What you need to know about the patch

The contraceptive patch is a 5cm by 5cm sticky beige patch. It looks a bit like a plaster you use to cover a cut on your skin. It contains synthetic versions of the body’s reproductive hormones, oestrogen and progesterone.

The patch releases these hormones at a controlled rate and they get absorbed into your bloodstream through your skin.

Also known as

  • Evra patch

The patch is great for people who want to have more control over their bleeding pattern. It requires action every week, rather than every day like the pill, so it may be useful for people with busy schedules. If you can link changing it to something that you do every week then that can be helpful. It has similar advantages and disadvantages to the combined pill.

Dr Paula Baraitser. Medical Director, SH:24

Likelihood of getting pregnant over 1 year

The patch is highly effective at preventing pregnancy if you remember to change it on time. Used perfectly, the patch is over 99% effective.

But none of us is perfect and it's more usual for people to be late with a patch or not follow the instructions exactly. So with more typical use, it's 91% effective. This means typically 9 in 100 people using the patch will get pregnant in one year.

The patch is a good option if you...

  • are happy to wear a small, beige plaster on your skin

  • get heavy or painful periods

  • get a lot of spots or acne

  • have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), unwanted hair growth or acne

  • have endometriosis or premenstrual syndrome (PMS)

It's not a good option if you...

  • have a higher risk of thrombosis – including people who’ve had it themselves or have a family history of thrombosis

  • smoke and are aged over 35, as this causes a higher risk of heart disease

You can choose when you bleed

You can use the patch in 3 different ways. You can choose to have no bleeding at all, a regular monthly bleed or a bleed every 3 months. When you do bleed, it will be lighter, shorter and less painful than your usual period.

Improves acne

Many women find they have fewer problems with acne when they use the contraceptive patch.

It can reduce the risk of some cancers but increase others

The contraceptive patch uses very similar hormones to the combined pill. This means that they have the same effects, including reducing the risks of cancers of the ovary, uterus and colon but slightly increasing the risk of breast cancer.

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