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The birth control patch is easy: just put on a patch once a week. If you’re using Xulane, you can also use the patch to skip your period if you want to. 

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How do I put on the birth control patch?

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

  • Always check the expiration date before putting on a new patch. 

  • If you’re using Xulane, open the foil 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 plastic off the patch. 

  • If you’re using Twirla, tear open the foil pouch and pull the patch out. Peel the bigger piece of the clear plastic off the patch. 

  • Hold the patch by the side that still has the other piece of clear plastic on it. Try not to touch the sticky part with your fingers. 

  • Place that sticky half of the patch on your belly, buttocks (butt cheeks), or back. Xulane can also go on your upper outer arm.

  • Pull off the other piece of the clear plastic and press the whole patch to your skin. 

  • Hold the patch in place against your skin with the palm of your hand for 10 seconds.

Once you open a pouch, put the patch on immediately. Pick a spot where it can lie flat and smooth, and won’t rub against the waistband or seams of your clothes. Don’t put your new patch on the exact same spot as your last patch. 

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. (If you often spend more than 30 minutes at a time in the water, the Twirla patch might not stick as well.) 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. Make sure kids or pets can’t get to it, and 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?

You need to change your patch once every week. 

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.

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. 1 patch only has enough hormones in it to last for 1 week (7 days). So don’t wear the same patch longer than a week.

How do I skip my period with the Xulane patch?

If you’re using Xulane, you can choose to skip a period or stop having periods altogether while you’re on the patch. Skipping your period with the Xulane patch is just as effective at preventing pregnancy, and it’s safe and super easy.

Just start a new pack of patches on week 4, instead of having a patch-free week on week 4. So keep changing your patch every week, and make sure you’re always wearing a patch. That’s it!

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.

If you’re using Xulane: 

Use this tool to help you figure out what to do if something goes wrong.

If you’re using Twirla:

Depending on what happened and where you’re at in your patch cycle, you may need to start a new patch cycle and use backup birth control. Here’s what to do in different situations:

If your patch falls off or starts to peel off your skin for LESS than 1 day (24 hours):

  • Try to stick the patch back on in the same place right away. 

  • Don’t put it back on if it’s not sticky anymore, has other stuff stuck to it, or gets stuck to itself — use a new patch instead.

  • If the patch won’t stick all the way back on your skin again, or you lost it, put a new patch on right away.

  • Your patch change day and patch cycle will stay the same — put on your next patch the same day you normally would.

  • You don’t need backup birth control or emergency contraception. 

If your patch falls off or starts to peel off your skin for MORE than 1 day (24 hours), or you don’t know how long the patch has been off:

  • You may be at risk for pregnancy.

  • Put a new patch on as soon as you can and re-start your 4 week patch cycle — this will be your new patch change day and day 1 of your patch cycle. 

  • Use a back-up method of birth control (like condoms) for the next 7 days. 

  • If you had unprotected sex during this time, you can use emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy. 

If you’re less than 2 days (48 hours) late changing your patch (you wore the same patch for less than 9 days):

  • Put on a new patch right away.

  • Your patch change day and patch cycle will stay the same — put on your next patch the same day you normally would.

  • You don’t need backup birth control or emergency contraception.

If you’re 2 days (48 hours) late or more changing your patch (you wore the same patch for 9 days or more):

  • You may be at risk for pregnancy. 

  • Put a new patch on as soon as you can and re-start your 4 week patch cycle — this will be your new patch change day and day 1 of your patch cycle. 

  • Use a back-up method of birth control (like condoms) for the next 7 days. 

  • If you had unprotected sex during this time, you can use emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy. 

If you don’t put on a new patch after your patch-free week and your patch has been off for more than 7 days in a row: 

  • You may be at risk for pregnancy. 

  • Put a new patch on as soon as you can and re-start your 4 week patch cycle — this will be your new patch change day and day 1 of your patch cycle. 

  • Use a back-up method of birth control (like condoms) for the next 7 days. 

  • If you had unprotected sex during this time, you can use emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy. 

If you forget to take off your patch for your patch-free week:

  • Take your patch off as soon as you can.

  • Your patch change day and patch cycle will stay the same — put on your next patch and start your next patch cycle the same day you normally would.

  • You don’t need backup birth control or emergency contraception.

If you miss a period, you might be pregnant. But it’s also normal to have missed or light periods when you use hormonal birth control and not be pregnant. If you made a mistake with Twirla and miss 1 period, or you miss 2 periods in a row, take a pregnancy test just to be sure. 

Call a nurse or doctor — like the ones at your local Planned Parenthood health center — if you think you might be pregnant or you have any other questions about your birth control patch. You can also talk with a live health educator at our free chat/text line.

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 put on a new patch. 

If your patch falls off or partially falls off for less than 1 day, try to put it back on. If the patch does not stick completely, put on 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, put on 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 put Xulane or Twirla on the sides of your belly, buttocks (butt cheeks), or back. You can also put Xulane on your upper outer arm (but not Twirla).

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 last 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.
See All Methods