Overview of Loestrin Birth Control Pill

Loestrin. Photo © 2015 Dawn Stacey

Loestrin is a combination birth control pill which contains ethinyl estradiol and the progestin norethindrone acetate. Loestrin is different from standard birth control pills in two ways.

Lo Loestrin Fe is the only birth control pill that contains just 10 mcg of estrogen. With this pill brand, you take 26 days of pills that contain hormones. Lo Loestrin Fe is categorized as a mini extended cycle pill because the pack contains more hormone pills than typical 28-day packs.So, Lo Loestrin Fe offers you effective contraception with a low estrogen dose and shorter and/or lighter periods.

To break this down more, one pack of Lo Loestrin Fe has 26 days of both estrogen and progestin pills, two days of only estrogen pills, and two days of placebo pills.

Research shows that taking estrogen for two extra days may make your period shorter and lighter than normal.

Some Loestrin pill packs only contain 21 pills -- so there are no placebo pills.

Since there are only 21 pills in these packs, you use Loestrin a little bit differently than packs that have 28 pills. You take one pill each day for 21 days (3 weeks). Then, instead of taking a placebo or inactive pill, you take nothing for the next 7 days. You should have your withdrawal period during this week. Then you begin your next pack as soon as the week is over.

Loestrin Options:

Except for Lo Loestrin Fe, all the other Loestrin options fall under the category of monophasic birth control pills because the amount of the hormone does not change throughout the pill cycle.

Loestrin works like all other combination birth control pills in the ways that it helps to prevent pregnancy.

21-day Loestrin is available in two options:

  • Loestrin 1/20 (this has a lower dose of hormones - 20 mcg ethinyl estradiol and 1.00 mg norethindrone acetate).
  • Loestrin 1.5/30 (this has a slightly higher dose of hormones - 30 mcg of ethinyl estradiol and 1.50 mg norethindrone acetate).

    Based on your whether you have had side effects in the past when using the pill and your medical history, your doctor will help decide which Loestrin formulation is the best fit for you.

    Many doctors choose Loestrin 1/20 as a first pill option because it has a low dose of estrogen. Some women may also feel more comfortable using a pill that has a lower estrogen dose. If you are overweight though, make sure to discuss this with your doctor because low-dose birth control pills may not be as effective for larger women. Loestrin 1.5/30 is considered a regular dose birth control pill because it contains 30-35 mcg of estrogen.

    Loestrin Side Effects:

    Loestrin contains a high androgenic/low estrogenic profile which is basically the combination of the levels and the type of progestin and estrogen found in the pill. The balance between these hormones in a pill brand could be the reasons for certain side effects. Each woman is different, but pills, like Loestrin, that have this combination, may be more likely to cause the side effects of unwanted hair growth and acne (but a lot of this depends upon on your unique biology). For Lo Loestrin Fe, the most common side effects women report are nausea/vomiting, headaches, and bleeding irregularities.

    That being said, the lower estrogen levels may help minimize some of the typical birth control pill side effects.

    Loestrin and Lo Loestrin Fe can be helpful for preventing certain side effects as well. These pills may help decrease moodiness/irritability as well as weight gain.

    Non-Contraceptive Benefits of Loestrin:

    When you choose to use Loestrin for contraception, you may experience some non-contraceptive benefits such as:

      Is Loestrin Effective?

      When taken as directed, Loestrin and Lo Loestrin Fe are just as effective as any birth control pill: 92-99.7%. If you are a good candidate for the pill, you should be able to take Loestrin.

      An Important Distinction:

      Loestrin 1/20 and Loestrin 1.5/30 are not the same pill brands as Loestrin Fe 1/20 and Loestrin Fe 1.5/30. Loestrin Fe 1/20 and Loestrin Fe 1.5/30 come in 28-day packs (not 21-day). They contain 21 days of ethinyl estradiol and norethindrone acetate pills and seven days of brown placebo pills that contain 75 mg of ferrous fumarate (a type of iron).

      Is There a Generic Loestrin Pill?

      Loestrin is available in these generic options:

      • Junel 1/20, Junel 1.5/30, Junel Fe 1/20, and Junel Fe 1.5/30
      • Microgestin 1/20, Microgestinand 1.5/30, Microgestin Fe 1/20, and Microgestin Fe 1.5/30

      There is no generic alternative for Lo Loestrin Fe.


      Jelovsek, R. "Accurate Answers to Questions About Birth Control Pills." [e-book]. Accessed via private subscription.