Side effects of the patch

As the patch uses the same hormones as the combined pill, it’s likely to have similar effects on the body.

However, also like the pill, the patch affects each person differently. Some people will experience side effects and others won’t.

It’s best to keep a record of any symptoms you’re worried about.

Common side effects

Commonly reported side effects include headaches, nausea and breast tenderness.

Less common side effects

Weight gain

Some people report that they gain weight on the contraceptive patch, although there’s no evidence linking weight gain and the patch.

Lower sex drive

Some people report either a reduced or increased interest in sex. Again, no evidence directly links changes in sex drive and the contraceptive patch, as many things can affect your libido.

Read more about contraception and sex drive.

Mood changes

Some people experience mood changes on the contraceptive patch but, once more, there’s no consistent evidence to suggest that the patch causes depression.

However, we can consider research on the pill and mental health because of the similar hormones used in the combined pill and the patch.

Evidence for it – very large Danish study found that people using the combined pill had a higher risk of being prescribed antidepressants by their doctor than those who didn’t use the pill.

Evidence against it – studies in Australia, Finland and the US compared self-reported depression scores between users and non-users of the combined pill but found no consistent difference.

If you experience mood changes on the patch, it’s important to record how you feel. This can help reveal any link between your mood, the patch or anything else in your life.

Rare side effects

While the oestrogen in the contraceptive patch can make hair thicker, a rare side effect is that the progestogen can cause hair loss on the head.

Some people may experience a skin blemish called chloasma. Chloasma is a mark (or area of darker pigment) that appears over the cheeks and nose as a response to hormone changes. It’s usually mild, but it may not go away, even after stopping the contraceptive patch.

What to do if you experience side effects 

Everyone experiences different types of hormonal contraception differently. If you're getting side effects that you do not like, keep a record of how you feel on it, then try a different method to see whether it’s any better.

Sometimes it can be hard to know if any symptoms you have are because of your contraception or something else.  

We recommend that you: 

  • keep a record of any side effects to see how they change over time

  • discuss it with your clinician, particularly if it carries on after using the contraception for 3 months

  • stop if you have unpleasant side effects over a longer period of time, and try an alternative method of contraception

Sometimes it takes a lot of trial and error before finding the right method of contraception for you. And what’s right for you may change over time. So just because one method suited you in the past, doesn’t mean it will suit you now.

Everything you wanted to know about sexual health and wellbeing - your questions answered by our expert team.