Other names: hormonal method
What is the contraceptive patch?
The contraceptive patch is placed on the skin like a plaster and prevents pregnancy by releasing two hormones into your bloodstream – oestrogen and progesterone.
Each contraceptive patch lasts for 1 week.
The contraceptive patch is a type of short-acting contraceptive
The contraceptive patch belongs to a category of contraceptives called short-acting contraception. Short-acting contraceptives need to be taken frequently – either every time you have sex, daily, weekly or monthly.
The patch is a type of short-acting contraception called a short-acting hormonal contraceptive. The combined pill, the progestogen-only pill, the patch and the vaginal ring are all examples of short-acting hormonal contraception.
How does the patch work?
The contraceptive patch works similarly to the combined pill. Once applied to the skin, the patch releases a daily dose of hormones through the skin into the bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream, the hormones work in two ways to prevent pregnancy:
Stops the ovaries from releasing eggs (ovulation).
Thickens the cervical mucus to make it more difficult for sperm to move through the cervix and into the uterus (womb).
How effective is the patch?
The patch is 91% effective with typical use, meaning that 9 out of 100 women using this method for one year will get pregnant. When used perfectly it can be over 99% effective. Forgetting to change your patch on time can make this method less effective. The patch may not be so effective if you weigh 90kg (14 stone) or more - an alternative method may be advisable.
What is the contraceptive patch made of?
The contraceptive patch is a thin, beige coloured square patch that sticks to the skin like a plaster. It measures nearly 5cm x 5cm in size. It contains two types of hormones, a progestogen and an oestrogen. These are similar to the natural hormones produced by the ovaries and are like those used in the combined pill.
Yes. The patch continuously releases hormones – oestrogen and a progestogen – throughout the entire body.
The contraceptive patch isn't suitable for everyone, so if you're thinking of using it, a GP or nurse will need to ask about you and your family's medical history.
You may not be able to use the patch if:
You're pregnant or think you may be pregnant.
You're breastfeeding a baby less than 6 weeks old.
You smoke and are 35 years old or over.
You're 35 or over and stopped smoking less than a year ago.
You're very overweight.
You're taking certain medicines, such as St John's Wort, or medicines used to treat epilepsy, tuberculosis (TB) or HIV.
You may also not be able to use the patch if you have or have had:
Blood clots in a vein or artery (or an immediate family member had a blood clot before they were 45).
A heart problem.
High blood pressure (hypertension)
Some blood conditions that increase your chance of getting a blood clot, such as lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus).
Migraine with aura.
Disease of the liver or gallbladder.
PP-UN-WHC-GB-0079 September 2023