The contraceptive patch is a form of hormonal birth control that uses synthetic forms of oestrogen and progestogen, similarly to combined pills, to protect against pregnancy. Instead of being ingested orally however, the contraceptive patch is applied to the skin and replaced once a week.
This allows for a steady release of hormones into the body and is more appropriate for women who want a regular form of contraception, but wish to avoid a daily treatment. Because the hormones are absorbed through the skin, it also means that the risk of side effects is decreased, as well as providing a convenient way to prevent pregnancy.
Because the patch only needs to be applied once a week, it means women who use it don't have to worry about taking a daily pill, like the combined contraceptive, or following a strict routine, like with the mini-pill. Instead they apply the patch and have over 99% protection for an entire week before needing to replace it. Fertility is also completely restored after a few weeks after stopping the treatment.
The contraceptive patch releases hormones through the skin rather than after digestion. This means that bouts of nausea after using a contraceptive pill are not experienced and the overall chances of suffering from side effects are lowered as the release of hormones is much slower.
While applying the contraceptive patch to the skin allows for a slow release of hormones, there is also the possibility of the area of skin where it is applied to become irritated or slightly discoloured. Other side effects that may occur include thrush, mood changes, acne, weight gain and dizziness. Although uncommon, fat levels may increase in the blood and vaginal dryness, aggression or crying are also a possibility. In any such instances it's important to consult your doctor immediately about alternative contraceptive options.
Women who smoke, have a history of blood disorders or epilepsy, migraines or vaginal bleeding should not use this form of birth control. If you suffer from any of these conditions, your doctor may advise you to use a progestogen-only pill, such as the mini-pill, as a form of contraception instead.