and room-temperature environment away from direct sunlight
  • Do not remove the patch from the pouch if you don’t intend to use it yet

4. Fuss-free removal process

Image credit: wikiHow

To remove the birth control patch, all you need to do is peel off the old one and replace it with a new one. It’s best to fold the adhesive sides of the old patch together before disposal so that it is not exposed. Do not flush the patch in the toilet as this may contaminate the water supply with hormones.

5. Do daily checks on your patch

This is an unlikely scenario as the birth control patch is designed to be firmly attached to your skin. You can safely shower, exercise and even swim with the patch. 

But in the event the patch does come loose or fall off, there are ways to get back on track! 

Prone to bad memory and sticking to a schedule? Don’t freak out because even if you really do forget to change your patch and it’s been less than two days (48 hours), just reapply a patch immediately and subsequently change your patch on the same day as the previous patch. If it’s only come loose, you can stick it back on and continue using it. 

However, if the patch has come off for more than two days or you’re unsure how long it has been since the patch fell off, reapply a new patch immediately and use another birth control method for at least a week. You’ll also have to begin a new four-week cycle and take note of the day you applied the replacement patch. The day on which you apply the new patch will be the new “first day” of the new application cycle. 

It’s uncommon for the birth control patch to fall off if you’ve followed the instructions closely. To prevent it from happening, try to cultivate a habit of checking your patch daily to ensure it’s still firmly attached to your skin. If the patch does not completely stick to your skin, immediately replace it with a new patch.

There is also a handy tool available online if you ever lose track of your birth control schedule and require help ASAP! 

6. The patch has other non-contraceptive benefits 

Similar to the benefits of other forms of hormonal birth control, the hormones in the patch can also help to lighten and regulate your periods while alleviating symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). It can even lower the risks of developing cysts in your breasts and ovaries. (Source: Planned Parenthood)

7. You can use your birth control patch to skip your period

A long-awaited holiday trip coming up? Attending a pool party in a couple of weeks? Or simply longing to head to the beach? With the birth control patch, you can be sure to leave all your period worries behind during times like these!

If you’d like to skip your period altogether, use the patch every week. This means starting a new pack of patches every three weeks without any break in between (i.e. continue using the patch during the fourth week). By doing this, the constant stream of hormones in your bloodstream eliminates your monthly withdrawal bleed.

What are you waiting for? 

Surely by now, you’re more familiar with the various upsides of the birth control patch and why it’s so convenient and easily reversible! Using the patch is definitely an effortless and painless process since it only needs to be applied once a week.

Feel free to check in with any of Siena’s female doctors before trying out or switching to a new birth control method. We’re most happy to help you find your most suitable, discreet and favoured birth control!

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