The [13C]aminopyrine breath test measures hepatic mixed function oxidase activity. The cumulative percent dose recovered over 2 hr is a sensitive indicator of hepatic dysfunction; values < or = 7.0% have been shown to indicate severe liver disease. Previous studies have suggested that the test results may be influenced by the use of oral contraceptives steroids. We compared the results from five non-oral contraceptive-using women with those from 31 women whose duration of oral contraceptive steroid usage ranged from 4 to 204 months. The women were taking one of four oral contraceptive formulations that differed in the amounts of estrogen (20, 35, or 50 micrograms with 1 mg progesterone) and progesterone (35 micrograms estrogen with stepped levels of progesterone of 0.5, 0.75, and 1.0 mg). The [13C]aminopyrine breath test was performed on days 21 and 28 of the menstrual cycle. Cumulative percent dose recovery values among the normal menstrual cycle of non-oral contraceptive steroid-using women were 12.1 +/- 1.6 and 11.8 +/- 1.5% (mean +/- SD). In contrast, oral contraceptive steroid users showed a marked reduction in cumulative percent dose recovery at 21 days, averaging 6.1 +/- 2.3% (P < 0.001), and returned to normal values (10.2 +/- 3.5%) at 28 days in most women(seven days after oral contraceptive steroid usage was paused). The adverse impact on hepatic mixed function oxidase by oral contraceptive formulations did not differ on the basis of estrogen or progesterone content. The adverse impact of oral contraceptive usage on the mixed function oxidase activity measured by the [13C]aminopyrine breath test must be considered for women of childbearing potential.