Our objectives were to determine women's knowledge of the effectiveness of different contraceptive methods and the risks of thrombosis with use of hormonal contraceptives, and their attitudes regarding the acceptability of bleeding irregularities and weight change. An additional aim was to determine what information women want to be given about contraceptives. In order to satisfy the study objectives, a series of semi-structured focus groups was conducted with women of differing life-stage and background from Oxford. Quantitative data were collected using a structured questionnaire. Qualitative data were collected through discussion with group members. Forty-five women attended four focus groups. Women were segregated into the following groups: professional working mothers; non-professional mothers; young, unmarried professional women; and undergraduate students. Women tended to overestimate the risks and underestimate the effectiveness of hormonal contraceptives. They were resistant to interference with their bleeding patterns and weight.