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Mestranol molecule ball.png
Clinical data
Trade namesEnovid, Norinyl, Ortho-Novum, others
Other namesEthinylestradiol 3-methyl ether; EEME; EE3ME; CB-8027; L-33355; RS-1044; 17α-Ethynylestradiol 3-methyl ether; 17α-Ethynyl-3-methoxyestra-1,3,5(10)-trien-17β-ol; 3-Methoxy-19-norpregna-1,3,5(10)-trien-20-yn-17α-ol
AHFS/Drugs.comInternational Drug Names
Routes of
By mouth[1]
Drug classEstrogen; Estrogen ether
ATC code
  • None
Legal status
Legal status
  • In general: ℞ (Prescription only)
Pharmacokinetic data
Elimination half-lifeMestranol: 50 min[2]
EE: 7–36 hours[3][4][5][6]
CAS Number
PubChem CID
CompTox Dashboard (EPA)
ECHA InfoCard100.000.707 Edit this at Wikidata
Chemical and physical data
Molar mass310.437 g/mol g·mol−1
3D model (JSmol)

Mestranol, sold under the brand names Enovid, Norinyl, and Ortho-Novum among others, is an estrogen medication which has been used in birth control pills, menopausal hormone therapy, and the treatment of menstrual disorders.[1][7][8][9] It is formulated in combination with a progestin and is not available alone.[9] It is taken by mouth.[1]

Side effects of mestranol include nausea, breast tension, edema, and breakthrough bleeding among others.[10] It is an estrogen, or an agonist of the estrogen receptors, the biological target of estrogens like estradiol.[11] Mestranol is a prodrug of ethinylestradiol in the body.[11]

Mestranol was discovered in 1956 and was introduced for medical use in 1957.[12][13] It was the estrogen component in the first birth control pill.[12][13] In 1969, mestranol was replaced by ethinylestradiol in most birth control pills, although mestranol continues to be used in a few birth control pills even today.[14][9] Mestranol remains available only in a few countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, Japan, and Chile.[9]

Medical uses[edit]

Mestranol was employed as the estrogen component in many of the first oral contraceptives, such as mestranol/noretynodrel (brand name Enovid) and mestranol/norethisterone (brand names Ortho-Novum, Norinyl), and is still in use today.[7][8][9] In addition to its use as an oral contraceptive, mestranol has been used as a component of menopausal hormone therapy for the treatment of menopausal symptoms.[1]

Side effects[edit]


Ethinylestradiol (EE), the active form of mestranol.

Mestranol is a biologically inactive prodrug of ethinylestradiol to which it is demethylated in the liver with a conversion efficiency of 70% (50 μg of mestranol is pharmacokinetically bioequivalent to 35 μg of ethinylestradiol, or ethinylestradiol being about 1.7 times as orally potent by weight as mestranol).[15][16][11] It has been found to possess 0.1 to 2.3% of the relative binding affinity of estradiol (100%) for the estrogen receptor, compared to 75 to 190% for ethinylestradiol.[17][18]

The elimination half-life of mestranol has been reported to be 50 minutes.[2] The elimination half-life of the active form of mestranol, ethinylestradiol, is 7 to 36 hours.[3][4][5][6]

The effective ovulation-inhibiting dosage of mestranol has been studied in women.[19][20][21] It has been reported to be about 98% effective at inhibiting ovulation at a dosage of 75 or 80 μg/day.[22][21][23]

