The Patch

The Patch works similarly to the Pill. It’s a 4 x 4 cm beige patch that you stick onto your skin like a bandage, but it sticks better than that. It can be worn while swimming, showering or playing sports. The Patch gradually releases the hormones estrogen and progesterone into your bloodstream. The Patch requires a prescription and can be picked up at a pharmacy.

How to use it

Once a week for three consecutive weeks, place a new patch on clean, dry skin your buttocks, stomach, back or upper arms, but don’t place it on your breasts. During the fourth week, no patch is worn. The day of the week that you change your patch must be the same from week to week, but you can change the location if you want. Don’t go for more than seven days without wearing a patch if you want it to work.

How it works

The estrogen and progesterone stop your ovaries from releasing their eggs, thicken your cervical mucus so that sperm can’t enter, and thin your uterine lining to prevent a fertilized egg from implanting.

Effectiveness

Over 99% effective with proper use and 97% effective with typical use. Effectiveness can be reduced if you forget to change your patch, you lose it, or if you have to take certain medications such as antibiotics or anti-seizure meds.

Advantages

You only have to change it once a week, rather than remember it daily like the Pill. Your period will be more regular and you may have a lighter menstrual flow. It can reduce acne and dark body hair and prevent osteoporosis (weakening of your bones). Like the Pill, the Patch is completely reversible.

Disadvantages

The Patch doesn’t protect against HIV or STIs. Shouldn’t really be used if you weigh over 88 kilograms (198 pounds) because it may not be effective. Possible side effects in the first few months are the same as with the Pill: spotting, tender breasts, headache and nausea, and skin irritation from the adhesive. Due to serious cardiovascular side effects, you are highly advised not to smoke especially if you’re on the Patch. If you have certain health disorders or a history of blood clots, you may not be prescribed the Patch.

Cost and coverage

The Patch is covered by most private health insurance plans, but you should know that if you use your parent’s drug plan, they may be able to see that information. The Patch is also covered by:

  • EIA/social assistance
  • FNIHB (First Nations status) – You can call 204-983-8886 to make sure no one else can see your prescriptions.
  • Manitoba Pharmacare – If you have a Manitoba Health card and have no other coverage, there’s a good chance you can apply for Pharmacare to cover a good portion of your drug costs. Click here for more information.

If you don’t have any coverage, you may be able to get the Patch for free from your health care provider’s office or clinic, or you can call Women’s Health Clinic (204-947-1517) for information on their free/low-cost birth control program. Otherwise, the cost to just purchase the Patch is generally between $19 and $31/month in Winnipeg.*

* This information is up-to-date as of 2014.