How "the Patch" Works as Birth Control

7 of 12 in Series: The Essentials of Safe Sex

A reliable safe-sex practice is to use hormones as birth control. One of the many available methods is the Patch (or Ortho Evra). Ortho Evra delivers the same hormones as the Pill via an adhesive patch applied directly to a woman’s skin — another alternative for women who worry about what happens if they forget to take the Pill every day. Like the Pill, the patch does not protect against STDs.

Advantages of the Patch

The patch is applied to the buttocks, stomach, upper arm, or torso once a week for three out of four weeks. Obviously, one big advantage here is that a woman only needs to remember to take care of contraception once a week, rather than daily.

As with the Pill, Ortho Evra uses synthetic hormones to regulate a woman’s sexual and reproductive organs, thus preventing pregnancy. Its side effects (both good and bad) are very similar to the Pill:

  • More regular periods

  • Less menstrual flow

  • Less menstrual cramping

  • Less iron deficiency anemia

  • Fewer ectopic pregnancies (pregnancies that occur outside the uterus)

  • Less pelvic inflammatory disease

  • Less acne

  • Less premenstrual tension

  • Less rheumatoid arthritis

  • Less ovarian cyst formation

  • Protection against endometrial and ovarian cancer, two of the most common types of cancer in women

Disadvantages of the Patch

Some women develop an irritation under the patch making it unsuitable for them to use.

Because the patch delivers more hormones than the Pill and the hormones are delivered through the skin instead of orally, the FDA ordered the patch’s manufacturer to add a warning to the box about possible risks, though no data indicates that the patch is any more risky than the Pill. Consult with your doctor before using the patch, just to be sure.

Everything else about the patch is similar to the Pill, including the cost. These include:

  • Risks to the cardiovascular system for smokers over the age of 35

  • Risks for women with diabetes or a history of blood clots

  • The ability for antibiotics of other drugs to interfere with the effectiveness against unintended pregnancy

  • Absolutely no protection against AIDS or other STDs

The initial doctor’s visit usually costs between $35 and $175, though the cost can be less if you visit a clinic. The patch itself costs between $15 and $35 for a month’s supply, though again the cost may be lower at a clinic or through Planned Parenthood.

The Patch does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases. You must also use a condom if any risk exists that you may catch a disease from your partner.

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