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Contraceptive Patch

Virtually Healthcare is a cutting-edge GP practice providing comprehensive contraception care and sexual health services. The service is easily accessible remotely or in person with all appointments free of charge on the NHS.

The Virtually Healthcare difference

Virtually Healthcare is an innovative GP practice, providing expert care in the comfort and privacy of your home. The Virtually Healthcare service is designed to fit in with modern lives. You can access consultations easily with virtual appointments available seven days a week.

The highly-skilled team includes more than 40 clinicians working together to investigate and treat disease, and help you optimise your health and wellbeing. As well as experienced GPs, the team includes sexual health specialists, physiotherapists and practice nurses to offer a comprehensive primary care service.

During the pandemic, many patients are finding it more difficult to access healthcare. Virtually Healthcare provides rapid access video or telephone appointments; with consultations available the same day if you contact us before 3pm. Our clinicians can provide professional assessment and advice, arrange investigations, prescribe treatment or arrange for a face-to-face review.

At Virtually Healthcare our focus is on you. Our clinicians take a holistic approach to care. Whether you want an easy, convenient way to get contraception or a discreet testing service for STIs our dedicated team can provide expert advice and treatment.

Advantages and disadvantages of the contraceptive patch

The right choice of contraception is very personal. It will depend on your lifestyle, your sex life, your preferences and any pregnancy plans. Your doctor will take you through the pros and cons of any contraceptive method so that you can make an informed choice. For the patch these include:

The advantages

  • It’s always working, so sex can be spontaneous and uninterrupted.
  • You don’t need an internal examination before you start using the patch.
  • You replace it once a week, so it’s low-maintenance.
  • It can make your periods lighter, less painful and more regular.
  • Your fertility should quickly return to normal when you remove the patch.
  • The patch is around 5cm square and discreet in appearance.
  • Unlike the pill, the patch remains effective if you are sick or have diarrhoea.
  • The patch may reduce your risk of ovarian, womb and bowel cancer.

The disadvantages

  • You need to remember to change the patch for it to be effective.
  • It doesn’t protect against STIs.
  • The patch is visible.
  • Like the pill, the patch can raise your blood pressure, so you should have regular checks.
  • It may not be suitable for women weighing more than 90kg or 14 stone.
  • Some women using the patch are at increased risk of developing blood clots. It may not be suitable for women with other risk factors for clotting including smokers and anyone over 35 years.


What is a contraceptive patch?

The contraceptive patch is a type of hormonal contraception for women. It is a discreet sticky patch which you apply to the skin. The device releases hormones which are absorbed through the skin. You change the patch weekly for 3 weeks. You should then have a week off, during which you will have a ‘withdrawal’ bleed like a period.

You can wear your patch to swim, shower and exercise. If used according to the instructions, the patch should prevent 99% of pregnancies. However, effectiveness of 91% is achieved with typical use.

How does the contraceptive patch work?

The patch releases a steady stream of artificial versions of the female hormones oestrogen and progesterone. The hormones are absorbed through your skin into the bloodstream.

The hormones work in the same way as the pill. They prevent the ovaries releasing an egg each month, thicken the mucous in the neck of the womb so that it’s more difficult for the sperm to get to the egg, and thin the lining of the womb so that a fertilised egg can’t implant. You are protected from pregnancy even during the one-week patch-free break.

Contraceptive care at Virtually Healthcare

The specialist family planning GPs at Virtually Healthcare provide a comprehensive range of free contraceptive services. They will listen to your lifestyle, preferences, and any pregnancy plans, before suggesting your options. These could include the contraceptive patch or other methods including the pill, mini-pill, contraceptive implants and injections, barrier methods such as condoms and caps, or coils or intrauterine systems like the Mirena device.

Does the contraceptive patch cause weight gain?

In research, most studies of different hormonal contraceptive methods showed no great weight difference. There is also evidence that women do not tend to stop using the pill or patch because of weight change. However, the research evidence to date is not conclusive. So we cannot definitively say that hormonal family planning methods do not cause weight gain . However, they appear to have no major impact on weight.

Where should I put the patch?

You can put the patch on most areas of skin. Look for an area that’s healthy, dry and not very hairy. Avoid the breasts and areas where clothing may rub. Although the patch is small and unobtrusive, some people like to ensure the patch won’t be obviously visible.

It’s sensible to regularly change the position to prevent skin soreness and irritation.

Hot topics in contraception

How long can I use the patch?

If you’re healthy, a non-smoker and you have no medical reasons to prevent patch use, you can use the contraceptive patch until you’re 50. It may not be healthy to use the patch if you have a history of:

  • Thrombosis or blood clots
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Migraine with aura
  • Stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Systemic Lupus Erythematosis with antiphospholipid antibodies
  • Breast cancer or a BRCA gene
  • Gall bladder or liver disease
  • Diabetes complications
  • A family history of thrombosis (before 45 years)

Can I miss my patch-free break?

In the same way as with the pill, you can safely use the patch without a break. The withdrawal bleed is not a period, it’s a response to stopping the hormones. This means that if you use the patch continually there is no build-up of blood. If you struggle with mood swings or heavy bleeding, it’s safe to miss the patch-free break regularly or to avoid symptoms during a holiday or special occasion.

How quickly does the patch prevent pregnancy?

The speed with which the patch protects against pregnancy depends on when you start using the device. If you’re sure you’re not pregnant, it’s safe to start the patch at any time in your cycle.

  • If you apply the patch on one of the first five days following the start of your period, the patch will prevent pregnancy immediately.
  • If you apply the patch later in your cycle you should use additional protection for the first seven days that you use the patch.

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Types of consultations we offer

We offer written, telephone and video consultations with a range of male and female clinicians from GPs, nurse practitioners, and primary care specialists such as physiotherapy.