THE PATCH

The patch is a thin, beige piece of plastic that looks like a square Band-Aid.

EFFECTIVENESS
The patch is 99% effective when it’s used perfectly—meaning you must change it on time every week. With typical use, which is slightly less attentive, it’s 91% effective.
SIDE-EFFECTS
Nausea, irregular bleeding and sore boobs are most common but usually temporary.
COST
Free with insurance. $30-$85 out of pocket.
WHERE TO GET THEM
You need to get a prescription from your health care provider or clinic.
ADDITIONAL BENEFITS
If you know you’ll have trouble remembering to take a pill every day, the patch might be a good option.
OTHER NOTES
If you start the patch within the first 5 days of your period, you're protected from pregnancy right away. If you start later, you'll have to wait 7 days before you're protected, and you'll need to use a backup method.

The patch is a thin, beige piece of plastic that looks like a square Band-Aid. It’s a little less than two inches across and comes in one—and only one—color: Beige. Yippee! Stick the patch on your skin, and it gives off hormones that prevent ovaries from releasing eggs. The hormones also thicken your cervical mucus, which helps to block sperm from getting to the egg in the first place. The brand name patch, Ortho Evra, isn’t being produced anymore, but generics like xulane are available—just say you want the patch!

Less effort than the pill.

If you know you’ll have trouble remembering to take a pill every day, the patch might be a good option. You only need to remember to do something once a week. You must also weigh less than 198 pounds. The patch is less effective if you weigh more than 198 (random number, right?). So take that into consideration.

Predictable periods.

If you’re the type of gal who feels comforted by getting her period every month, then this might just be the choice for you.

The pregnancy question.

You’ll be able to get pregnant right after going off the patch. So don’t take any chances. If you’re not ready for a baby, protect yourself with another birth control method.

The patch is simple to use. The only tricky part is remembering the schedule for putting the patch on and taking it off.

You can put the patch on your butt, stomach, upper outer arm or upper torso—never on your boobs, though. Just stick a single, new patch on once a week for three weeks in a row, then go patchless for the fourth week. For example, let’s say it’s Tuesday and you put on a new patch. Tuesday becomes your “patch change day.” In other words, patches will always go on or off on Tuesdays.

You’ll probably get your period during the patchless week, and you may still be bleeding when it’s time to put the patch back on. That’s totally normal. Put it on anyway.

Check out these tips and tricks to make the whole process easier:

Tip 1

If you start the patch within the first 5 days of your period, you’re protected from pregnancy right away. If you start later, you’ll have to wait 7 days before you’re protected, and you’ll need to use a backup method.

Tip 2:

Think carefully about where you want to stick the patch because it’ll be there for a full week. What will you be wearing? How squishy is your skin where you want to put it? If you’ve got a tummy that makes folds, for example, the stomach may not be the best choice.

Tip 3

Only peel off half of the clear plastic at first, so you’ll have a non-sticky side to hold on to.

Tip 4

Don’t touch the sticky part of the patch with your fingers. It’s hard to unstick.

Tip 5

Press the patch down for a full 10 seconds to get a good, firm stick.

Tip 6

Don’t use body lotion, oil, powder, creamy soaps or makeup on the spot where you put your patch. Stuff like that can keep the patch from sticking.

Tip 7

Check your patch every day to make sure it’s sticking right.

Tip 8

Fuzz happens. You’ll probably get a bit of lint buildup around the edges, so plan accordingly. You can use baby oil to get any remaining adhesive off your skin.

Tip 9

When you take a patch off, fold it in half before you throw it in the trash. That’ll help keep hormones out of the soil. And don’t flush ‘em! The Earth will thank you.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, if you have health insurance, chances are good you’ll be able to use this method with no out-of-pocket cost. Tricare, the military insurance, covers it at Tricare-authorized providers. Medicaid also covers this method.

Prices: This method may be free or low-cost for you!

With Medicaid – Free.

With insurance – Free under most plans.

Without insurance – The full price of the patch can range from $30 to $85. Depending on your income, you may be able to go to a low-cost clinic to get the patch at reduced cost.

 

 

You might still need condoms.

Because the patch is a great pregnancy protector, some people drop condoms too soon. Remember—the patch doesn’t prevent STIs. Only stop using condoms after you and your partner have been tested and have talked about your STI statuses.

There are positive and negative things to say about each and every birth control method. And everyone’s different—so what you experience may not be the same as what your friends experience.

The Positive

  • Easy to use—it’s like sticking on a Band-Aid
  • Doesn’t interrupt the heat of the moment
  • Might give you more regular, lighter periods
  • May clear up acne
  • Can reduce menstrual cramps and PMS
  • Offers protection against nasty health problems like endometrial and ovarian cancer, iron deficiency anemia, ovarian cysts and pelvic inflammatory disease

The Negative*

Symptoms that will probably go away after two or three months:

  • Bleeding in between periods
  • Breast tenderness
  • Nausea and vomiting

Symptoms that may last longer:

  • Irritation where the patch sits on your skin
  • Change in sex drive

If you still feel uncomfortable after three months, switch methods and stay protected. You’re worth it.

*For a very small number of women, there are risks of serious side effects.

Don’t take our word for it. Check out these videos to hear women and men talk about their experiences with the patch. And be sure to ask your health care provider which method is best for you. 

 

Kristin, 26, the patch

 

Geraldine, 29, the patch

 

Angela, 24, the patch

 

Scott, 29, the patch

 

 

Expert dirt: “It’s basically a birth control sticker. It works pretty well if you can keep up with the regular schedule.”