Contraception is as big an issue for women as female infertility is. While not having babies may be depressing, having unwanted ones also causes worries and problems. Contraceptives give a woman the freedom to decide when she wants a family. By using the right contraceptive measure, she can postpone pregnancy till she wants to, without depending upon her partner. There are various contraception options she can choose amongst, but she has to decide what works best for her. The right one should be safe and easy to use, without any side effects.
Patch contraceptives, as the name suggests, are patches that are applied on the skin to provide protection from unwanted pregnancy. A birth control patch is one of the easiest measures to use, because it is easy to apply and works for a week. There are no worries about forgetting to have a new on every day. Birth control has come a long way, from pills and barrier methods, to a simple patch on the skin. Let’s know more about patch contraceptives.
Working of Patch Contraceptives
A birth control patch is a hormonal contraceptive, which can be obtained by prescription. It works by release of hormones which get absorbed through the skin. The hormones enter the system and act on the reproductive functioning to prevent pregnancy in the following ways:
- They stop the ovaries from releasing the eggs
- They change the consistency of cervical mucus, making it thick so that the sperm is unable to swim through and reach the egg
- They change the thickness of the uterine lining so that it does not support implantation
Basically, a patch does all that an oral contraceptive does but it is much easier to use as it has to be done only once a week. It has to be applied on the skin of the stomach, buttocks, upper arms or upper body (but not on the breasts). The location should be changed every week so that the skin does not get irritated. A total of three patches have to be used during a menstrual cycle, with replacement on the same day every week. There is no need to wear one in the last week, when the menstrual period is due. This is quite similar to oral pills, where the woman has to follow the 21 day pattern and the last 7 days go without the pill.
Patch Contraceptives: Risks and Benefits
As a birth control measure, the patch has its own risks and benefits. The fact that it offers 99% efficacy makes it s trusted form of contraception. Correct and consistent usage gives complete protection, but some medications can interfere with their working. Also, there is some safety concerns related to their use. Although serious health risks are rare, there are certain side effects that patch contraceptives are associated with. These include skin irritation, nausea, headaches, bloating, moderate weight gain, breast tenderness, irregular vaginal bleeding, yeast infections, and depression. Use of patch control contraceptives should be avoided in the following cases:
- When a woman is pregnant
- She has blood-clotting disorders, blood clots or vein inflammation
- History of breast or liver cancer
- History of liver disease, heart disease or stroke
- She is suffering from high blood pressure or diabetes
- The woman is over 35 years of age
- She is a heavy smoker
- She suffers from unexplained vaginal bleeding
Birth control patch releases high doses of estrogen, almost 60% more than that released by the pill. This puts the woman at high risk of heart attack, stroke, and blood clots. For this reason, it may not be suitable for all and should be used only after consulting an expert gynecologist. It is also important to note that these contraceptives do not provide protection from sexually transmitted diseases.
While the risks related to patch contraceptives are many, it has some big benefits too. The patch is convenient and safe, without the hassles of daily change. This makes sex more spontaneous and enjoyable. Women usually start getting regular and lighter periods as they start using the patch. Additionally, there are certain other health benefits that can be availed. This form of contraception lowers the risk of ovarian and endometrial cancers, bone loss, anemia, pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy, ovarian cysts, reproductive infections, premenstrual symptoms, acne, and cysts in the breasts.
Pregnancy after Discontinuing the Patch Contraceptive
A birth control patch starts working as soon as it is applied though it is advisable to use a backup during the first week. If it falls of accidentally, a woman should put one back within 24 hours. Getting pregnant after discontinuing it is easy too as ovulation is most likely to return to normal within three cycles. In some cases, it may take up to six months for fertility to be restored.
Those who want to start this form of birth control post delivery should consult a physician first. Breastfeeding mothers should be careful in particular as traces of the hormone may make way into the breast milk. It is, however, not likely to affect the baby. Those who have had a miscarriage or abortion can resume using a birth control patch immediately.
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