Birth Control Patch
The Patch, known also by its brand name ‘Ortho Evra’, is a convenient and effective method of Birth Control. Once affixed to the skin, this square, plastic Patch (1.5 inches by 1.5 inches), slowly releases the female hormones, progestin and estrogen, into the bloodstream in order to prevent pregnancy.
The main difference between the Pill and the Patch is hormone delivery. The Pill must be ingested daily, whereas the Patch need only be applied weekly. In the opinion of some, having to take a contraceptive less often improves its potential effectiveness, since there are fewer chances of forgetting.
Acting similarly to the birth control pill, the hormones delivered by the Patch prevent pregnancy in two ways. Firstly, they stop the ovary from releasing an egg; secondly, they thicken mucous produced in the cervix, making it more difficult for sperm to pass into the uterus to fertilize an egg. The hormones can also have the effect of thinning the lining of the uterus, making it difficult for a fertilized egg to attach itself to the uterine wall.
The Patch has been proven to work as effectively as the Pill when used correctly and as directed. In order to achieve the highest rate of efficacy, users must be careful to change the Patch at the same time every week, making sure not to remove it too early, delay application, or miss a week.
Even though the Patch sticks to the skin very easily, its 99% pregnancy prevention rate can be compromised if it comes loose or falls off.
Additionally, users must consider any health conditions or medications that could interfere with the Patch working effectively. These should be discussed with a health professional. Additionally, it has been cited that this device is slightly less effective in women who weigh more than 198 pounds (90 kilograms).
Unlike the Pill, which must be ingested daily, a new Patch need only be applied once a week for three consecutive weeks. The fourth is a Patch-free week, at which point users will experience a Menstrual Cycle. There may be some cross-over between finishing off a menstrual cycle and applying the first Patch of the rotation - this is perfectly normal.
This rotation of 'three weeks on, one week off' is similar to the hormone delivery cycle of the birth control pill. Once seven days hormone-free days have elapsed (users should never allow more days than that to pass), the cycle of weekly Patch application resumes.
The Patch should be applied to a clean, dry area of skin, preferably the stomach, upper arm, buttocks or back; it should not be applied to the breasts. Moreover, avoid applying cream, lotion or oils near the site that it's affixed to, or before applying a new one. Choose an area of the skin that is not red, irritated or injured. Make sure it is clean and dry; try not to use any skin products on the site on same day of application.
The sticky side of the Patch is removed from its foil pouch and peeled off from the protective layer (only halfway). Making sure not to touch the exposed side of the Patch, the sticky half is applied to the skin to establish a partial point of contact. The other half of the protective plastic is then removed so that the rest of the Patch can affix to the site; the Patch should be pressed into the skin with the hand for about ten seconds to make sure that all sides stick.
The cost of taking the Patch will vary depending on your geographic location and access to Health Care Plans. In the U.S. it is roughly comparable to the cost of the Pill. Available by prescription only, women can generally purchase the Patch at the same institutions that provide the Pill (e.g. pharmacy, family planning institution).
In addition to being highly effective at preventing pregnancy, many women consider the Patch convenient and easy to use. It is also completely reversible. For those who have trouble remembering to take their daily Pill - which in turn decreases its contraceptive effectiveness - the Patch may prove a better alternative.
Since the Patch isn't a barrier method that requires insertion prior to lovemaking, women can choose to be spontaneous in their sexual encounters. However, this device does not protect against STDs/STIs, so users not in established and reliable relationships should consider having condoms on hand anyway.
Since the Patch delivers hormones, some women will be able to enjoy their benefits, such as decreased symptoms of Pre-menstrual Syndrome (PMS); less menstrual cramping; improved complexions; and lighter, more regular periods. As with the V-Ring and the Pill, the hormones delivered by this method are believed to reduce a woman's risk of certain cancers and ovarian cysts.
Though the patch is meant to be adhesive enough for a woman to be able to shower, swim, or even sit in a hot tub with it on, users must practice daily monitoring to ensure that all sides of it are clearly affixed to the skin. The use of certain skin products will affect its ability to stick to the skin.
Negative side effects that are specific to the Patch are: irritation at the patch site, headache, nausea and breast tenderness. Side effects of the Patch that are similar to those of The Pill include: break-through bleeding, changes in sexual desire, irritability and moodiness.
One of the major risks to consider when using any method of oral contraception is the increased risk of blood clots, which can lead to heart attack or stroke. Individual risk should be assessed by a health professional, although known contributing factors include cigarette smoking, taking the Patch while being over the age of thirty five, and having a history of cardiovascular disease.