BIRTH CONTROL PATCH

The birth control patch for women is a type of contraception that contains the hormones estrogen and progestin. You place the small patch on your skin once a week for three weeks, so that you wear a patch for a total of 21 days. During the fourth week, you don't wear a patch — which allows menstrual bleeding to occur.

The birth control patch works similarly to combination birth control pills. The birth control patch prevents pregnancy by releasing hormones into your bloodstream that keep your ovaries from releasing an egg (ovulation). The birth control patch also thickens cervical mucus to keep sperm from reaching an egg.

Risks

Compared to oral contraceptives, less than one out of 100 women will get pregnant during the first year of typical use of the birth control patch.

The birth control patch doesn't protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Side effects of the birth control patch may include:

  • An increased risk of blood-clotting problems, heart attack, stroke, liver cancer, gallbladder disease and high blood pressure
  • Breakthrough bleeding or spotting
  • Skin irritation
  • Breast tenderness or pain
  • Menstrual pain
  • Headaches
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Mood swings
  • Weight gain
  • Dizziness
  • Acne
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle spasms
  • Vaginal infections and discharge
  • Fatigue
  • Fluid retention

Research shows that the birth control patch may increase estrogen levels in the body compared to combination birth control pills that are taken by mouth. You may have a slightly higher risk of estrogen-related adverse events, such as blood clots, while using the patch than if you took combination birth control pills.