Contraceptive Patch

Ortho Evra

Average Failure Rate: 8%

Ortho Evra is a hormonal birth control method whereby synthetic hormones are delivered directly through the skin and into the bloodstream via a thin patch. Women can wear the Ortho Evra contraceptive patch on the buttocks, abdomen, upper torso (front and back, excluding the breasts), or upper outer arm. Ortho Evra is replaced on the same day of the week for three consecutive weeks, and the fourth week is "patch-free." The patch remains attached and effective while exercising, bathing or in hot, humid conditions. It contains the same synthetic hormones as combined oral contraceptive pills (estrogen and progestin) and is thought to be about as effective as the Pill.

How the Contraceptive Patch Works

The mechanisms for the Ortho Evra contraceptive patch are the same as for combined oral contraceptive pills. The primary mechanism is by stopping release of an egg from the ovaries. The chemicals in the patch also change the mucus in the cervix and this may keep sperm from reaching the egg. If ovuation does occur, the hormone changes the lining of the uterus, make it harder for a fertilized egg to implant and develop. More about how this works...

Health and Safety Warning: In January of 2008, a new study showing an increased risk of blood clots among women using the contraceptive skin patch prompted the Food and Drug Administration to add a new warning to the drug's label. The possibility of blood clots was first placed on the Ortho Evra label in September 2006. The agency said the label on the Ortho Evra Contraceptive Transdermal Patch will include the results of a study in women aged 15-44 indicating a higher risk of clots than for women using birth control pills. The blood clots could potentially lead to a lung embolism, the agency said.

Side-Effects and Health Risks of the Ortho Evra Patch

The side-effects and health risks for the contraceptive patch are also thought to the same as for combined oral contraceptive pills, with the addition of irritation or discoloration of the skin at the patch site. The most common side-effects reported during clinical trials were breast discomfort, headache, application site reaction, nausea, upper respiratory infection, menstrual cramps, abdominal pain, nausea and/or vomiting, and mood swings. The patch is less effective for women over 198 lbs. Because the contraceptive patch is a newer form of birth control, more long term studies are needed to best document side-effects, health risks, and efficacy of the device. However, users of the patch are exposed to about 60% more estrogen than is found in typical birth control pills, therefore side-effects and risks may be increased. There have been some reported deaths due to cardiovascular effects of the patch. More about this risk...

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