Contraceptive Patch

One of the newest forms of hormonal birth control to come onto the market is the Patch, which is sold under the brand name Ortho Evra. It is available through a prescription.

How it Works
The Patch operates on the same premise as the combination birth control pill. It uses estrogen and progesterone to suppress ovulation, thicken cervical mucus and possibly thin the uterine lining. However, instead of taking these hormones orally, this contraceptive allows the hormones to be continuously delivered directly into the bloodstream through the skin via a thin patch.

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On the same day every week, users of Ortho Evra place a new patch on the buttocks, abdomen, upper torso (excluding the breasts) or the upper outer arm for three consecutive weeks. The patch is worn at all times, even when you are exercising, bathing or in hot, humid conditions. On the fourth week, users do not wear any patch and will most likely receive their period during this week.

While the Patch offers effective protection against pregnancy for one month, it does not offer any protection against sexually transmitted diseases. For 100% protection against STDs and pregnancy, it is best to abstain.

Advantages of the Patch
Many women find the Patch more convenient to use than the Pill because they only need to worry about it once a week. Use of the Patch can help to regulate a woman’s periods and may even cause a woman’s periods to be lighter, shorter and with fewer menstrual cramps. Other reported benefits of the Patch are similar to the birth control pill and include:

  • Decreased PMS symptoms
  • Decrease in the appearance of acne
  • Some protection against pelvic inflammatory disease and etopic pregnancy
  • Decreased risk of endometrial and ovarian cancers

Side Effects
Side effects of Ortho Evra are similar to the birth control pill and include:

  • Breast tenderness
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Mood Swings
  • Weight gain (sometimes weight loss)
  • Spotting and breakthrough bleeding
  • Irritation at the site of application

Although rare, more serious side effects of the Patch include:

  • Blood clots
  • Stroke
  • Heart attacks
  • Possibly an increased risk of cervical cancer

The risk of these serious health complications is increased for smokers and especially smokers over the age of 35.

Because the Patch is a fairly new form of hormonal birth control, the long-term effects have yet to be properly studied and documented. However, some research is suggesting that the Patch can increase a woman’s risk of blood clots. For this reason, the FDA has now issued a warning that appears on every Ortho Evra package to inform women of this increased risk.

Although the Patch is assumed to be just as effective as the birth control pill, it efficacy has yet to be properly documented. However, the use of certain medications, including some antibiotics, oral yeast infection medications, seizure and HIV drugs, can decrease the efficiency of the Patch. Additionally, the Patch may not be effective for women who weigh more than 198 lbs.

If the Patch falls off for less than 24 hours, re-apply it or place a new patch on. If the Patch is off the skin for more than 24 hours, it will be necessary to start a new patch cycle and use a back-up method of birth control for the first seven days.

Not every woman is suited to using the Patch. Discuss with your health care provider all the pros and cons of this birth control method to decide whether it is right for you.

For more information on the contraceptive patch, visit Contraception Information Resource.

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