In a pilot study we investigated the association between concentrations of various eicosanoids in menstrual blood with pain and oral contraceptive use. Menstrual fluid was collected on tampons by 12 women who did not use an oral contraceptive but suffered from slight primary dysmenorrhea and by three pain-free women who used an oral contraceptive. Eicosanoids (cyclooxygenase products: 6-ketoprostaglandin F1 alpha, thromboxane B2, prostaglandin E2, prostaglandin F2 alpha, 13,14-dihydro-15-ketoprostaglandin F2 alpha, 12-hydroxy-heptadecatrienoic acid; lipoxygenase products: 5-, 12-, 15-hydroxy-eicosatetraenoic acid (HETE), leukotriene B4, leukotriene C4, leukotriene D4, leukotriene E4) and female sex steroids (17 beta-estradiol and progesterone) were analyzed by the combined use of high-performance liquid chromatography and radioimmunoassay. 12-HETE was the main arachidonic acid metabolite. An increased metabolism of arachidonic acid was associated with pain, especially when synthesis of 12-HETE was elevated. Oral contraceptive use decreased the synthesis of prostaglandins as well as leukotrienes. The concordant changes of cyclooxygenase and lipoxygenase products in dysmenorrhea or in oral contraceptive use may be explained by an increased or decreased phospholipid metabolism, respectively.