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What Is the Birth Control Patch Used For?

The birth control patch is used for preventing pregnancy in females who are of reproductive age (have started their menstrual periods). It works by stopping ovulation, changing the lining of the uterus, and altering the cervical mucus. On occasion a healthcare provider may prescribe the birth control patch off-label for other uses. Some of these off-label birth control patch uses include treating acne, PMDD, and heavy menstrual bleeding.

What Is the Birth Control Patch Used For?

The birth control patch (norelgestromin/ethinyl estradiol) is a prescription medication used to prevent pregnancy. It is similar to oral contraceptives (birth control pills), except it is a skin patch that is applied once a week.
 
There are many different birth control options available today. Each method has its own unique advantages and disadvantages, and no particular birth control method is right for all women. Some of the most commonly used birth control methods include:
 
  • Periodic abstinence, sometimes known as natural family planning or the rhythm method -- avoiding intercourse during the fertile phase of your menstrual cycle
     
  • Withdrawal -- removing the penis from the vagina prior to ejaculation
     
  • Barrier contraceptives -- condoms, diaphragms, cervical caps, and various other methods that physically block the sperm from entering the uterus
     
  • Spermicides -- foams, jellies, gels, suppositories, inserts
     
  • Combined hormonal contraceptives (which contain a progestin and an estrogen) -- most birth control pills, patches, and rings
     
  • Progestin-only contraceptives -- some birth control pills ("mini-pills"), injections, and implants
     
  • Intrauterine devices (IUDs) -- implanted devices that are both very effective and reversible
     
  • Surgical sterilization -- tubal ligation (getting your "tubes tied") or a vasectomy (for men).
     
The birth control patch falls into the category of combined hormonal contraceptives, as it contains both an estrogen and a progestin. Some benefits of combined hormonal contraceptives include:
 
  • A very effective birth control method that is relatively easy to use
  • Regular menstrual cycles
  • Lighter menstrual bleeding
  • Less menstrual pain
  • A decreased risk of ovarian or endometrial cancer (cancer of the lining of the uterus).
     
However, combined hormonal contraceptives may increase the risk of blood clots and other problems, and not all women should take combined hormonal contraceptives (see Precautions and Warnings With the Birth Control Patch for more information). As with almost all methods of birth control, combined hormonal contraceptives must be used correctly and consistently. This can become a problem for women who have trouble remembering to take a tablet every day. The birth control patch may be a good option for these women, as it is only applied once a week.
 
The birth control patch does not protect against HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). In many situations, it is advisable to use condoms in addition to the birth control patch (to prevent the transmission of STDs).
 
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Birth Control Patch Information

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