Hormonal contraception, aside from preventing pregnancies, offers its users benefits that range from regulating menstruation (leading to lighter and less painful periods) to managing and alleviating conditions such as acne or premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms. However, despite the range of benefits it provides, the prevalence of contraceptive use in Singapore remains relatively low.
The report “Contraceptive Use by Method 2019” by the United Nations estimated that just 39.2% of females between 15 to 49 years in Singapore use contraceptives, securing a fifth ranking among countries in South-Eastern Asia. A study conducted by the National University Hospital revealed that out of 259 female patients who were surveyed, just 40% knew about the contraceptive patch — this is in contrast to 100% of whom knew about condoms, and 89% of whom knew about oral contraceptive pills.
This guide seeks to provide a comprehensive introduction to the contraceptive patch, discussing what it is, how to use it, its benefits, as well as some common side effects and how to manage them.
What is The Patch and how does it work?
The contraceptive patch, or the birth control patch as it is more commonly known, is a thin, sticky patch that looks almost like a large band-aid, except it is beige in color — making it discreet and easy to wear under clothing. The birth control patch is best applied to areas that don't have too much hair and on skin that is clean and completely dry. Recommended areas include the skin of the buttocks, arm, abdomen, or upper torso. It should never be applied onto the breasts or chest area.
Similar to the birth control pill, the birth control patch releases a combination of estrogen and progestin hormones into the body to prevent pregnancies. It works to prevent ovulation, and thickens the cervical mucus, which makes it more difficult for sperm to enter the uterus. The birth control patch comes in packs of 3, and is applied once a week for 3 weeks, for a total of 21 days in a month. With perfect usage (i.e. having no missed patches, and patches are applied and changed correctly), the birth control patch is up to 99% effective. However, as most people do not use it perfectly, it typically has an efficacy rate of around 91%.
What are the benefits?
Besides being a discreet and convenient method of contraception (with no need for a daily schedule unlike with the birth control pill) the hormones in the birth control patch; like other hormonal contraceptives, can help with painful periods, and the managing of acne or PMS symptoms. Unlike most other contraceptive methods, deciding to stop the patch to conceive will not affect the return rate to fertility, and in most cases allows for pregnancies to occur almost immediately.
What are the side effects and how can they be managed?
Just like other hormonal contraceptive methods, the common side effects experienced while on the birth control patch can include breast or chest tenderness, headaches, and bloating (that is often mistaken for weight gain). To read more about these common side effects, head over to our previous article here, where we discussed them in detail.
Side effects exclusive to birth control patch users include skin irritation that can occur at the site of application. This is often due to having the patch applied to the same area of skin frequently, which can lead to mild skin irritation and itchiness. It is hence recommended to rotate between different areas of the body when the patch is replaced each week.
The birth control patch, while not the most well-known form of hormonal contraception, is just as effective and is arguably more convenient than the widely-used birth control pill. In the end however, it all boils down to personal preference. To learn more, you can reach out to our customer care team or schedule a teleconsultation with one of our doctors to discuss your medical history and your preferences in order to find out what works best for you.
Lai, L., 2017. Study: Many in the dark about newer birth control. The Straits Times,.
Plannedparenthood.org. 2020. What Are The Benefits Of The Birth Control Patch?. [online] Available at: <https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control/birth-control-patch/what-are-benefits-birth-control-patch#:~:text=The%20patch%20is%20a%20safe,regular%2C%20and%20easing%20menstrual%20cramps> [Accessed 3 December 2020].
United Nations, 2019. Contraceptive Use By Method. Department of Economic and Social Affairs, p.18.