Oral potencies of estrogens

Estrogen Type Class ETD
(mg/14 days)
(mg/14 days)
(mg/14 days)
Estradiol (non-micronized) Bioidentical Steroidal ? ≥120–300 ? ? ? ?
Estradiol (micronized) Bioidentical Steroidal ? 60–80 4.3 14–28 1.0–2.0 >8
Estradiol valerate Bioidentical Steroidal 6–10 60–80 4.3 14–28 1.0–2.0 >8
Estradiol benzoate Bioidentical Steroidal ? 60–140 4.5 ? ? ?
Estriol Bioidentical Steroidal 20a 120–150b 10.0–10.7b 28–84 1.0–6.0 ?
Estriol succinate Bioidentical Steroidal ? 140–150b 10.0–10.7b 28–84 2.0–6.0 ?
Conjugated estrogens Natural Steroidal 5–12 60–80 4.3 8.4–17.5 0.625–1.25 7.5
Ethinylestradiol Synthetic Steroidal 0.2 1.0–2.0 0.071–0.11 0.28 0.02–0.04 0.1
Mestranol Synthetic Steroidal 0.3 1.5–3.0 0.11–0.13 0.3–0.5 0.025 ?
Quinestrol Synthetic Steroidal 0.3 2.0–4.0 0.14–0.29 ? 0.025–0.05 ?
Methylestradiol Synthetic Steroidal ? 2.0 ? ? ? ?
Diethylstilbestrol Synthetic Nonsteroidal 2.5 20–30 1.4–2.1 ? 0.5–2.0 3
Diethylstilbestrol dipropionate Synthetic Nonsteroidal ? 15–30 1.1–1.4 ? ? ?
Dienestrol Synthetic Nonsteroidal ? 30 ? ? 0.5–4.0 ?
Dienestrol diacetate Synthetic Nonsteroidal 3–5 30–60 2.9–4.3 ? ? ?
Hexestrol Synthetic Nonsteroidal ? 70–110 ? ? ? ?
Hexestrol diacetate Synthetic Nonsteroidal ? 45 ? ? ? ?
Chlorotrianisene Synthetic Nonsteroidal ? >100 ? ? ? ?
Methallenestril Synthetic Nonsteroidal ? 400 ? ? ? ?
Note: The OID of EE is 0.1 mg/day. Footnotes: a = Very variable, often higher. b = In divided doses, 3x/day; irregular and atypical proliferation. Sources: See template.


Mestranol, also known as ethinylestradiol 3-methyl ether (EEME) or as 17α-ethynyl-3-methoxyestra-1,3,5(10)-trien-17β-ol, is a synthetic estrane steroid and a derivative of estradiol.[24][25][26] It is specifically a derivative of ethinylestradiol (17α-ethynylestradiol) with a methyl ether at the C3 position.[24][25]


In April 1956, noretynodrel was investigated, in Puerto Rico, in the first large-scale clinical trial of a progestogen as an oral contraceptive.[12][13] The trial was conducted in Puerto Rico due to the high birth rate in the country and concerns of moral censure in the United States.[27] It was discovered early into the study that the initial chemical syntheses of noretynodrel had been contaminated with small amounts (1–2%) of the 3-methyl ether of ethinylestradiol (noretynodrel having been synthesized from ethinylestradiol).[12][13] When this impurity was removed, higher rates of breakthrough bleeding occurred.[12][13] As a result, mestranol, that same year (1956),[28] was developed and serendipitously identified as a very potent synthetic estrogen (and eventually as a prodrug of ethinylestradiol), given its name, and added back to the formulation.[12][13] This resulted in Enovid by G. D. Searle & Company, the first oral contraceptive and a combination of 9.85 mg noretynodrel and 150 μg mestranol per pill.[12][13]

Around 1969, mestranol was replaced by ethinylestradiol in most combined oral contraceptives due to widespread panic about the recently uncovered increased risk of venous thromboembolism with estrogen-containing oral contraceptives.[14] The rationale was that ethinylestradiol was approximately twice as potent by weight as mestranol and hence that the dose could be halved, which it was thought might result in a lower incidence of venous thromboembolism.[14] Whether this actually did result in a lower incidence of venous thromboembolism has never been assessed.[14]

Society and culture[edit]

Generic names[edit]

Mestranol is the generic name of the drug and its INN, USAN, USP, BAN, DCF, and JAN, while mestranolo is its DCIT.[24][25][1][9]

Brand names[edit]

Mestranol has been marketed under a variety of brand names, mostly or exclusively in combination with progestins, including Devocin, Enavid, Enovid, Femigen, Mestranol, Norbiogest, Ortho-Novin, Ortho-Novum, Ovastol, and Tranel among others.[7][24][29][25] Today, it continues to be sold in combination with progestins under brand names including Lutedion, Necon, Norinyl, Ortho-Novum, and Sophia.[9]


Mestranol remains available only in the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, and Chile.[9] It is only marketed in combination with progestins, such as norethisterone.[9]


Mestranol has been studied as a male contraceptive and was found to be highly effective.[30][31][32][33] At a dosage of 0.45 mg/day, it suppressed gonadotropin levels, reduced sperm count to zero within 4 to 6 weeks, and decreased libido, erectile function, and testicular size.[30][31][33][32] Gynecomastia occurred in all of the men.[30][31][33][32] These findings contributed to the conclusion that estrogens would be unacceptable as contraceptives for men.[31]


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