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Patches or pills? For starting hormone therapy

Patches and pills are different ways to give the body the female hormones oestrogen and progesterone

Oestrogen and progesterone are responsible for physical development (you can find out more about this in the puberty pack) and, if you have a womb, regulating periods. Oestrogen is necessary for your heart and bone strength.

Your doctor has recommended that you need oestrogen and progesterone. You can take them by pill or by sticking a patch to your skin, or use a combination of both.

Hormone pills

You can take oestrogen replacement by a pill. If you have a womb, you will also need to take progesterone.

Your doctor will help you find the most appropriate pill for you.

For some people they can take the combined oral contraceptive pill (COCP) which has both oestrogen and progesterone. It is taken by many women as a contraceptive method, but can also be used to replace oestrogen and progesterone in people and to start or regulate their periods.

Oestrogen or combined oestrogen and progesterone pills must be taken every day.

Pros Cons
Easy to take Have to remember to take it every day
Periods are regular and may be less painful or lighter May give you migraines (a particular type of headache)
COCP will also protect against a possible pregnancy but not infections (STIs) Can increase your blood pressure and increase risk of clots

Transdermal patches

Transdermal means that they sit on the skin like a sticker and the hormones are absorbed through your skin.

An HRT transdermal patch does not work as a contraceptive because the hormone levels are too low.

Pros Cons
You don’t have to swallow pills Although see-through, still visible
Quicker absorption due to direct skin contact Rarely, but can fall off
Easy to change dose if needed Need to be cut for lower doses
Less likely to have migraines Most do not work as contraception
Thought to be better for health, such as may not contribute to blood pressure issues and so on

Will the patches fall off?

Your patch is very sticky and will stay on when you’re in the shower, bath, pool or exercising. If a patch falls off, replace with a new one.

How often will it need to be changed?

The patch is usually changed 1 or 2 times a week. Your doctor or nurse will tell you how often.

Where do the patches go?

The patch should be applied to tummy (under tummy button) the bottom, thigh or hip. Do not place on the breast area.

What about STIs?

Neither a patch or pill will protect you from sexually transmitted infections. Only a barrier form such as condoms will protect you from STIs.

More information

Talk to your doctor or nurse about the options for your treatment.

Ask them to show you the patches and pills (we have demonstration packs).

NHS contraception guide

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Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

Resource number: END21

Resource Type: Article

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