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The birth control patch, a safe and effective method of birth control, is a thin, beige, plastic patch that sticks to the skin. It releases hormones through the skin into the bloodstream. The hormones are the same as those in birth control pills — estrogen and progestin. Like birth control pills, a prescription is needed.
Most women find the patch easy to use. Once a week, for three weeks in a row, a new patch is placed on the buttocks, stomach, upper arm, or upper torso, but not the breasts. On the fourth week, no patch is worn and the period starts.
New patches should be worn in different approved locations to avoid skin irritation. Don’t apply them to skin that is red, irritated or cut. Nor over makeup, creams, lotions, powder, or other skin products as these may prevent it from sticking well.
The benefits of the birth control patch may include protection against acne, menstrual cramps, bone thinning, non-cancerous breast growths, ectopic pregnancy, endometrial and ovarian cancers, serious infection in the ovaries, tubes, and uterus, iron deficiency anemia, pelvic inflammatory disease, and premenstrual or menstrual symptoms, including headaches, depression and heavy and/or irregular periods.
Birth control patch side effects may include skin irritation, headaches, breast tenderness, irregular vaginal bleeding, moderate weight gain, mood changes, nausea and vomiting, and bloating. Additional side effects may include yeast infections, contact lens problems and depression.
Women who use birth control with estrogen have a slightly greater chance of certain rare, but serious, problems such as heart attack, stroke, and blood clotting in the legs, lungs, heart, or brain. Other rare risks include developing high blood pressure, liver tumors, gallstones, or yellowing of the skin or eyes.
Anyone who experiences side effects after using the birth control patch for two to three months should talk with her doctor.
Not all women should use the patch.