The patch releases oestrogen and progesterone into your blood stream.

Patch: an overview

The contraceptive patch is a small, sticky, beige patch that sticks to your skin. It releases the hormones oestrogen and progesterone, which are absorbed through your skin, and into your bloodstream.

They are being increasingly used in the UK and are available free on the NHS.

You can book an appointment for contraception at axess here.

Lasts for
Period cycle

*for perfect use (typical use 91%)

How to use it

Stick the contraceptive patch onto clean, dry, skin that will not rub against tight clothing. Do not place the patch on skin folds or creases as this will make it peel off and it may be uncomfortable.

Change the patch every week for three weeks, then have a week without a patch to have a period/withdrawal bleed. There are other regimes you may wish to use.

Why it works

The hormones prevent pregnancy by:

  • Preventing the ovaries from releasing an egg each month (ovulation)
  • Thickening the mucus in the neck of the womb, so it is harder for sperm to penetrate the womb and reach an egg
  • Thinning the lining of the womb, so there is less chance of a fertilised egg implanting into the womb.

Frequently asked questions

Who is the patch suitable for?

Most women can use the patch, but your GP or clinician will ask about your family and medical history to determine whether or not the patch is the best method for you.

The patch is not suitable for people who:

  • Are pregnant
  • Are breastfeeding
  • Weigh over 14 stone
  • Are taking certain medications
  • Are smokers (or stopped smoking less than a year ago) and are 35 or older
  • Are over 45 years old
  • Have or have had a heart abnormality, heart disease or a stroke
  • Have a blood clot in a blood vessel (thrombosis)
  • Have or have had migraines
  • Have or have had diabetes/complications for more than 20 years
  • Have or have had disease in the gallbladder or liver
  • Are immobile for long periods of time or use a wheelchair
  • Have systemic lupus erythematosus.
Does the patch cause weight gain?

Research has not shown that the patch causes weight gain.

Some people may find their weight changes throughout their cycle due to fluid retention.

The patch may increase your appetite but should settle over the first few months.

How does the contraceptive patch affect my periods?

The patch prevents ovulation and limits the build-up of the lining of the womb (endometrium) that is usually lost with your period.

This may result in a shorter, lighter and often less painful bleed but this is NOT a PERIOD as the pill stops your natural cycle.

Your bleeding pattern depends on the patch taking regime you choose (see diagram below) and whatever suits you best.

Can I miss out the patch free week?

Some people will skip the patch free week when they want to put off bleeding, for example, when they are going on holiday or want to have sex.

You can miss out the patch-free week by using another patch straight away. This isn't harmful and you will still be protected against pregnancy.

Sometimes you will still get bleeding.

How quickly does the patch start to protect me against pregnancy?

If you start using the patch in the first five days of your cycle, you will be protected from pregnancy from that day.

If you start at any other time, you should use additional contraception for seven days.

If you are currently using a different method of contraception and wish to change to patch, you should discuss this with your healthcare professional.

What do I do if the patch comes off?

If the patch has been off for less than 48 hours:

  • Replace it with a new patch (do not try to hold the old patch in place with a plaster or bandage)
  • Change your patch on your normal change day
  • You will still be protected against pregnancy as long as the patch was on properly for seven days before the patch came off
  • If this is the case, you do not need to use additional contraception
  • If you have had a patch on for six days or less before it falls off, you may not be protected against pregnancy, and should use additional contraception, such as condoms, for seven days.

If the patch has been off for 48 hours or more, or you're not sure how long it has been off:

  • Apply a new patch as soon as possible and start a new patch cycle (this will now be day one of your new cycle)
  • Use another form of contraception, such as condoms, for the next seven days
  • If you had unprotected sex in the previous few days, you may need emergency contraception.
Can I use the patch after having a baby?

If you have just had a baby, you can start the patch from six weeks after giving birth.

This is true whether you are breastfeeding or not breastfeeding. If the patch is started in the first five days of your period, the patch will be effective immediately.

If it is later than day five of your cycle, it will not be effective for seven days, so extra precautions (such as condoms) will be needed.

There is little research about the effects of the patch, combined pill, and vaginal ring on breastfeeding. However, some studies investigating starting the combined pill earlier have found no effects on either breastfeeding or on baby’s growth, health and development.

What can make the patch less effective?

Medicines used to treat epilepsy, HIV, and tuberculosis, other antibiotics, and the herbal medicine St John’s Wort can lessen the effectiveness of the contraceptive patch.

Ask your healthcare professional and read the information that comes with your medicine.

Always tell your healthcare professional that you are using a patch if you are prescribed any medicines.

The patch is not affected by vomiting or diarrhoea.

It may not be as effective for people who weigh 90kg (14 stone) or over. An alternative method may be advised.

What should I expect when beginning my use of the contraceptive patch?

When you first start using the patch, you may be given a three months supply to see how it suits you.

After that, you should go back to the doctor or nurse to get new supplies and to have your blood pressure checked.

If there are no problems, you can be given up to one year supply of patches.

Are there any possible long-term side effects of using the patch?

Side effects from using the patch include:

  • A small increased risk of some serious health conditions, such as breast cancer, which reduces with time after stopping the patch
  • A very small number of women may develop venous or arterial thrombosis (clots), heart attack or stroke
    • If you have ever had a clot, you should not use the patch.

See a doctor straightaway if you have any of the following:

  • Pain in the chest, including any sharp pain which is worse when you breathe in
  • Breathlessness
  • You cough up blood
  • Painful swelling in your leg(s)
  • Weakness, numbness or bad ‘pins and needles’ in an arm or leg
  • Severe stomach pains
  • A bad fainting attack, or you collapse
  • Unusual headache or migraines that are worse than usual
  • Sudden problems with your speech or eyesight
  • Jaundice (yellowing skin or yellowing eyes).
Can I cover the patch with make up?

No. This is not recommended.

You should also avoid covering the patch with body cream or lotions, such as suntan lotion as this may cause the patch to become loose.

Where do I stick the patch on my body?

The patch can be applied anywhere on the body except the breast area.

It is advisable to choose a flat area of skin such as your arm, buttock, back, abdomen, or thigh, as these do not bend and wrinkle, which would encourage the patch to peel off.

It is advisable that you rotate sites with each new patch to avoid the risk of irritation.