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The Ortho Evra Patch

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Updated April 23, 2012

The Ortho Evra Patch

Ortho Evra Patch

Photo Courtesy of Getty Images/Staff

Definition:

The Ortho Evra Patch is the first weekly form of hormonal birth control. It is a discreet and reversible type of prescription contraception. It is a 4 x 4 cm, thin, smooth, beige, plastic patch that sticks to a woman’s skin.

How the Ortho Evra Patch Is Used:

A new contraceptive patch is put on once a week, for 3 consecutive weeks each month. You will have to change your Ortho Evra patch on the same day each week at any hour. No patch is used in the fourth week when a woman will typically get her period.

The patch can be worn on 1 of 4 areas of the body: upper outer arm, abdomen, buttocks, or upper torso (front and back, excluding the breasts). The Ortho Evra patch is versatile -- a woman should wear the patch in a different area of her body each week. Many women will change their patch location, depending on wardrobe choices and what feels best to them.

How It Works:

The Ortho Evra patch is designed to continuously release a steady flow of synthetic estrogen and progestin (Ethinyl Estradiol and Norelgestromin) through the skin and into the bloodstream to protect against pregnancy for 7 days (which is why a woman must replace it after each week). The Ortho Evra patch contains the same types of hormones found in the Pill.

Advantages:

  • The patch is simple, convenient, and safe
  • It doesn't involve taking a daily pill, so it’s one less thing to think about each day
  • The patch is comfortable and discreet
  • It is reversible – the ability to become pregnant returns after stopping use
  • You can do everything you normally do, and know that the patch is right there, doing its job
  • The Ortho Evra Patch does not interfere with having sex and can allow for more spontaneity
  • Many who use the patch report having regular, lighter, and shorter periods
  • Ortho Evra easily adheres to the skin and does not prevent activities such as bathing, showering, swimming, and exercising
  • You can use the Ortho Evra patch to skip your period

Non-Contraceptive Advantages:

At this point, scientists are assuming that the Ortho Evra Patch may offer some of the same non-contraceptive advantages as the pill. Further research is being conducted on this.

Some of these additional benefits may include protection against:

Disadvantages:

There is a low incidence of side effects for those women who choose to use the patch. These side effects will usually disappear after 2 to 3 months of use and may include:
  • Mood changes
  • Headaches
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Breast tenderness
  • Nausea (sometimes with vomiting)
Other disadvantages associated with the patch are:
  • Changes in sexual desire

  • Women with a history of depression may not be able to continue to use the patch if their depression worsens

  • Skin reaction at the site of application

Special Warning:

Hormones from patches applied to the skin get into the bloodstream and are removed from the body differently than those from pills taken by mouth.
  • Women using the patch are exposed to about 60 percent more estrogen than if using a typical birth control pill

  • Generally, increased estrogen exposure could increase the risk of side effects

  • The risk of blood clots in the legs and/or the lungs may be higher with the patch compared to a typical birth control pill of 35 mcg of estrogen

  • The FDA has updated the label on the Ortho Evra Patch due to health warnings. For more information: Ortho Evra Patch Warning

Who Can Use The Orth Evra Patch:

This method can be a safe birth control option for most healthy women. It is important that a woman discuss her complete medical history with her doctor before using the Ortho Evra Patch.

The patch is not recommended for women who:

  • Are over 35 and smoke cigarettes
  • Have had a heart attack or stroke
  • Have uncontrolled high blood pressure
  • Have had an abnormal growth or cancer of the breast
  • Have controlled high blood pressure and smoke cigarettes
  • Have had blood clots
  • Have liver disease or liver growths
  • Have had serious heart valve problems
  • Have certain inherited blood clotting disorders
  • May be pregnant

How to Obtain:

To get a prescription for the Ortho Evra Patch, a woman has to have a medical evaluation and blood pressure check by a physician. Women can then fill the prescription.

Costs Associated with the Patch: Prices vary, but the typical cost for the patch is approximately between $30 and $40 a month (plus the expense of having a medical examination in order to obtain the prescription). In many communities, Medicaid covers the cost for this contraceptive method. A woman should check with her private health insurance policy as coverage for birth control varies.

Effectiveness: The Ortho Evra Patch is 92 percent to 99.7 percent effective. This means that with perfect use, less than 1 out of every 100 women who use the patch will become pregnant. With typical use, 8 out of every 100 women who use the patch will become pregnant.

Certain medications may also decrease the effectiveness of hormonal contraceptives like the patch.

The patch may be less effective for overweight women (those who weigh more than 198 pounds).

The effectiveness of the Ortho Evra Patch can also be lowered due to user error. A woman may be more at risk for pregnancy if:

  • The patch falls off and is not replaced within 24 hours
  • A woman forgets to change the patch each week
  • If the patch is not stored at room temperature
  • If the patch is not kept keep sealed until it is applied
  • The woman tries to reapply a patch that is no longer sticky, has been stuck to itself or another surface, has other material stuck to it, or has become loose/ fallen off before
In research studies, less than 2 percent of patches came off and less than 3 percent of patches loosened.

A woman should read the insert inside the package for more detailed information about the use, risks, and effectiveness of the patch.

STD Protection: The patch offers no protection against sexually transmitted infections.

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