To determine whether menstrual status had an effect on plasma sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) capacity and nonprotein-bound estradiol (% free E2) and testosterone (% free T), we measured these as well as plasma FSH, total E2, and T and the MCRs of E2 and T in a group of 78 perimenopausal women. The women were allocated to 4 groups: women with cycles whose plasma FSH level was less than 40 mIU/mL (A; n = 16), women with cycles whose plasma FSH level was greater than 40 mIU/mL (B; n = 19), women who were amenorrheic for less than 1 yr (C; n = 13), and women who were amenorrheic for more than 1 yr (D; n = 30). The mean plasma SHBG values were 51.4 +/- 5.7 (+/- SE), 48.3 +/- 4.3, 45.9 +/- 5.4, and 51.1 +/- 3.7 nM in groups 1-4 respectively, and were not significantly different from one another. The mean % free E2 and % free T values also were not different between the groups. However, the mean total E2 and free E2 (% free E2 X E2/100) concentrations were significantly (P less than 0.05) higher in both groups A and B than in groups C and D. The E2 concentration was also higher in group A than in group B. There were strong correlations between the E2 and free E2 concentrations between the T and free T (% free T X T/100); (P less than 0.0001) concentrations, between SHBG capacity and weight, and between the MCRs of both E2 and T and % free E2 and % free T. In normal women, the menopause is not associated with changes in SHBG or % free steroids. Hence, the measurement of E2 could be used to predict the mass of free E2 in these women.