The plasma concentrations of levonorgestrel (LNG) and ethinyloestradiol (EE2) have been measured in a random crossover study in five healthy female volunteers given a combination oral contraceptive tablet (250 micrograms LNG and 50 micrograms EE2) by the oral route and per vaginum and also receiving the same dose intravenously. The fractional bioavailability of LNG after oral administration was 1.00 +/- 0.16 (mean +/- S.D.) and after vaginal insertion 0.88 +/- 0.16. The time to peak (tmax) was significantly longer and the peak concentration (Cmax) significantly reduced following vaginal administration. The fractional bioavailability of EE2 after oral dosing was 0.62 +/- 0.11 and after vaginal insertion 0.74 +/- 0.16; tmax was prolonged, hence absorption was slower from the vagina. The reduced rate of absorption was evident in the differences seen in the area under the curve for early time periods for both steroids. However, overall bioavailability is not reduced for either steroid when a single tablet is inserted into the vagina.