What: Every week for three weeks, you stick a plastic, Band-Aid-like patch on your skin, and it emits estrogen and progestin through your skin and into your bloodstream. After the third week, you go patchless for a week and then slap on a new one.
Failure rate*: 0.3–9%
Who: "It's mostly for women who won't use anything else, as some birth control is better than nothing," says Carusi. "We don't prescribe it that often."
- It's doesn't involve needles.
- You don't need to stick anything inside you.
- You can choose where to put it (back, lower abdomen, upper arm, etc.).
- Because hormones enter the blood directly and are processed by the body differently than hormones in the pill, women on the patch are exposed to about 60 percent more estrogen. This raises their risk of estrogen-related side effects (including everything from a dampened sex drive to a dangerous blood clot).
- Excessive sweating can cause the patch to fall off.
- If you forget to change the patch on time, the next-step instructions can be confusing and may require you to use a backup form of contraception.
- The near-constant presence of the patch can irritate the skin.
- The patch is not recommended for women who weigh more than 198 pounds, or smokers over the age of 35.