The sensitivity to insulin (euglycemic clamp technique) was assessed in previous gestational diabetic women (n = 6) and nondiabetic women (n = 6) before and twice during low-dose triphasic oral contraceptive administration (ethinyl estradiol and levonorgestrel) for 6 months. Both groups had normal plasma glucose and insulin levels during oral glucose tolerance tests before and during treatment. In vivo peripheral insulin action was measured during insulin infusion of 40 mU/m2 X min with plasma glucose clamped at fasting levels. Before treatment glucose infusion rates were identical in both groups [1.56 +/- 0.12 (SEM) mmol/m2 X min and 1.51 +/- 0.09 mmol/m2 X min, respectively]. After hormonal treatment for 6 months the amount of glucose infused decreased significantly in the previously gestational diabetic women (1.10 +/- 0.12 mmol/m2 X min, P = 0.01), whereas the decrease was less pronounced in the nondiabetic women (1.30 +/- 0.22 mmol/m2 X min, P = 0.09). The decrease in insulin sensitivity was not sufficient to alter glucose tolerance either in the previous gestational diabetic women nor in the nondiabetic women.