The Birth Control Pill Patch Or Ring: Which Is Most Effective
Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Choosing the right method of birth control can be a difficult decision after all, youll generally stick with one method of birth control for some time.
Today, a wide range of different hormonal contraceptives are available to prevent pregnancy and make enjoying your sex life easier.
The birth control pill, ring and patch all use a combination of estrogen and progestin hormones to protect against unwanted pregnancy. Each form of contraception has its own advantages and disadvantages, as well as a slightly different effectiveness rate.
From convenience to effectiveness, weve compared the pill, ring and patch below to help you choose the best option for your needs and lifestyle.
What Are The Benefits Of The Birth Control Patch
The patch is considered to be a highly effective method of birth control when used perfectly. According to three large clinical trials of more than 3,000 women over one year, just 1 out of 100 people became pregnant while using Xulane in one year.
That said, perfect use isnt always the same as actual use. Forgetting to pick up your monthly refill or swap your weekly patch isnt unheard of, so the typical success rate is closer to between 91% and 93% meaning approximately 7-9 out of 100 patch users get pregnant each year.
Beyond clinical efficacy, there are other benefits to choosing the patch. Compared to swallowing a pill each day, the patch is a fairly simple choice:
- The patch can be removed at any time, allowing for more flexibility and freedom with your fertility future
- The patch remains on your skin at all times so need to interrupt sex by reaching for a barrier method like a diaphragm or sponge
- The steady dose of hormones in the patch can help with menstrual cramps
- A more regular and predictable period
I’m Bleeding On Days When I’m Using The Patch What Should I Do
Bleeding is very common when you first start taking using the patch and isnt usually anything to worry about. It may take up to three months to settle down. Its very important to keep using the patch according to instructions, even if the bleeding is as heavy as a withdrawal bleed. If youre using the patch continuously its normal to get some bleeding.
Bleeding may also be caused by not using the patch correctly or by a sexually transmitted infection. If it doesnt settle down or starts after youve used the patch for some time, seek advice.
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Bleeding In The Patch
Some women don’t always have a bleed in their patch-free week. This is nothing to worry about if you’ve used the patch properly and have not taken any medicine that could affect it.
See a GP or nurse for advice if you’re worried, or do a pregnancy test to check if you’re pregnant.
If you miss more than 2 bleeds, get medical advice.
Advantages Of The Patch
- If you use the patch correctly, your chances of getting pregnant are very low.
- You dont have to do anything before or after you have sex.
- You dont have to do something every day.
- You are less likely to have side effects than you are with the pill.
- Your period will likely become shorter, lighter, less painful, and more regular.
- The patch can improve acne and increase bone strength.
- It doesnt affect your ability to get pregnant in the future.
- Your partner dont have to be involved.
- The patch lowers your chances of ovarian and endometrial cancer and fibroids.
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Where Can You Get The Birth Control Patch
No matter where you get the patch from, youll need a prescription to access it. A typical clinicians office or centers like Planned Parenthood can prescribe the patch.
You may also be able to get a prescription straight from a pharmacist or through online services. Many health insurance plans cover the cost of birth control, meaning it may be free or low cost.
If you dont have insurance and are on a lower income, organizations, such as Planned Parenthood and Title X family planning clinics, may be able to significantly reduce the cost. You might also qualify for free birth control under Medicaid.
Platforms that offer virtual consultations include:
Advantages Of The Pill
The biggest advantage of the pill is its convenience factor. As long as you take your pill daily , youll be protected against pregnancy. Most birth control pills come with a usage calendar, making it easy to keep track of which pill to take on which day of your cycle.
Birth control pills can also lighten your period, making them a good option if you get cramps and other forms of menstrual discomfort.
If you opt for a combined birth control pill, you might also notice improvements in your skin. The hormones in combined birth control pills can suppress androgen production, giving you less oily skin and helping to prevent acne breakouts.
Birth control pills are also linked to improvements in bone strength , cyst treatment and suppression, a reduced risk of certain vaginal infections and a possible reduction in your risk of developing endometrial and ovarian cancers.
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How Well Does Xulane Work In Keeping Me From Getting Pregnant
Your chance of getting pregnant depends on how well you follow the directions for using Xulane. The patch is 99% effective when used as directed. The better you follow the directions, the less chance you have of getting pregnant. In clinical studies, 1 to 2 women out of 100 women got pregnant during the first year they used norelgestromin and ethinyl estradiol transdermal system. Xulane may be less effective in preventing pregnancy in women at or above 198 lbs and is for women with a BMI less than 30 kg/m2.
