A contraceptive skin patch is a hormonal method of birth control. A small adhesive patch is worn on the skin; it releases hormones that are absorbed by the body. The hormones released are estrogen and progestin, which prevent a woman's body from ovulating (releasing an egg). In addition, progestin causes the mucus within the cervix to thicken, making it difficult for the sperm to reach the egg. The contraceptive skin patch is a convenient form of birth control because, unlike oral contraceptives, which have to be taken daily, the patch is used for a week at a time.
Prescription and Use of the Contraceptive Skin Patch
A contraceptive skin patch is prescribed by a physician after a physical examination. The doctor determines which levels of hormones are appropriate for each individual. The patch can be worn on the chest, buttocks, arm, upper back or abdomen. A new patch is worn for a week at a time, for a total of 3 weeks in a row. On the fourth week, a patch is not worn, which allows menstruation to occur.
Benefits of the Contraceptive Skin Patch
The contraceptive skin patch can be removed, if desired, at any time. In addition to preventing pregnancy, a contraceptive skin patch has all the benefits of hormonal methods of birth control, which include the following:
- Lighter and shorter periods
- Reduced menstrual cramps
- Decrease in acne
- Decreased risk of uterine and ovarian cancers
Hormonal birth control methods such as the skin patch may also be used to treat abnormal or painful uterine bleeding, and endometriosis.
Risks of the Contraceptive Skin Patch
Although the contraceptive skin patch is a common and safe form of birth control, it does have some side effects and risks, which include the following:
- Skin irritation
- Irregular bleeding
- Heart attack
- Blood clot
- Weight gain
- High blood pressure
The contraceptive skin patch does not provide any protection against HIV or sexually transmitted diseases. Women who are older than 35 or who smoke have a much higher risk of heart attack or stroke when using hormonal birth control methods such as the contraceptive skin patch.
No contraception method is 100 percent effective. Women should consult with their doctors about the different types of oral contraception available, and to get answers to any questions they may have about contraception and family planning.