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More contraceptive options

Condoms, spermicides, the Pill and sterilisation are common forms of contraception, but other methods are also available.

Each type of contraception has its own advantages and disadvantages.

What is the combined contraceptive patch ?

The combined contraceptive patch is a small skin patch with the same hormones as the combined pill, that is, an oestrogen and a progestogen. Women can wear this patch on the buttocks, abdomen, upper torso (except for the breasts), or the outer part of the upper arm. You should not place the patch on skin that is red, irritated or cut, or on skin where you apply make-up, creams or powders.

How does the combined contraceptive patch work?

A combined contraceptive patch is applied weekly for three consecutive weeks (on the same day of the week). The fourth week is a “patch-free week”. This is when you should have your withdrawal bleed.

Women should only wear one patch at a time.

The combined contraceptive patch prevents pregnancy by delivering a continuous amount of two hormones, an oestrogen and a progestogen, through the skin and into the blood stream.

How effective is the combined contraceptive patch?

The combined contraceptive patch is more than 99% effective when used correctly.

Are there side effects associated with the combined contraceptive patch?

There are a few possible side effects of the combined contraceptive patch that include:

  • Breast tenderness
  • Headache
  • Rash or redness at the site of the patch
  • Nausea
  • Menstrual cramps

Who shouldn’t use the combined contraceptive patch?

Some women should not use the combined contraceptive patch. They include women:

  • With history of blood clots, heart attack or stroke
  • Aged 35 and over, who smoke cigarettes
  • With certain cancers, such as breast cancer
  • Who are pregnant or think they might be pregnant

Does the combined contraceptive patch protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs)?

No. The combined contraceptive patch does not protect against STIs, including HIV (the virus that causes AIDS). The male condom provides the best protection from most STIs.

What is an IUD?

An IUD, or intrauterine device, is a small device that is placed into the uterus (womb) and prevents pregnancy. There are two main types of IUDs available in the UK: copper IUDs and the levonorgestrel-releasing intrauterine system (IUS).

How do IUDs work?

Copper IUDs slowly release copper into the uterine cavity. The copper mainly has a toxic effect on both sperm and eggs, thereby preventing fertilisation. Also, copper may have an effect on the cervical mucus, thus stopping the sperm from reaching the egg. Copper IUDs may also prevent implantation of a fertilised egg by affecting the lining of the uterus. Copper IUDs need replacing every five to 10 years, depending on the particular device used.

The levonorgestrel-releasing intrauterine system, releases the hormone levonorgestrel, which is a progestogen. This works mainly by changing the lining of the uterus, so implantation of a fertilised egg cannot occur, but also causes the cervical mucus to become thicker so the sperm cannot reach the egg. The IUS can stay in for five years, or longer if a woman is over 45 years old.

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