What is the patch?
The contraceptive patch (also known as “the patch”) is looks like a plaster. The patch sticks to the skin and continuously releases small amounts of the hormones oestrogen and progestin into the bloodstream to prevent pregnancy.
How does the patch work?
To prevent pregnancy, the hormones in the patch stop the ovaries from releasing eggs (a natural process known as ovulation) and the hormones also change the lining of your womb and cervix to prevent sperm from reaching the egg.
How often do you need to use the patch?
You only put on the patch once a week.
How do you use the patch?
You put on a new patch once a week for three weeks. During the fourth week, you do not wear a patch, so you can have a menstrual period. You repeat this process every month. You can apply the patch to your upper arm, buttocks, back or lower abdomen.
To apply the patch:
- Peel off the back
- Apply the patch directly to clean skin and keep it in place for one week
There is more detail on how to use the patch in the package insert, it is important to read this. Your healthcare provider will also explain how to use the patch.
Who can use the patch?
Women can safely use the patch for years as a contraception method to protect themselves against pregnancy
Who cannot use the patch?
You should not use the patch if:
- You are breastfeeding and your baby is younger than 6 months old
- You have had a blood clot in your legs or lungs, a stroke, or a heart attack
- You have cancer or have had cancer
- You smoke and are over 35 years of age
- You are overweight
- You have liver disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure
- You use certain types of medications or herbal remedies. The healthcare provider will talk to you about this.
Where can you get the patch?
The patch is prescribed by a healthcare provider and can be purchased at a pharmacy. The patch is not yet available at government health facilities.
How much does the patch cost?
Depending on the brand the cost may vary. Some brands of the patch cost around R160 a month.
- The patch protects women against pregnancy on a month-to-month basis.
- It can also help some women with hormone-related acne.
- The patch can make menstrual periods more regular and less severe.
- If you would like to have children someday, you will still be able to get pregnant right after you stop taking the patch.
- You must change the patch once a week (even when you don’t have sex that week).
- The patch can fall off your skin. If that happens, consult the package insert or speak to your healthcare provider.
Important points to remember when using the patch
- If you are on any medication, please let your healthcare provider know as the patch may affect your other medication.
- You might experience irregular bleeding in the first month or two of use. If this occurs, continue to use your patch but speak to your healthcare provider about it.
- Serious side-effects are rare in healthy women who don’t smoke or have medical conditions.
- Some serious side-effects to look out for include pain in the lower leg, chest pain, severe headaches and difficulty breathing. Speak to your healthcare provider about your medical history and your risk for developing serious side-effects.
How do I get additional protection against HIV and STIs when using the patch?
For additional protection against HIV and STIs, different prevention options can be explored, such as PrEP and using a condom. Using condoms and contraception together is what we call “dual protection”.
Is the patch your ideal contraceptive? Take the test!