Family Health Guide

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Birth Control: Patch

Some women ingest their contraceptive while others wear it daily. Known as Ortho Evra (currently there's no generic), the nude-tone skin patch is less than 2-inches square and delivers estrogen and progestin into the bloodstream through the skin. It prevents ovulation, thickens cervical mucus and thins the lining of the uterus. It's 92-99% effective at preventing pregnancy. Talk to your doctor about how quickly you can become pregnant after you discontinue using the patch.

You place it on your butt, chest (but not your breasts because the hormones might not absorb well into the fatty tissue), upper back, arm or abdomen. It's worn for a week, removed and replaced with a new patch (rotate its location each week to prevent skin irritation). After 3 weeks of use no patch is worn and you get your period.  The patch is only noticeable if you put it somewhere visible. Unless you experience any skin irritation, users quickly get used to wearing it. The patch stays on in the shower, during exercise and can be exposed to the sun, but it's not recommended to put moisturizer or cream directly on or around the patch's area.

Women report they experience more regular, lighter, and shorter periods, while less than 3% indicated possible headaches, nausea and vomiting and breast tenderness. The patch may be less effective for women who weigh more than 198 pounds because their higher body mass and blood volume might require a greater level of hormone than the patch offers. Taking estrogen is not recommended for women who smoke or have high blood pressure or have health issues such as complications from diabetes or migraines with auras because of an increased risk of blood clots, which might lead to a stroke or heart attack. Estrogen can also decrease milk supply and is not for breastfeeding mothers.