The Patch

Quick Facts

Moderately Effective

Doesn’t reduce your chances of getting an STI

Easy to use

You change it once a week

 You need a prescription

A patch, which looks like a square pink bandage
A patch, which looks like a square pink bandage

More About the Patch

  • The patch is a thin, beige piece of plastic that looks like a bandage. It sticks to your skin and is easy to use.
  • The patch has hormones that stop eggs from leaving the ovaries. It also thickens cervical mucus, which blocks sperm from getting to the egg. If sperm can’t get to an egg, you can’t get pregnant.
  • There are two different kinds of birth control patches available: the Xulane patch and the Twirla patch. Each contains different levels of hormones. 
  • You need a prescription to use it. Wear a new patch for a full week at a time and replace it every week for 3 weeks.
  • Hormones in the patch are the same as in the pill and the ring. Benefits, side effects, and limitations are similar.

How to Use the Patch

What you need to do:

  • You can start using the patch any time during your menstrual cycle.
  • Choose where to place the patch on your body. It can go on your arm, butt, stomach, or back. DON’T put it on your breasts.
  • Place the patch on a clean, dry area of skin. Clean off any oil, lotion, or make-up first. Press firmly for 10 seconds to make sure it is stuck.
  • Check your patch every day to make sure it’s still stuck.
  • Remember to change the patch once a week at the same time. You can set a reminder on your phone to help you remember when to change it.
  • Don’t use a patch on the fourth week.

 

A woman placing the patch on her upper arm
Yellow donut chart showing 91%. The title says "91% effective with typical use"
Green donut chart showing 99%. The title says "Over 99% effective with perfect use"

Effectiveness

  • Twirla is 96.5% effective with perfect use. That is, if Twirla is used correctly all the time, 3.5 out of 100 people using this method will get pregnant in a year.
  • Xulane is 98% effective with perfect use. That is, if Xulane is used correctly all the time, 2 out of 100 people using this method will get pregnant in a year.
  • You can improve effectiveness by remembering to change it on time. You can set a reminder on your phone to help you remember when to change it.
  • The patch is less slightly effective in women who weigh 200 pounds or more or who have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more.
  • Some medications to prevent seizures may make the patch less effective. Talk to your Family PACT provider to see if this might affect you.

Benefits

  • It is easy to use.
  • You don’t need to remember it every day.
  • It doesn’t interrupt the heat of the moment.
  • Most people will have a predictable period every month with little or no spotting.
  • It can help with acne, iron deficiency anemia, cramps, and PMS (premenstrual syndrome).
  • It protects against several other health problems, e.g., certain cancers, anemia, ovarian cysts, and pelvic infections.
Nine hands each holding a thumbs up
A young woman holds up her hands as if weighing options and looks thoughtful

Side Effects and Limitations

Most side effects go away on their own, so give it some time. If your side effects don’t improve after 3 months, talk with your Family PACT provider. They can help you switch to something that works better for you. Just make sure to stay protected by starting a new method right away.

Possible side effects (usually go away in 2-3 months) are:

  • Spotting or bleeding between your periods
  • Nausea
  • Breast tenderness
  • A change in your sex drive
  • Skin irritation where you stuck the patch

Limitations:

  • Not recommended for people 35 and older who smoke cigarettes
  • Slightly less effective for people who weigh 200 pounds or more.
  • Only comes in the color beige, so it won’t match all skin tones
  • Doesn’t protect you from HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • Need to change the patch on time
  • Requires a prescription to buy it

 

Family PACT Coverage

If you are eligible, Family PACT covers the cost of the patch. A provider can help you decide if the patch is the best choice for you. Search for a nearby Family PACT provider: click “Find Providers” in the top right-hand corner of this page.​

California Department of Health Care Services Family PACT logo