Hormonal Methods

Ethinyl Estradiol (Synthetic Estrogen)

October 28, 2018

Ethinyl estradiol (EE) is a synthetic form of estrogen that’s mainly used in various hormonal contraceptives, usually in combination with a progestin. It’s among the most frequently used medications.


Ethinyl /eth•i•nyl/ [eth´ĭ-nil] Estradiol /es•tra•di•ol/ [es′trədī′ôl] (Estrogen: /ES•troh•jen/ [es′trojən])

Kinds of Birth Control Which Contain Ethinyl Estradiol

Hormonal birth control containing ethinyl estradiol contains:

  • Blend birth control pills
  • The birth control patch
  • NuvaRing

The Function of Estrogen

Estrogen is a hormone that’s generally produced by the female ovaries. It has a significant role in normal female reproductive function. Estradiol is a natural occurring type of estrogen. It aids the female reproductive organs to grow. It also helps your uterine wall to prepare for the implantation of a fertilized egg.

How Estrogen from the Pill Has Altered

Through time, the amount of the synthetic estrogen, ethinyl estradiol, in hormonal birth control has been significantly diminished. The estrogen levels seen in today’s birth control pills are much safer. When the first birth control pill, Enovid, gained FDA approval in 1960, it didn’t even contain ethinyl estradiol. Enovid’s formulation consisted of a progestin and 150 micrograms (mcg) of mestranol, a type of estrogen that’s converted into the body to become an ethinyl estradiol.

To help put this estrogen level into standpoint, 50 mcg of mestranol is equal to about 35 mcg of ethinyl estradiol. Hence the very first birth control pill manufacturer comprised the equivalent of 105 mcg of estrogen. Most combination birth control pills now comprise between 20 mcg (low dose pills) into 30/35 mcg of ethinyl estradiol.

There are a few higher-dose pills that do contain up to 50 mcg, and there’s one low dose pill, Lo Loestrin Fe that only contains 10 mcg of ethinyl estradiol.

Ethinyl Estradiol in the NuvaRing and Patch

The ethinyl estradiol from the vaginal ring and also the birth control patch is similar to birth control pills:

  • The NuvaRing steadily releases 15 mcg of ethinyl estradiol in your body every day. This takes place over a span of 21 days.
  • The Ortho Evra patch delivers 20 mcg of ethinyl estradiol each day for a total of 7 days. But due to the way that your body absorbs this particular hormone, through the skin, your real exposure to ethinyl estradiol in the patch is similar to if you’re carrying a daily 50 mcg birth control pill.

There’s Less Estrogen Today

Overall, today’s birth control pill formulations have less than one-third of ethinyl estradiol than prior versions of this pill. The lower ethinyl estradiol levels now available in hormonal birth control can provide you both contraceptive and non-contraceptive advantages, with the added bonus of far less disagreeable side effects.

The Way Ethinyl Estradiol Works

So what can ethinyl estradiol do? Estrogen can help in regulating your period or manage painful periods. As it helps to prevent ovulation, this artificial estrogen was proven to decrease your risk of prostate cancer in addition to endometrial cancer.

Plus, since estrogen has the ability to block bone resorption, ethinyl estradiol can also help increase bone mineral density.

Everything You Should Also Know About Artificial Estrogen

Ethinyl estradiol is broken down quickly in the body. Thus, to work correctly, birth control pills need to be taken at the same time each day. Otherwise, the estrogen might be metabolized too quickly, and the pill’s effectiveness could be lowered.

Certain medicines may also cause the liver enzymes to accelerate the body’s breakdown of estrogen or reduce the recirculation of accessible estrogen within the body, each of which may lead to lower ethinyl estradiol levels and higher odds of pill failure.

Risks and Cautions

There are a few women who should not use hormonal birth control which contains ethinyl estradiol. Greater estrogen exposure may be linked to blood clots/venous thromboembolism. This risk increases if you smoke or have specific medical problems. Some research also indicates that, in order to be effective, severely overweight women might have to use birth control with greater levels of ethinyl estradiol. Due to possible side effects and/or certain conditions that might lower the protection of using birth control that contains ethinyl estradiol, it is critical that you fully (and frankly ) discuss your lifestyle, habits, and medical history with your physician. This can help to establish if you are a good fit for a birth control method that contains ethinyl estradiol.

Other Names For Ethinyl Estradiol

Ethinyl estradiol is also called:

  • Estrogen
  • Ethinyl
  • Ethinylestradiol
  • Artificial estrogen
  • Estrogen from the pill
  • Mestranol
  • EE