How Do You Put The Birth Control Patch On
First, decide where you want to apply the patch. This should be an area of clean, dry skin, such as your:
Here are places you should avoid placing the patch:
- on your chest
- any areas that are sore or irritated
- areas that might get rubbed with tight clothing
- areas where you might apply lotion, powder, or makeup to help keep the patch sticky
Open the foil pouch so that it lies flat and peel the patch off the foil.
Next, peel half of the plastic off the patch. Be careful not to touch the sticky part.
Stick the patch to your skin, peeling off the rest of the plastic. Push it against the skin for 10 seconds using the palm of your hand.
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How Well Does Xulane Stay On
In clinical trials, approximately 2% of patches completely detached and approximately 3% partially detached. Its important to make sure to apply the Xulane patch on the upper outer arm, abdomen, buttock and back and only to skin that is clean, dry, and free of any powder, make-up, cream, oil, or lotion. Check the patch every day to make sure all edges are sticking correctly. Avoid placing the patch where it could be rubbed by tight clothing such as under a waistband.
How Do You Take The Birth Control Patch Off
On the same day of the following week, its time to remove the patch and apply a fresh one.
Simply peel it off and dispose by folding it in half so that it sticks to itself. Place in a sealed plastic bag and throw it away in the trash.
Apply a new patch using the above steps.
Do this for 3 weeks. On the fourth week, you can take a break from using the patch, starting again the week after. During this week, you may have a withdrawal bleed, which is similar to a period.
However, the Xulane patch can be applied during the fourth week to skip this bleed. You may still experience some bleeding or spotting for the first few months.
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What Are The Side Effects Of The Patch
- You may experience minor side effects such as nausea, sore breasts, moodiness and/or spotting . These usually go away within the first 3 months of using the patch.
- You may experience skin irritation on the spot that you wear your patch. Every time you change the patch, switch sides or apply it to a different site to avoid skin irritation.
- If after 3 months you are still experiencing side effects or your side effects are severe, you may want to try a different method of birth control.
- There is a rare risk of getting blood clots, or having a heart attack or stroke while using the patch. Smoking, obesity, and other health conditions increase this risk. Speak to your clinician for more information.
- Signs of a blood clot include: blurred or loss of vision, chest pain or difficulty breathing, migraine headaches, severe abdominal cramps, or severe pain in the leg. If you experience any of these symptoms, get medical attention right away.
Effectiveness Of A Birth Control Patch
Birth control patches are considered more than 99% effective in preventing pregnancy if used correctly. However, many women may make mistakes in using birth control patches, reducing their effectiveness to about 91%. This means that nine in 100 patch users can become pregnant each year .
Patches are more effective if you use them as recommended. Although the chance of getting pregnant while using a patch depends on how you use it, women who use it correctly have a low risk of getting pregnant.
The following tips may help you to ensure the effectiveness of the birth control patch .
- Stick the patch tightly to the skin
- Avoid sticking the patch onto an area of tight clothing where it may get dislodged
- Do not reuse patch that is not sticking or not all part of the patch is sticking on the skin
- Do not stick a non-sticky patch to the skin with tapes or other materials
- Check your patch regularly to ensure the edges are stuck to the skin
Some medications such as rifampicin , griseofulvin , certain HIV medications, anti-seizure medications, and some herbs, such as St. Johns wort, could make the patch less effective. You should always inform your doctor that you are on the patch while getting prescriptions so that he/she can advise you if there are interactions. It is recommended to use condoms as a backup method to prevent pregnancy if you take medications that lower the patchs effects.
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Pros Of Using A Birth Control Patch
- The patch is extremely low maintenance, convenient, safe and affordable.
- The patch contains the same hormones as the birth control pills, which are oestrogen and progestin. The only difference is that the patch needs to be applied once a week and the pill has to be taken every day.
- A birth control patch will deliver a steady dose of hormones into your body, so it works similar to the birth control pill.
- Hormone levels do not fluctuate if there is a steady stream of hormones being released into the body.
- The birth control patch is a reliable pregnancy protection for women.
What Is A Birth Control Patch
A birth control patch is a patch which can be stuck to your body to help you in preventing pregnancy.
The Ortho Evra birth control patch has been recently replaced by a Xulane patch due to a change in the manufacturing company.
Please note that there are other birth control methods also available like vaginal patches and birth control pills. If you are looking for an effective birth control option, it is advisable to speak to your doctor who will prescribe the birth control patch which is most suitable for you.
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The Patch Can Make Your Periods Better
Lots of people like the patch because it makes their periods regular and easy to predict. The hormones in the patch can also help with menstrual cramps and make your periods lighter.
You can also use the Xulane patch to safely skip your period, which is great for people who want a special occasion to be period-free, or just dont want a visit from Aunt Flo every month.
