Monday, February 08, 2010

Contraception - Patches

Monday 8th February 2010

The contraceptive patch (transdermal) is a form of hormonal contraception that is worn by a woman to stop her getting pregnant when she has sex.

However, unlike like barrier methods of contraception, such as condoms, the contraceptive patch does not protect you from getting sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

The contraceptive patch is very reliable and easy to use. You stick it on a clean, dry, hair-free area of your body, such as your buttocks, stomach, chest (apart from your breasts) or the outside of your upper arm. Make sure the area of skin you choose is clean, dry and not hairy, and that it is not going to be rubbed by tight clothing. You should not put the patch on areas of the skin that are broken or irritated. The patch needs to be changed for a new one each week.

The patch protects you from pregnancy by introducing hormones into your body which prevent your ovaries from releasing an egg.

Every day, the patch gives you a dose of the female sex hormones, oestrogen and progestogen, that move through your skin and into your bloodstream. These hormones are similar to the hormones that are made naturally by your body, and they control your periods and help to prepare your body for pregnancy.

The hormones in the contraceptive patch stop your ovaries from releasing an egg each month (ovulation) which could then be fertilised by sperm. The combined oral contraceptive pill works in this way too.

The contraceptive patch also has some other effects. It makes the mucus in your cervix (entrance to the womb) get thicker. This makes it difficult for sperm to move through the mucus and into your womb, where it could reach an egg. It also makes the lining of your womb thinner, so that it is harder for an egg to attach to the womb where it could be fertilised.

If you start using the patch on the first day of your period, it starts working straight away. This means you can have sex without getting pregnant. If you start using it on any other day, you need to use an additional form of contraception for the first seven days.

The contraceptive patch is not suitable for everyone. If you are thinking of using the patch, the healthcare professional that you see will first ask you about your health and your family medical history. It is very important to tell them about any illnesses, or operations, that you have had, or medications that you are currently taking.

You will not be able to use the patch if:

  • you are, or think you might be, pregnant,
  • you are breastfeeding, or
  • you smoke and you are over 35 years of age.

There are also some medical conditions that mean that you cannot use the contraceptive patch. You will not be able to use the patch, if you have or have ever had any of the following conditions:

  • thrombosis (blood clots) in a vein or artery,
  • a heart problem, or disease affecting your blood circulatory system (including high blood pressure),
  • serious migraines, or migraines with aura (visual problems),
  • breast cancer,
  • active disease of the liver or gall bladder,
  • diabetes, and
  • bleeding from your vagina that does not have an obvious cause (such as between periods, or after sex).

If you weigh more than 90 kilograms (14 stone) the contraceptive patch may not work as effectively, so you may want to think about using other forms of contraception.

In some women, the contraceptive patch can cause skin irritation, such as itching and soreness. It also does not protect you against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) so you may need to use condoms as well.

Some women get mild side effects when they first start using the contraceptive patch. These include:

  • headaches,
  • nausea (sickness),
  • breast tenderness,
  • mood changes, and
  • slight weight gain, or loss.

However, these side effects usually settle down after a few months.

Breakthrough bleeding (bleeding between periods) and spotting (very light, irregular bleeding), is common in the first few cycles of patch use. This is nothing to worry about if you are using the patch properly, and you will still be protected against pregnancy.

Some medicines can make the patch less effective. If you are prescribed new medicine by a healthcare professional, you should tell them that you are using the patch. If you are buying over-the-counter (OTC) medicine, you should ask the pharmacist for advice because some complementary medicines, such as St John's Wort, can affect how the patch works. You might need to use an extra form of contraception while you are taking the medicine, and for two days afterwards.

If you have any questions regarding the contraceptive patch, please feel free to ask them in the comments box below. You can keep your comments anonymous too!


Eloise said...

Great information.

I was wondering though what would happen if your patch did fall off.

Fay on 16 February 2010 at 21:05 said...

Hi Eloise,

well, the contraceptive patch is very sticky, so it should not fall off. However, I am sure there are cases where it does. If a patch does fall off it is really important to stick it back on as soon as possible (if it is still sticky), or replace it with a new patch. If the patch is missing for less than 48 hours before you replace it, you will still be protected. If it is missing for longer than 48 hours (or you are not sure how long it has been missing), you should use another form of contraception, such as condoms, for the next seven days.

I hope that answers your question Eloise, and thank you for visiting us.



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