Why I changed my contraception to the patch


Being a mom of two my life is, in a word, busy. From the time my kids open their eyes in the mornings to when I go sleep at night my life is go, go, go.

I homeschool my son, have a 1-year-old at home, freelance and run two blogs. And of course there’s still the housework and cooking to do.

So the chances of me remembering to take a pill every day at the same time is slim to none. I was skipping so many days that I just count my lucky stars that I didn’t fall pregnant again.

I mean, I love my kids but right now two are all that our apartment, finances and sanity can handle.

A couple of months ago, I had my gallbladder removed and while I was in hospital I still tried to take my pills. Even though the antibiotics they were giving me were making them null and void. My cousin is a gynae, and while visiting me she told me about the patch.

Excuse me, what now? Contraception comes in the form of a patch? Why did no one tell me about this before?

I knew about the pill, the implant, the injection, an IUD and condoms but this is the first I was hearing about the patch. Now there are a few more types of contraception but these were the ones I was aware of.

I didn’t like the idea of an implant – it sounded painful and very sci-fi. Same for the injection, I would rather not voluntarily get a shot.

As my gynae and I discovered once upon a pap smear, I was not the ideal candidate for an IUD and condoms are just a bother sometimes. So I was on the pill, although not very well.

READ MORE: 5 questions gynaecologists have asked their own gynaes

So, what is the patch?

The patch is a form of contraception that prevents pregnancy. You stick it on your body like a plaster. It’s usually prescribed to women under the age of 35 who don’t smoke and who weigh below 90kg.

OBGYN, Dr Elmarie Basson says the patch is ideal for women who want reliable and reversible contraception, but not keen on swallowing pills every day.

It’s also for patients whose bodies don’t react well to the pill. It can also be used to control menstruation issues in patients who aren’t sexually active.

Wait, so who shouldn’t use the patch?

According to Dr Basson, if you have a history with venous thromboembolism, a history of an oestrogen producing tumour or abnormal liver functions, the patch would not be an option.

It’s also not for patients with hypersensitivity to the patch or who suffer from other skin issues. The patch might be less reliable on women who are obese.

WATCH: How to use contraceptive patches

But, how does it work?

The patch contains oestrogen and progesterone that are slowly released into the bloodstream via the skin to prevent ovulation.

It also thins the lining of the uterus to prevent a fertilised egg from attaching easily and it thickens the cervical mucus to prevent sperm moving through with ease.

So how do I use it?

It’s preferable to start the patch on the first day of your period, Day 1. That way you won’t need to use a backup contraception. You can start on any day of your cycle but you’ll have to use a physical barrier protection like condoms for a week.

On the same day, every week you’ll put on a new patch on a different part of your body like your stomach, chest (not on or near the breasts), outer part of the upper arm, or buttocks.

The 4th week will be patch-free and you’ll likely get your period during this week. Remember to apply the patch to an area of skin that is clean, dry and free of hair.

Can I use it when I’m breastfeeding?

It’s not advised during the first 6 months of breastfeeding. Dr Basson says that they “advise using oestrogen containing methods during breastfeeding, because of the risk of the hormones going to the baby and also the risk that it might reduce the milk supply.

You can however start using it when the baby is 6 months old and you’re still breast feeding.”

Infographic template: Canva.com

Now, while I am still breastfeeding my 15-month-old, it’s not her main source of nutrition and the potential drop in supply was not something I was too concerned about. The pros far outweighed the cons for me.

The fact that it’s visible didn’t quite matter to me because I cover up those areas when I dress or go swimming and everything else on the cons list was negligible for me.

The biggest pro for me was that it was only something I had to remember to change once a week rather that every day, which was doable for me. The fact that it’s not affected by antibiotics is a big bonus as well; I know so many babies conceived because antibiotics caused shenanigans with the mom’s birth control.

If this is something that you’re interested in using, speak to your gynae as they will be able to advise you best knowing your history.

Do you use the patch? What has your experience with it been like? We'd love to hear from you.

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