What If the Contraceptive Patch Falls Off?

The patch is a highly effective contraceptive method when used correctly. It's just as effective as birth control pills and is a good alternative, reversible, hormonal contraceptive.

Research suggests the patch may even offer advantages to the pill, including:

  • Better compliance and effectiveness because the patch only needs to be re-applied once a week instead of taken every day
  • Reliable pregnancy protection for women who have trouble swallowing pills

Even though the patch offers excellent protection against becoming pregnant, this effectiveness can be compromised if it's not used properly.

Woman applying contraceptive patch to her arm
B. Boissonnet / Getty Images

If the Patch Falls Off

To apply the patch, you stick it on your upper torso (but not your breasts), stomach, buttocks, or upper arm. It's suggested that you use a different site every time you put on a new patch.

If it should become partially detached or fall off, what you should do depends on how long ago it came off.

  • Less than 24 hours ago: Reattach the same patch in the same location (as long as it is still sticky) or replace it with a new patch.
  • More than 24 hours ago: You must apply a new patch. Throw out the one that fell off and use a backup birth control method for the first seven days afterward.

If you replace the patch with a new one, the day you replace the patch will become the new day of the week that you change your patch.

For example, if you replace a fallen off the patch on a Tuesday, then you will change it on Tuesday of the following week).

It seems, though, that it is rare for a patch to fall off.

According to UpToDate, an electronic reference used by physicians and patients for in-depth medical information, trials showed only:

  • 1.8% of transdermal patches became completely detached
  • 2.9% became partially detached

One study included challenges such as using a sauna, whirlpool bath, treadmill use, and cool water immersion. A warm, humid climate also did not increase the risk of detachment.

The patch appears to stick regardless of heat, humidity, exercise, whirlpools, swimming, and bathing/showering. So while, it is important to know what to do if your patch falls off, chances are high that it won’t.

If You Forget to Change the Patch

To get peak effectiveness, you need to replace the patch (on the same day) once a week for three weeks. Then, you go one week without it.

If you want to change the day you apply the patch, you can choose a new day to put it on during the patch-free week (week 4).

If you forget to apply your patch on time, use the following guidelines, which are dependent on the week of your cycle you're in.

Week 1: First Patch

If you forget to apply the patch on your scheduled start day, stick on a new patch as soon as you remember (this day will become your new day each week to change the patch).

To avoid pregnancy, make sure you use back-up birth control (condoms, spermicide, the sponge) for seven days.

Week 2-3: Second or Third Patch

Because there's about a two-day amount of continued release of ample hormones, you have a two-day late-window to change the patch at the beginning of Week 2 or 3.

If you have left on the patch for up to two additional days:

  • Apply your new patch as soon as you remember
  • You don't need to switch your "patch change day"
  • You don’t need additional contraception

If it has been more than two days when you realize you forgot to change the patch, you're at a greater risk of birth control failure.

  • Apply your new patch as soon as you remember
  • If you've had sex in the last few days, it may be wise to use emergency contraception
  • Use backup birth control for seven days (beginning with the day you change the patch)
  • Switch your patch change day to the day you remember to change your patch

Forgetting to Take Off Your Third Patch

If you forget to take off the patch at the beginning of Week 4 (your patch-free week), this is okay.

  • Remove it whenever you remember
  • Begin your new cycle (Week 1) on your regular patch change day
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Article Sources
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  1. Egarter C, Frey Tirri B, Bitzer J, et al. Women's perceptions and reasons for choosing the pill, patch, or ring in the CHOICE study: a cross-sectional survey of contraceptive method selection after counselingBMC Womens Health. 2013;13:9. doi:10.1186/1472-6874-13-9

  2. Office of Population Affairs. Birth control patch. Updated May 6, 2019.

  3. UpToDate. Transdermal contraceptive patch. Updated  Jun 13, 2019.

  4. Planned Parenthood. How do I use the birth control patch?