First introduced in 2002, the birth control patch is a small, thin patch that sticks to the skin on your arm, butt, back, or belly. It’s a safe and effective contraceptive that contains the hormones progestin and estrogen.
How the patch works
Because the body absorbs progestin and estrogen from the patch, it works similarly to the combination birth control pill. These hormones prevent fertilization by thickening cervical mucus. They also suppress ovulation and thin the uterine lining — preventing implantation.
The birth control patch does not impact your ability to become pregnant in the future.
How often you need to do something
You’ll need to change your patch once a week on the same day for three weeks for it to remain effective. Pull your old patch off and change to your new patch. You’ll wear the patch for three weeks, then take a week off where you’ll have your period. You can swim, bathe, shower, and exercise with the patch on. It’s important not to remove it during the week you’re wearing it.
Benefits and drawbacks
Before starting on the patch, learn about the pluses and minuses to see if it’s right for you.
- Easy and effective form of birth control
- Doesn’t interfere with sex and doesn’t require partner participation
- Doesn’t require you to take a pill at the same time every day
- Only need to replace it once a week
- Can be removed at any time if you decide you want to get pregnant
- Can help regulate your menstrual cycle
- Doesn’t protect against STIs
- Requires you to change your patch on the same day every week
- Can cause more estrogen-related side effects than the combination birth control pill such as blood clots, stroke, heart attack, liver cancer, liver disease, and high blood pressure
- Minor side effects can include skin irritation, breast tenderness, menstrual pain, nausea, headaches, weight gain, mood swings, fatigue, and acne, although these often resolve after a few months
- It may not be as effective for people with a BMI over 30
The birth control patch is 99% effective at preventing pregnancy when used properly. If you start on the patch within five days of your period start date, you’re protected against pregnancy right away. If you start the patch at another time in your cycle, use backup birth control like a condom for the first seven days.
Where and how to get it
Your health care provider or a family planning clinic will need to prescribe the patch. Your provider should review a full health history to ensure it’s safe for you. You may need a follow-up appointment once you’ve been on the patch for a couple of months.
The average cost of the birth control patch is between $60 and $90 a month. Most insurance plans and government health programs cover the costs, including medical visits.
Most healthy premenopausal women are eligible for the patch, although it isn’t recommended for those with a BMI of 30 or more. Medical conditions such as a history of blood clots, cancer, stroke, migraines, unexplained vaginal bleeding, or diabetes may also prevent you from using the patch. Review your health history, current medications, and allergies when talking with your provider.
Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team
- “Birth Control Patch.” Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood. 2020. https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control/birth-control-patch.
- “Birth Control Patch.” TeensHealth. Nemours. January 2017. https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/contraception-patch.html.
- Healthline Editorial Team. “Birth Control Patch.” Healthline. Healthline Media. December 16, 2016. https://www.healthline.com/health/birth-control-patch.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Birth control patch.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. January 26, 2019. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/birth-control-patch/about/pac-20384553