Simultaneous quantitation of multiple contraceptive hormones in human serum by LC–MS/MS

Steven W. Blue, Andrea J. Winchell, Amy V. Kaucher, Rachel A. Lieberman, Christopher T. Gilles, Maria N. Pyra, Renee Heffron, Xuanlin Hou, Robert W. Coombs, Kavita Nanda, Nicole L. Davis, Athena P. Kourtis, Joshua T. Herbeck, Jared M. Baeten, Jairam R. Lingappa, David W. Erikson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Objective: The objective was to develop a method to simultaneously quantify five commonly used hormonal contraceptives (HCs) and two endogenous sex steroids by liquid chromatography–tandem triple quadrupole mass spectrometry (LC–MS/MS) and apply this method to human serum samples. Study design: We developed a method to simultaneously analyze ethinyl estradiol (EE2), etonogestrel (ENG), levonorgestrel (LNG), medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA) and norethisterone (NET), along with estradiol (E2) and progesterone (P4), in human serum for a Shimadzu Nexera-LCMS-8050 LC–MS/MS platform. We analyzed serum collected from women self-reporting use of oral contraceptives, contraceptive implants or injectable contraceptives (n=14) and normally cycling women using no HC (n=15) as well as pooled samples from women administered various HCs (ENG, n=6; LNG, n=14; MPA, n=7; NET, n=5). Results: Limits of quantitation were 0.010 ng/mL for E2, EE2 and P4; 0.020 ng/mL for ENG, LNG and MPA; and 0.040 ng/mL for NET. Precisions for all assays, as indicated by coefficient of variation, were less than or equal to 12.1%. Accuracies for all assays were in the range of 95%–108%. Endogenous hormone values obtained from analysis of human serum samples are in agreement with levels previously reported in the literature for normally cycling women as well as for women taking the appropriate HC. Conclusions: We have developed a robust, accurate and sensitive method for simultaneously analyzing commonly used contraceptive steroids and endogenous sex steroids in human serum. Implications: This analytical method can be used for quantitating contraceptive steroid levels in women for monitoring systemic exposure to determine drug interactions, nonadherence, misreporting and proper dosing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)363-369
Number of pages7
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2018


  • Hormonal contraceptive
  • LC–MS/MS
  • Liquid chromatography
  • Mass spectrometry
  • Steroid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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