The Contraceptive Patch - Right for You?

Medical Author: Melissa Stoppler, M.D.
Medical Editor: Barbara K. Hecht, Ph.D.

Women who desire an effective hormonal method of birth control now have the option of wearing a contraceptive patch. The patch is an especially appropriate choice for women who may have trouble remembering to take the pill.

The contraceptive patch (its brand name is Ortho Evra) releases birth control hormones through the skin into the bloodstream, a phenomenon known as transdermal delivery of a drug. Patch technology has been used as a successful route of administration for other drugs, including those used for hormone therapy, motion sickness, and smoking cessation.

The contraceptive patch has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration since 2001. The patch contains the same hormones - estrogen and progestin - as contraceptive pills and acts to prevent ovulation (the release of an egg from the ovaries). This, in turn, means that fertilization cannot take place.

The patch is not difficult to use. A woman puts on a new patch once a week for three weeks and then pauses for one week (in which a menstrual period occurs) before applying another patch. The patch can be applied to any of a number of different locations including the chest (but not on the breast area), upper arm, buttock, or stomach.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/9/2014