Risks

Compared to oral contraceptives, less than one out of 100 women will get pregnant during the first year of typical use of the birth control patch.

The birth control patch doesn't protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Side effects of the birth control patch may include:

  • An increased risk of blood-clotting problems, heart attack, stroke, liver cancer, gallbladder disease and high blood pressure
  • Breakthrough bleeding or spotting
  • Skin irritation
  • Breast tenderness or pain
  • Menstrual pain
  • Headaches
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Mood swings
  • Weight gain
  • Dizziness
  • Acne
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle spasms
  • Vaginal infections and discharge
  • Fatigue
  • Fluid retention

Research shows that the birth control patch may increase estrogen levels in the body compared to combination birth control pills that are taken by mouth. You may have a slightly higher risk of estrogen-related adverse events, such as blood clots, while using the patch than if you took combination birth control pills.

Dec. 23, 2015
References
  1. Birth control methods fact sheet. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/birth-control-methods.html. Accessed Nov. 10, 2015.
  2. Xulane (prescribing information). Morgantown, W.Va.: Mylan Pharmaceuticals Inc.; 2014. http://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/drugInfo.cfm?setid=f7848550-086a-43d8-8ae5-047f4b9e4382. Accessed Nov. 30, 2015.
  3. Zieman M. Overview of contraception. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Nov. 10, 2015.
  4. Hatcher RA, et al. Contraceptive patch and vaginal contraceptive ring. In: Contraceptive Technology. 20th ed. New York, N.Y.: Ardent Media; 2011.
  5. Burkman RT. Transdermal contraceptive patch. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Nov. 10, 2015.
  6. Nelson AL. Transdermal contraception methods: Today's patches and new options on the horizon. Expert Opinion on Pharmacotherapy. 2015:16:863.
  7. Orange Book: Approved Drug Products with Therapeutic Equivalence Evaluations, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cder/ob/docs/obdetail.cfm?Appl_No=200910&TABLE1=OB_Rx. Accessed Nov. 10, 2015.