The serum concentrations of ethinylestradiol (EE) during the first 4 h and 24 h after intake of an oral contraceptive containing 30 micrograms EE and 75 micrograms gestodene (EE/GSD) were compared to those after intake of a preparation containing the same EE dose and 150 micrograms desogestrel (EE/DG) in each of 11 women on days 1, 10, and 21 of their 1st, 3rd, 6th, and 12th cycles. There were great interindividual variations, but during treatment with EE/GSD the EE levels were higher and the EE peaks occurred by 30 min later than during treatment with EE/DG. The areas under the EE serum concentration-versus-time curves (AUC) between 0 and 4 h were higher by 37% (p less than 0.03) and between 0 and 24 h higher by 70% (p less than 0.002) during treatment with EE/GSD. During each treatment cycle, the EE levels rose between day 1 and 10. The serum levels of corticosteroid-binding globulin (CBG), which is known to be influenced only by the estrogenic component of the combination pill, increased significantly (p less than 0.01) during each treatment cycle. CBG was elevated on day 21 of the 6th and 12th cycle by 150 to 155% and by 120 to 130% with EE/GSD and EE/DG, respectively. The difference between the two drugs was significant (p less than 0.02). During the pill-free intervals of 7 days between the treatment cycles, the CBG levels decreased but were still elevated by 85% with EE/GSD and 50% with EE/DG at the beginning of the following cycle as compared to the control cycle. The serum levels of cortisol were also significantly more elevated (p less than 0.05) during treatment with EE/GSD as compared to EE/DG. Despite the same EE dose during treatment, the higher EE levels with EE/GSD as compared to EE/DG seem to be due to a retardation of the inactivation and elimination of EE caused by the progestogen component. The rise in the EE levels during each cycle seems to be due to a reduction in the oxidative metabolism by EE itself.