The Patch

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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.) You stick the patch on your skin and it gives off hormones that prevent your 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 Ortho Evra isn't being produced anymore so if you use the patch, ask for the generic, Xulane.

The Gist

Easy to use and works like the pill, but you only have to worry about it once a week!

Quick Facts

  • Easy to use and works like the pill, but you only have to worry about it once a week.
  • Effectiveness - The patch is really effective when it's changed on time each week.
  • Side effects - Nausea, irregular bleeding, sore boobs are most common, but usually temporary.
  • Effort - Patch change required once a week.
  • How to get it - You need to get a prescription from your doctor or clinic.
  • Cost - Could be as low as $0 a month or as high as $85.
  • STI Risk - Can't prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections, unfortunately :( Pair it with a male or female condom to stay safe!

Details

  • Less effort than the pill - If you're the kind of person who would 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 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--and by not having random spotting in between--then this might just be the choice for you.
  • Smokers over 35, beware - If you're over 35, smoking on the patch increases your risk of certain side effects. And if you're younger, why not quit now and save yourself the trouble?
  • 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 method.

How To Use It

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 (no patch) 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 thing 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--it'll be there for a full week. Like, what will you be wearing? How squishy is your flesh in each spot? (If you've got a bit of a tummy that makes folds, for example, the stomach may not be the spot for you.)

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 a beeyotch 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 (like Dove or Caress) 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 build-up 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 the soil. And don't flush 'em! The earth will thank you.

Positives and Negatives

+: 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 some nasty health problems, like endometrial and ovarian cancer, iron deficiency anemia, ovarian cysts, and pelvic inflammatory disease

-: Bleeding in between periods (probably only for first 2-3 months)

-: Breast tenderness (probably only for first 2-3 months)

-: Nausea and vomiting (probably only for first 2-3 months)

-: Irritation where the patch sits on your skin

-: A change in your sex drive

Learn more about the Patch

Where to get it