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Environ Health Perspect. 2004 Jan;112(1):79-86.

Prospective pregnancy study designs for assessing reproductive and developmental toxicants.

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Epidemiology Branch, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health/DHHS, 6100 Executive Boulevard, Rm. 7B03, Rockville, MD 20852, USA.


The determinants of successful human reproduction and development may act as early as periconceptionally, underscoring the need to capture exposures during these critical windows when assessing potential toxicants. To identify such toxicants, couples must be studied longitudinally prior to conception without regard to a couple's ability to ascertain a clinically recognized pregnancy. We examined the utility and feasibility of prospective pregnancy study designs by conducting a systematic review of the literature to summarize relevant information regarding the planning, implementation, and success of previously published prospective pregnancy studies. Information concerning design elements and participation was abstracted from 15 eligible studies (from a total of 20 identified studies) using a standardized form. The primary author of each study was contacted to review our summary of their work and obtain missing information. Our findings confirm the ability to recruit women/couples from diverse populations using a variety of recruitment strategies. Among the studies we reviewed, 4-97% of eligible individuals were successfully contacted, with enrollment rates ranging from 42 to 100%. Length of follow-up varied from 3 to 12 months. A high percentage of women provided urine (57-98%) and blood (86-91%) specimens and most male partners (94-100%) provided semen samples. These data support the feasibility of this design.

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