Birth Control: Contraceptive Patch
The contraceptive patch is a birth control that looks like a small bandage. The patch contains estrogen and progestin. These are like the hormones made naturally in your body. The patch prevents pregnancy by stopping the egg from being released from the ovary. The patch also changes cervical mucus to keep sperm from reaching an egg.
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What Are The Disadvantages
- The patch doesn’t protect against sexually transmitted infections , such as herpes or HIV/AIDS. If you aren’t sure if your sex partner might have an STI, use a condom to protect against disease.
- The patch may cause changes in your period. You may have little bleeding, skipped periods, or spotting. If you miss a period, find out if you are pregnant.
- It may cause mood changes, less interest in sex, or weight gain.
- The patch contains estrogen. It may not be right for you if you have certain health problems or concerns.
- It may increase your risk of blood clots.
- It may be less effective in women who are overweight.
- You must remember to change the patch on schedule.
What If I Want To Change My Patch Change Day
- If you want to move your Patch Change Day to a different day of the week, finish your current cycle. Remove your third Xulane® patch on the correct day.
- During week 4, the Patch Free Week , you may choose an earlier Patch Change Day by applying a new patch on the day you prefer. You now have a new Day 1 and a new Patch Change Day.
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At A Glance: Facts About The Patch
- When used correctly, the patch is more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.
- Each patch lasts for 1 week. You change the patch every week for 3 weeks, then have a week off without a patch.
- You don’t need to think about it every day, and it’s still effective if you’re sick or have diarrhoea.
- You can wear it in the bath, when swimming and while playing sports.
- If you have heavy or painful periods, the patch can help.
- The patch can raise your blood pressure, and some women get temporary side effects, such as headaches.
- Rarely, some women develop a blood clot when using the patch.
- The patch may protect against ovarian, womb and bowel cancer.
- It may not be suitable for women who smoke and who are 35 or over, or who weigh 90kg or more.
- The patch does not protect against sexually transmitted infections , so you may need to use condoms as well.
The Birth Control Ring
Most commonly sold as NuvaRing®, the birth control ring works by continually releasing estrogen and progestin hormones into your vagina. These hormones stop you from ovulating and thicken the mucus in your cervix, making it more difficult for sperm to come into contact with an egg.
The hormones used in the birth control ring are the same as the hormones used in some forms of combined birth control pills. This means that the ring shares many of its side effects with the pill, from vaginal spotting to some cardiovascular side effects.
On average, the birth control ring is 99 percent effective when its used perfectly. Under real life conditions, its 91 percent effective. This means the ring is as effective as combined and progestin-only birth control pills as a contraceptive.
The birth control ring becomes less effective if you forget to replace it at the right time every month, or if you use medications such as griseofulvin , rifampin, certain antibiotics, St. Johns wort or certain HIV or anti-seizure medications.
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Which Form Of Birth Control Is Most Effective
From an effectiveness standpoint, the birth control pill, ring and patch are identically effective at preventing pregnancy.
Used perfectly, all three forms of birth control have a 99 percent effectiveness rate. This means that just one woman out of every 100 who use the pill, ring or patch will become pregnant every year.
In a real life scenario, all three forms of birth control are about 91 percent effective at preventing pregnancy.
Because the pill, ring and patch all use similar or identical hormones, the side effects of each form of birth control are very similar. While all three forms of birth control will protect you from becoming pregnant, none are designed to prevent STIs.
Ultimately, the best form of birth control for you is the one that you find the easiest to use on a regular basis. If you like the predictability of the pill, make it your choice. If you like the ease of use of the ring or patch, make one of these options your go-to form of birth control.
Whether you opt for the birth control pill, the ring or the patch, follow the instructions provided with your medication and youll enjoy a convenient, effective form of contraception that helps you enjoy your life to the fullest.
The Patch Vs The Sponge
The contraceptive sponge is a soft, round piece of plastic foam with a loop for removal. Its available over the counter in many drugstores.
The sponge doesnt contain any hormones and is instead filled with a spermicide known as nonoxynol-9. This slows sperm down and helps prevent sperm from reaching the egg.
You insert the sponge deep into your vagina up to 24 hours before having penis-in-vagina sex to prevent pregnancy. This means it requires a little more time and preparation than other forms of birth control, including the patch.
You can have sex multiple times with the same sponge inserted. However, it shouldnt be kept in for more than 30 hours.
The sponge is less effective than the patch. With perfect use in people who havent given birth, its around 91 percent effective. For people who have given birth, perfect use equates to 80 percent efficacy.
In reality, people dont tend to use the sponge perfectly. So its usually about 88 percent effective for people who havent given birth and 76 percent effective for people who have.
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