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  • Michael Frey, MD

How To Use The Birth Control Patch

How do I put on the birth control patch?

It’s easy to use the Xulane patch or Twirla patch: just stick a new patch to clean, dry skin. You can put Xulane or Twirla on your belly, buttocks (butt cheeks), or back. You can also put Xulane on your upper outer arm.

  • If you’re using Xulane, open the foil pouch by tearing along the top and side, then peel the foil open. Take the patch off the foil and peel half of the clear plastic off the patch.

  • If you’re using Twirla, tear open the foil pouch and pull the patch out. Peel the bigger piece of the clear plastic off the patch.

  • Hold the patch by the side that still has the other piece of clear plastic on it. Try not to touch the sticky part with your fingers.

  • Place that sticky half of the patch on your belly, buttocks (butt cheeks), or back. Xulane can also go on your upper outer arm.

  • Pull off the other piece of the clear plastic and press the whole patch to your skin.

  • Hold the patch in place against your skin with the palm of your hand for 10 seconds.



How often do I need to put on a new patch?

You need to change your patch once every week.

Wear a patch for 1 week (7 days), then take off that patch and put on a new one. Change your patch once a week for 3 weeks straight.


On week 4, don’t wear a patch at all — that’s when you’ll get your period. After 7 patch-free days, put on a new patch and start the cycle over. Each pack has 3 weekly patches in it, so you’ll use 3 patches per month.


It’s really important to put your new patch on right after your patch-free week, or you’ll be at risk for pregnancy. It’s okay if you’re still bleeding or spotting when it’s time to put on a new patch — that’s normal.


Be sure to put on a new patch on the same day every week — this will be your “patch change day.” If you start on a Monday, then Mondays are always the day you take off your old patch and put on a new one. 1 patch only has enough hormones in it to last for 1 week (7 days). So don’t wear the same patch longer than a week.


What do I do if I mess up using the patch?

Even though the patch is easy to use, you might forget to change it on time. Rarely, the patch can loosen or fall off. But don’t worry — you can still prevent pregnancy.


If your patch falls off or starts to peel off your skin for LESS than 1 day (24 hours):

  • Try to stick the patch back on in the same place right away.

  • Don’t put it back on if it’s not sticky anymore, has other stuff stuck to it, or gets stuck to itself — use a new patch instead.

  • If the patch won’t stick all the way back on your skin again, or you lost it, put a new patch on right away.

  • Your patch change day and patch cycle will stay the same — put on your next patch the same day you normally would.

  • You don’t need backup birth control or emergency contraception.

If your patch falls off or starts to peel off your skin for MORE than 1 day (24 hours), or you don’t know how long the patch has been off:

  • You may be at risk for pregnancy.

  • Put a new patch on as soon as you can and re-start your 4 week patch cycle — this will be your new patch change day and day 1 of your patch cycle.

  • Use a back-up method of birth control (like condoms) for the next 7 days.

  • If you had unprotected sex during this time, you can use emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy.

If you forget to take off your patch for your patch-free week:

  • Take your patch off as soon as you can.

  • Your patch change day and patch cycle will stay the same — put on your next patch and start your next patch cycle the same day you normally would.

  • You don’t need backup birth control or emergency contraception.

When to start the patch?

You can start using the birth control patch as soon as you get it — any day of the month, and anytime during your menstrual cycle. But depending on when you start the patch, you may need to use a backup birth control method (like condoms) for the first 7 days.


If you start using the patch during the first 5 days of your period, it will start working right away and you won’t need backup birth control. For example, if you get your period Monday morning, you can start using the patch anytime until Saturday morning and be protected from pregnancy right away. If you start using the patch at any other time, you need to use it for 7 days before it protects you from pregnancy. Use another method of birth control — like a condom — if you have penis-in-vagina sex during your first week on the patch.


How should I store my birth control patches?

Store your patches at room temperature away from sunlight, and don’t refrigerate them or put them in the freezer. Keep your patches sealed in their pouches until you use them. Read the storage instructions on the package, and always check the expiration date before putting on a new patch. Once you open a pouch, put the patch on immediately.


What do I do if I decide I want to get pregnant?

If you decide you want to get pregnant, just take off your patch and throw it away.


It’s possible to get pregnant right after you stop using the patch. It can take a few months for your period to go back to the cycle you had before you started using it. But it’s still possible to get pregnant during that time, even if your period isn’t regular or you haven’t gotten your period yet since stopping the patch.

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