BACKGROUND: There is little existing research to guide researchers in estimating the minimum number of measurement occasions required to obtain reliable estimates of serum estrogens, progesterone, gonadotropins, sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), and urinary estrogen and progesterone metabolites in premenopausal women. METHODS: Using data from a longitudinal study of 34 women with a mean age of 42.3 years (SD = 2.6), we calculated the minimum number of measurement occasions required to obtain reliable estimates of 12 analytes (8 in blood, 4 in urine). Five samples were obtained over 1 year: at baseline, and after 1, 3, 6, and 12 months. We also calculated the percent of true variance accounted for by a single measurement and intraclass correlation coefficients (ICC) between measurement occasions. RESULTS: Only 2 of the 12 analytes we examined, SHBG and estrone sulfate (E1S), could be adequately estimated by a single measurement using a minimum reliability standard of having the potential to account for 64% of true variance. Other analytes required from 2 to 12 occasions to account for 81% of the true variance, and 2 to 5 occasions to account for 64% of true variance. ICCs ranged from 0.33 for estradiol (E2) to 0.88 for SHBG. Percent of true variance accounted for by single measurements ranged from 29% for luteinizing hormone (LH) to 92% for SHBG. CONCLUSIONS: Experimental designs that take the natural variability of these analytes into account by obtaining measurements on a sufficient number of occasions will be rewarded with increased power and accuracy.