Contraception Hormonal Methods The Patch

The birth control patch is generally considered one of many safe, convenient and effective birth control methods for women. However, the patch isn’t for everyone, and as with all methods of hormonal birth control methods, there are some risks associated with the patch, also known as the “ortho patch.”

How the Birth Control Patch Works

The birth control patch is a small, adhesive patch (about 1.75 square inches) designed to stick firmly to skin. Each patch releases a combination of estrogen and progestin through the skin for seven days.

The Patch - Contraceptive Patch - Hormonal Birth Control

These released hormones work in several different ways, including:

  • Changing the uterine lining, in order to decrease the likelihood of a fertilized egg implanting.
  • Making the cervical mucus much thicker, making it more difficult to sperm to move through the uterine canal.
  • Preventing ovulation, so a woman’s body doesn’t release an egg.

Benefits and Risks of the Patch

There are several advantages of using the patch, rather than other birth control methods, including:

  • Ability to become pregnant quickly when patch use is discontinued
  • Changed only once a week (as opposed to most daily birth control pills)
  • Easy to use
  • More regular, lighter and shorter periods (sometimes)
  • Relatively inexpensive ($15 to $40 per month).

As with all medications, there are a few possible side effects associated with the patch, including:

  • Breast tenderness
  • Headache
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Nausea
  • Rash or redness at the site of the patch.

The birth control patch is considered safe for most women. However, you should consider other birth control methods if you:

  • Are over 35 and smokes cigarettes
  • Have a history of heart attacks, certain cancers, or stroke
  • Have blood clots
  • Think you might be pregnant.

While the birth control patch is the best birth control option for many women, it does not prevent against sexually transmitted diseases.

Birth Control Patch Success Rates

The patch is among the most successful birth control options available. According to the National Institutes of Health, over the course of a year, only about 1 unwanted pregnancy occurs for every 100 women using the ortho patch.

Proper Use of the Patch

The birth control patch can be worn on the lower abdomen, buttocks or upper arm (but not on the breast). You can keep the ortho patch on while performing normal daily activities, such as:

  • Exercising
  • Showering
  • Sleeping.

Over a four-week period, women apply one birth control patch per week for three weeks. During the fourth week, no patch is worn and the menstrual period begins. If the patch falls off during the week, back-up contraception may be necessary.


Centers for Disease Control Staff. (2009). Unintended pregnancy prevention: Contraception. Retrieved February 7, 2010, from the Centers for Disease Control web site:

National Institutes of Health Staff. (2009). Birth control and family planning. Retrieved February 7, 2010, from the National Institutes of Health web site:

Planned Parenthood Staff. (2010). Birth control patch. Retrieved February 7, 2010, from the Planned Parenthood web site: