Some think that birth control is a general nuisance, but if you’re sexually active and you want to avoid getting pregnant, it can be a fact of life.
Since many women have been taking one form of birth control or another for a large portion of their young adult and adult lives, it can be hard to know when it’s time to switch up methods and what exactly that switch would entail.
Below, we’ll explain the different types of birth control methods and how they work. We’ll also go into detail about the process of switching from an intrauterine device (IUD) to a birth control patch.
While the type of birth control that you choose is personal and dependent on your body and the decisions you make with your doctor, a better understanding of the entire process can definitely make switching methods easier.
If you’re considering a switch from an IUD to a birth control patch, there are a couple of things to note. Mainly, there are two different types of IUDs, hormonal and nonhormonal, to note when considering a change.
Both hormonal and nonhormonal IUDs are T-shaped and have a string at the end that the doctor will trim after it has been inserted. The string is also what your doctor will feel for in any checkups or annual gyno appointments to make sure the IUD is sitting where it’s supposed to.
How IUDs are inserted
A doctor inserts both hormonal and nonhormonal IUDs into your uterus using a small tube.
That said, before inserting the IUD, the doctor will use a speculum (which looks like a duck’s beak) to hold open the vaginal canal so they can see your cervix. The doctor will then measure to make sure your uterus is between 6 to 9 centimeters deep so that they can make sure to insert the IUD into the correct spot with less risk of perforation.
While people report different levels of discomfort, the level of pain reported may depend on if you have delivered a baby vaginally. The level of discomfort can also depend on the size and shape of your uterus.
There are a few brands of hormonal IUDs. Planned Parenthood explains they all use the hormone progestin, which works to thicken the mucus around the cervix in order to physically stop sperm. These hormones can also cause ovulation to stop, which eliminates the chance of pregnancy since there’s no egg for the sperm to fertilize. It can stay in for 3 to 7 years.
Paragard is the only brand available for nonhormonal copper IUDs, and it features, you guessed it, a tiny piece of copper coiled around the device. Felice Gersh, MD, explained to Healthline that copper emits ions that repel sperm and cause the cervical mucus to thicken, which makes it more difficult for sperm to swim. The big kicker with the copper IUD is that it can be worn for up to 10 years.
While there are also pills, shots, and even small implants as options when it comes to birth control, an often overlooked form is the patch. With surveys showing that women are taking more of an active role in understanding the benefits and side effects of birth control methods, it’s more important than ever to consider all of your options.
It’s important to note that during your first week using the patch, you should also use another form of birth control. This is because it takes a little time for the hormones to build up in your system.
How to apply a birth control patch
Now, about the patch. It’s basically as simple as it sounds. The birth control patch is only a little bit larger than a postage stamp and can be worn on clean, dry skin on your shoulder, lower or upper back, arm, or buttocks. Make sure that you haven’t applied any lotions, powders, or body makeup on the space where you intend to put the patch. This will help avoid detachment.
You should replace it once per week, ideally exactly 1 week from the day it was applied. On week 3, you can leave the patch off, which is when most users have their period. According to Planned Parenthood, when the patch is used correctly it is approximately 99-percent effective.
Who can use the patch?
Like most forms of birth control, the patch can be used by just about anyone. That said, it may be less effective for those with a BMI greater than 30.
Patch users will also experience an increased risk of side effects if they smoke and are over the age of 35, have diabetes, have blood pressure or high cholesterol levels or if they have certain blood clotting disorders. It is generally not a recommended method for people who fall into these categories.
Since both the birth control patch and IUDs use progestin, which is also in all of the other forms of hormonal birth control, the same risks and side effects are possible but unlikely. These risks include:
- deep vein thrombosis
- heart attack
- pulmonary embolism
- blood clots
- gallbladder disease
- high blood pressure
There is also the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) since neither the patch nor IUD provide any sort of barrier protection. To protect against STIs, opt for a condom in addition to a patch.
If you want something less time-consuming than a daily pill, but with less commitment than the IUD, a birth control patch is a great way to go. You can stop using it at any time, it’s effective and fairly hassle-free.