Prevent pregnancy with Kelnor birth control pill on prescription

Low-dose pills like Kelnor reduce estrogen-related side effects, making them a great alternative to conventional contraceptive pills. Kelnor also can treat painful periods and hormonal acne.

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Reviewed by Dr Roy Kedem, MD

Information last reviewed 10/23/19


What is Kelnor?

Kelnor is a combined oral contraceptive, or birth control pill. It contains a combination of synthetic versions of the female hormones estrogen (ethinyl estradiol) and progesterone (ethynodiol diacetate).  Each tablet dispenser contains 21 active tablets, which are light yellow in color, and 7 white inactive, or placebo, tablets.

How does Kelnor work?

The estrogen and progesterone in Kelnor perform three actions in order to prevent pregnancy:

  • Suppression of ovulation: Kelnor helps to maintain more consistent hormone levels, preventing the estrogen peak during the first part of the menstrual cycle. Without the peak in estrogen, the ovaries do not get the signal to release an egg. 
  • Thickening of the cervical mucus: This helps to prevent sperm from reaching the egg, preventing fertilization of the egg.
  • Alteration of the lining of the uterus: This action makes it more difficult for a fertilized egg to attach to the lining of the uterus, or womb. 

How effective is Kelnor?

Kelnor is a very effective method of birth control, preventing over 99% of unwanted pregnancies. Its reliability depends on taking it correctly. Forgetting pills or vomiting after taking a pill can reduce effectivity.  Extra protection (such as condoms) should be used for a seven day period if a dose of Kelnor is missed.  Certain medications may also interfere with Kelnor and reduce its effectivity.  Tell your doctor about any medications you are taking before starting Kelnor, including herbal medications, supplements and anti-seizure medications.  

Other uses for Kelnor

Kelnor is also indicated for the treatment of severe acne vulgaris, amenorrhea (or cessation of menstrual periods), abnormal vaginal or uterine bleeding, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and endometriosis. 


Active ingredients

A pack of Kelnor contains both active pills and placebo pills. The active pills are light yellow in color and contain the following active ingredients: 35mcg ethinyl estradiol (EE) and 1mg ethynodiol diacetate. The ethinyl estradiol is a synthetic version of the female hormone, estrogen and the ethynodiol diacetate is a synthetic progesterone. These ingredients work in combination to prevent pregnancy by preventing ovulation, fertilization and implantation.

The placebo pills are white in color and do not contain any active ingredients.

Inactive ingredients

The inactive ingredients in the yellow pills are: anhydrous lactose, FD&C yellow no. 10 aluminum lake, magnesium stearate, microcrystalline cellulose, polacrilin potassium, and povidone.

The white placebo pills contain: anhydrous lactose, hypromellose, magnesium stearate, and microcrystalline cellulose.

Which ingredients can cause an allergic reaction?

Kelnor is not associated with severe allergic reactions but it does contain anhydrous lactose. While those who are lactose intolerant do not have the enzyme to digest lactose resulting in some uncomfortable stomach symptoms it is not normally present in large enough quantities in medications to cause lactose intolerance. 


Kelnor dosage

Each pack of Kenor contains 21 light yellow pills which contain 1mg of ethynodiol diacetate band 35 mcg of ethinyl estradiol. One light, yellow pill is taken daily. The packs also contain 7 white placebo pills which have no active ingredients. 

How to start Kelnor

Kelnor is packaged in blister packs containing 28 tablets each. There are 21 active tablets, which are yellow and contain the active hormones. There are 7 white inert tablets, which do not contain active ingredients. There are two ways to start Kelnor, the Day 1 Start and the Sunday Start. 

  • Day 1 start (most common starting method): Start with the first active yellow tablet on the first day of menstruation, which is known as Day 1 of the menstrual cycle. 
  • Sunday start: With the Sunday start, the first tablet should be taken on the Sunday after the onset of the menstrual period. Again, start with the first active yellow tablet, and take them in order as packaged.

How to take Kelnor

Try to take Kelnor at the same time every day and follow the order of pills in the packaging. During the 7 days when you are taking the inactive pills, you should be getting your period. You may find that your bleeding lasts the full seven days, but it could be shorter. When taking oral contraceptives, it is best to find a time of day that is easy to remember in order to avoid missing a pill.

What do I do if I forget to take my pill?

