There are large inter- and intra-individual variations in the serum concentrations of natural and synthetic sex steroids irrespective of the route of administration. Oral ingestion of steroids has a stronger effect on hepatic metabolism than parenteral administration, as the local concentration in liver sinusoids are 4-5 times higher during the first liver passage. Oestradiol and oestrone are interconvertible, dependent on the local concentrations in liver and target organs, and oestrone sulphate serves as a large reservoir. The oestrone/oestradiol ratio has no physiological significance, as oestrone is only a weak oestrogen. Oestrone is both a precursor and a metabolite of oestradiol. Oestriol is extensively conjugated after oral administration. Therefore, the oestriol serum levels are similar after oral intake of 10 mg and after vaginal application of 0.5 mg oestriol resulting in similar systemic effectiveness. Conjugated oestrogens can easily enter the hepatocytes but are hormonally active only after hydrolyzation into the parent steroids. Ethinylestradiol which exerts strong effects on hepatic metabolism and inhibits metabolizing enzymes, should not be used for hormone replacement therapy. Among the progestogens, the progesterone derivatives have less effects on liver metabolism than the norethisterone derivatives (13-methyl-gonanes and 13-ethyl-gonanes). The highly potent 13-ethyl-gonanes are effective at very low doses, because of a slow inactivation and elimination rate due to the ethinyl group.