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The birth control patch is easy: just put on a patch once a week. You can choose to get a period every month, or you can skip it — it’s totally up to you.

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How do I put on the birth control patch?

It’s easy to use the Xulane patch: just stick a new patch to clean, dry skin on your belly, upper outer arm, buttocks (butt cheeks), or back. 

Always check the expiration date before putting on a new patch. Open the pouch by tearing along the top and side, then peel the foil open. Take the patch off the foil and peel half of the clear layer of plastic away from the patch. Try not to touch the sticky part with your fingers, and place that sticky half on your belly, upper outer arm, buttocks (butt cheeks), or back. Pull off the other half of the plastic and press the whole patch to your skin. Hold it in place with the palm of your hand for 10 seconds.

Once you open a pouch, put the patch on immediately. Always put the patch on clean, dry skin. Don’t use lotion, oils, powder, or makeup on the skin where you put your patch — that can keep the patch from sticking. The patch is made to stay in place while swimming, sweating, or in a jacuzzi, bathtub, shower, or sauna. Check your patch every day to make sure it’s sticking.

When you take your old patch off, fold it in half so it sticks together, seal it in a plastic bag, and throw it in the trash. Don’t flush it down the toilet. (You’ll be helping out the environment if you follow these directions because it helps keep any hormones that are left in the patch from getting into the soil and water.)

How often do I need to put on a new patch?

1 patch has enough hormones in it to last for 1 week (7 days). So you need to change your patch once every week. 

Be sure to put on a new patch on the same day every week — this will be your “patch change day.” If you start on a Monday, then Mondays are always the day you take off your old patch and put on a new one. Don’t wear the same patch longer than a week.

You have 2 different options for patch schedules: you can choose to get a period or choose to skip it. Either way works just as well to prevent pregnancy and is just as safe.

If you want to get your period:

Wear a patch for 1 week (7 days), then take off that patch and put on a new one. Change your patch once a week for 3 weeks straight. 

On week 4, don’t wear a patch at all — that’s when you’ll get your period. After 7 patch-free days, put on a new patch and start the cycle over.  Each pack has 3 weekly patches in it, so you’ll use 3 patches per month. 

It’s really important to put your new patch on right after your patch-free week, or you’ll be at risk for pregnancy. It’s okay if you’re still bleeding or spotting when it’s time to put on a new patch — that’s normal.

If you want to skip your period:

Skipping your period with the patch is safe and super easy. If you want to skip a period or stop having periods altogether while you’re using the patch, just skip the patch-free week and start a new pack of patches on week 4. So you’ll always be wearing a patch.

You may have some bleeding or spotting for the first 6 months when you use the patch to skip your period. It’s totally normal and should go away eventually.

There’s nothing dangerous or harmful about using the patch to stop or skip your period. And it comes in really handy if you want a special occasion (like a vacation or a hot date) to be period-free. If you stop using the patch, your period will go back to the way it was before you started using it.

What do I do if I mess up using the patch?

Even though the patch is easy to use, you might forget to change it on time. Rarely, the patch can loosen or fall off. But don’t worry — you can still prevent pregnancy.

Here’s a handy tool to help you figure out what to do if something goes wrong.

How long does it take the patch to work?

You can start using the birth control patch as soon as you get it — any day of the month, and anytime during your menstrual cycle. But depending on when you start the patch, you may need to use a backup birth control method (like condoms) for the first 7 days.

If you start using the patch during the first 5 days of your period, it will start working right away and you won’t need backup birth control. For example, if you get your period Monday morning, you can start using the patch anytime until Saturday morning and be protected from pregnancy right away. If you start using the patch at any other time, you need to use it for 7 days before it protects you from pregnancy. Use another method of birth control — like a condom — if you have penis-in-vagina sex during your first week on the patch.

How should I store my birth control patches?

Store your patches at room temperature away from sunlight, and don’t refrigerate them or put them in the freezer. Keep your patches sealed in their pouches until you use them. Read the storage instructions on the package, and always check the expiration date before putting on a new patch. Once you open a pouch, put the patch on immediately.

What do I do if I decide I want to get pregnant?

If you decide you want to get pregnant, just take off your patch and throw it away. 

It’s possible to get pregnant right after you stop using the patch. It can take a few months for your period to go back to the cycle you had before you started using it. But it’s still possible to get pregnant during that time, even if your period isn’t regular or you haven’t gotten your period yet since stopping the patch.

More questions from patients:

What do I do if my birth control patch keeps falling off?

In order for the patch to work correctly, it must completely stick to your skin with smooth edges and no wrinkles. If your patch doesn’t stick to your skin easily, take it off and apply a new patch. 

If your patch falls off or partially falls off for less than 1 day, try to reapply it. If the patch does not stick completely, apply a new patch immediately. Your “patch change day” will stay the same and you’re still protected from pregnancy.

If your patch falls completely or partially off for more than 1 day, or if you’re not sure how long your patch has been off, apply a new patch and start a new 4-week cycle. And use a backup birth control method — like condoms — for the first week of your new 4-week patch cycle. You’ll then have a new “patch change day.”

What's the best place on my body to put the birth control patch?

It depends. You can place the patch on your butt, your back, your upper outer arm, or the sides of your belly. It’s important to put it somewhere that won’t be irritated by tight clothing. The patch can fall off if it’s beneath your waistband, near your joints, on your breasts, or on cut or irritated skin. 

Don’t place your new patch in the same place as your previous patch, and never use lotions, creams, oils, powders, or makeup where your patch is. This can cause your patch to fall off or become loose. 

Remember, the patch must be completely stuck onto your skin to work. So place every new patch on clean and dry skin, and make sure there are no lumps or raised edges.

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The Patch

  • 91% effective

  • Costs up to $150, but can be $0

  • Prescription required

  • Change it once a week

The patch doesn’t protect you from STDs. Use a condom with your patch to help stop pregnancy and STDs.
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