What If the Contraceptive Patch Falls Off?

Contraceptive Patch Falls off
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The patch is a highly effective contraceptive method when used correctly. In fact, the patch is just as effective as birth control pills and is a good alternative, reversible, hormonal contraceptive. Research suggests that the patch may even offer additional advantages to the pill, including:

  • Because the hormones in the patch go through the skin, directly into the bloodstream (and don’t have to be ingested), its therapeutic effects can be achieved at lower dosages.
  • Hormone levels do not fluctuate as much because there is a steady stream of hormones being released (this could lead to fewer side effects).
  • The patch only needs to be re-applied once a week, so it doesn’t require you to remember to use it every day. This can improve effectiveness and compliance.
  • The patch offers 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 is not used properly.

Applying the Patch

You must stick the patch on your upper torso (but not your breasts), stomach, buttocks or upper arm. It is suggested that you use a different site every time you put on a new patch.

If the Patch Falls Off

What you should do if your patch falls off depends on how long the patch has been partially or totally detached.

Rules of Thumb

  • If it has been less than 24 hours since the patch fell off, you can just reattach the same patch in the same location (as long as it is still sticky). You can also replace it with a new patch.
  • If your patch has fallen off for more than 24 hours, you must apply a new patch. Throw out the one that has fallen off.

If you replace the patch with a new one, the day that 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).

You should also use a backup birth control method for the first seven days after you have applied a new patch because it had been more than 24 hours since the previous patch fell off.

It seems, though, that it is rare that a patch will fall off. According to UpToDate, an electronic reference used by physicians and patients for in-depth medical information, trials showed only 1.8 percent of transdermal patches became completely detached and 2.9 percent 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.

It appears, then, that the patch sticks regardless of heat, humidity, exercise, whirlpools, swimming and bathing/showering. So even though it is important to know what to do if your patch falls off, chances are very high that it won’t.

If You Forget to Change the Patch

To be most effective, 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).

The following are guidelines to help you know what to do if you forget to apply your patch (depending on which week in your cycle you are in):

  • First Patch (Week 1) – if you forget to put the patch on past 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.
  • Second or Third Patch (Weeks 2 or 3) – because there is 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, you can just apply your new patch at this time. You do not need to switch your "patch change day," and you don’t need additional contraception. If it has been more than two days when you realize that you forgot to change the patch, you are at a greater risk of birth control failure. If you have had sex in this time frame (three or more days past the start of Week 2 or 3), it may be wise to use emergency contraception. Also, you will need to use backup birth control for seven days (beginning with the day you change the patch) and will have to 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 OK. Just remove it whenever you remember. You can still begin your new cycle (Week 1) on your regular scheduled patch change day.
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