Contraceptive Patch Patient Information Fact Sheet

What is a contraceptive patch?
The contraceptive patch is a thin plastic square that contains the same hormones, progestin and estrogen found in most birth control pills. Currently there is only one transdermal contraceptive patch approved called Ortho Evra (norelgestromin, ethinyl estradiol). The patch has a sticky side that can be attached to the skin of the stomach, buttocks, or the outside of the upper arm. The patch can also be placed on the front or back of the upper body like the shoulder blade or chest area but not on the breasts.

The hormones in the patch are absorbed through the skin and prevent pregnancy by keeping the ovaries from releasing eggs. The patch also works by causing the cervical mucus to thicken, which blocks sperm from meeting and fertilizing an egg.

How effective is a contraceptive patch?
Five out of 100 women, who use the patch each year, are likely to get pregnant. However the risk is smaller in women who use the patch correctly. The patch must be applied to the skin at the correct time.

What are the advantages?

  • Safe and effective in preventing pregnancy
  • Do not have to think about birth control when you want to have sex
  • Periods may be lighter when using the ring
  • Fewer menstrual cramps, less acne, and stronger bones
  • May reduce risk of developing non-cancerous breast tumors or other cancers that affect reproductive organs

What are the disadvantages?

  • Does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • Certain antibiotics and supplements may make the patch less effective
  • May take 1–2 months after stopping the patch before normal periods return
  • May experience skin irritation or breast tenderness