Does the birth control patch have any side effects?

Dr. Darria Long Gillespie, MD
Emergency Medicine Specialist

Side effects may include nausea, vomiting, depression, high blood pressure, blood clots, breakthrough bleeding, spotting, changes in menstrual flow and missed periods. Other side effects may include breast tenderness, enlargement or secretion. Many women have minor skin irritation, redness or a rash from the patch. It usually does not last long. The patch has been linked to some rare but serious medical problems. These include blood clots, migraines and gallbladder disease. The patch also raises the risk for heart attack, stroke and liver tumors.

Estrogen raises the risk for blood clots. Women who use the patch have about 60 percent more estrogen in their blood than women who take a typical birth control pill containing 30 mcg of estrogen. A study found that blood clots were more common in women who used the patch than those who used the pill. But some studies have found no difference in the number of blood clots between these two groups of women. 

This answer was adapted from Sharecare's award-winning AskMD app. Start a consultation now to find out what's causing your symptoms, learn how to manage a condition or find a doctor.

The birth control patch has many potential side effects including the following:

  • intermenstrual spotting
  • nausea
  • breast tenderness
  • headaches
  • weight gain
  • mood changes
  • missed periods
  • decreased libido
  • vaginal discharge
  • visual changes with contact lenses

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.