Hundreds of millions of women worldwide use either oral contraceptives or postmenopausal hormone replacement. The use of oral contraceptives leads to an increased risk of venous thrombosis, of myocardial infarction, of stroke and of peripheral artery disease, the risks of which are highest during the first year of use. Women with coagulation abnormalities have a higher risk of venous thrombosis when they use oral contraceptives (or postmenopausal hormones) than women without these abnormalities. The risk of venous thrombosis is also higher for preparations containing desogestrel or gestodene (third-generation progestogens) than for those containing levonorgestrel (second-generation progestogens). A previous thrombosis as well as obesity also increase the risk of oral contraceptive-related thrombosis. Hormone replacement therapy increases the risk of venous thrombosis, and has no beneficial, and possibly even a detrimental, effect on the risk of arterial disease. The risk of arterial disease in oral contraceptive users and users of hormone replacement therapy is at most weakly affected by the presence of prothrombotic abnormalities.