In case you miss an active (yellow) pill, take it immediately once you remember. Your next pill should be taken at the normal time, even if you take 2 pills in one day. If you forget to take active pills for 2 days in a row, take 2 pills once you remember, and follow up by taking 2 pills the next day. Then continue to take the pills as scheduled. It is advisable to use a back-up birth control method, such as condoms, over the next 7 days if you miss 2 or more doses, as there is an increased risk of becoming pregnant during this 7 day period. Refer to the package insert or ask your doctor if you are not sure what you should do if you forget to take your pill(s). 

Side Effects

Kelnor side effects

It is common to experience some side effects when taking Kelnor, but these are usually mild and often resolve after you have been taking Kelnor for a few weeks. Common side effects include:

  • Irregular periods or spotting when you first start taking the pill

  • Headaches

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Bloating

  • Breast tenderness

  • Weight changes

  • Swelling of ankles or feet

If you experience persistent or severe side effects, you should seek medical advice. A doctor may be able to offer you alternative birth-control solutions to alleviate these side effects.


In some rare cases, you may experience severe side effects. If you experience any symptoms of an allergic reaction or blood clot, you should seek emergency medical attention. These symptoms include:

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Fainting or Dizziness

  • Swelling of the mouth, tongue, lips or throat

  • Hives

  • Chest pain - especially pain that spreads into your jaw or left arm

  • Confusion

  • Slurred speech

  • Severe headaches or migraines

  • Changes in vision, including double vision and partial or full blindness

  • Lack of coordination

  • Excessive sweating


Do NOT take Kelnor if you:

  • Have adrenal insufficiency
  • Are pregnant or think you might be pregnant or are planning to become pregnant.
  • Are breastfeeding
  • Experience abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • Have, or have ever had, breast cancer or other estrogen- or progestin-sensitive cancer
  • Have ever had a stroke or heart attack
  • Have hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Have or have ever had a blood clot
  • Are over the age of 35
  • You smoke
  • Have diabetes with vascular disease
  • Are being treated for Hepatitis C
  • Have a sensitivity to ethinyl estradiol, levonorgestrel, or any other component of Kelnor

Take special precautions if you:

  • Have a family history of blood clots
  • Smoke
  • Are diabetic
  • Have a history of migraine headaches
  • Have a history of gallbladder disease
  • Have a history of hepatic adenomas
  • Have a history of liver disease, including hepatitis
  • Have a history of hereditary angioedema
  • Have a history of depression

Seek immediate medical help if you experience any of the following:

  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Severe headache, especially if you do not have a history of a headache disorder
  • Chest pain
  • Eye pain or changes in vision
  • Severe leg swelling or pain

Drug interactions

Medications which can decrease the effectiveness of Kelnor include:

  • Barbiturates
  • Bosentan
  • Carbamazepine
  • Felbamate
  • Griseofulvin
  • Oxcarbazepine
  • Phenytoin
  • Rifampin
  • St. John's wort
  • Topiramate

Always use a back-up birth control method if you are taking antibiotics whilst taking Kelnor.

Treatment Options

Alternatives to Kelnor

There are lots of different birth control pills on the market. To find the one that is best for you, you may want to try a few different ones. If you have any sensitivity towards estrogen or are breastfeeding, the ‘mini-pill’ could be a better option. The mini-pill contains only progesterone as its active hormone ingredient. 

Other, longer-acting options include intrauterine devices (IUD), hormonal implants, hormonal patches or injections. If you choose any of these methods, you have the advantage of not having to remember to take a pill each day. These methods may have side effects which may not be acceptable for some patients. Speak to your doctor or health care advisor for more information.


Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. You and your physician will determine if and how you should take any medication prescribed to you following a medical consultation.

  1. “DailyMed - KELNOR 1/35- Ethynodiol Diacetate and Ethinyl Estradiol” (U.S. National Library of Medicine) <> accessed July 8, 2019
  2. Hall KS and Trussell J, “Types of Combined Oral Contraceptives Used by US Women” (2012) 86 Contraception 659
  3. “PDR Search” (Kelnor (ethinyl estradiol/ethynodiol diacetate) dose, indications, adverse effects, interactions... from <> accessed July 8, 2019
  4. Schindler AE, “Non-Contraceptive Benefits of Oral Hormonal Contraceptives” (2012) 11 International Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism

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