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Epidemiology. 2017 Jul;28(4):575-579. doi: 10.1097/EDE.0000000000000660.

Long-term Recall of Pregnancy-related Events.

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From the aEpidemiology Branch, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Durham, NC; bWestat, Durham, NC; cBiostatistics Branch, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Durham, NC; and dChronic Disease Epidemiology, Yale School of Public Health, Yale Center for Perinatal, Pediatric, and Environmental Epidemiology, New Haven, CT.



Early-life factors can be associated with future health outcomes and are often measured by maternal recall.


We used data from the North Carolina Early Pregnancy Study and Follow-up to characterize long-term maternal recall. We used data from the Early Pregnancy Study as the gold standard to evaluate the accuracy of prepregnancy weight, early pregnancy behaviors, symptoms and duration of pregnancy, and child's birthweight reported at follow-up, for 109 women whose study pregnancies had resulted in a live birth.


Most (81%) participants reported a prepregnancy weight at follow-up that correctly classified them by BMI category. Women reported experiencing pregnancy symptoms later at follow-up than what they reported in the Early Pregnancy Study. Accuracy of reporting of early pregnancy behaviors varied based on exposure. Overall, women who had abstained from a behavior were more likely to be classified correctly. Sensitivity of reporting was 0.14 for antibiotics, 0.30 for wine, 0.71 for brewed coffee, and 0.82 for vitamins. Most misclassification at follow-up was due to false-negative reporting. Among women who gave birth to singletons, 94% could report their child's correct birthweight within ½ pound and 86% could report duration of pregnancy within 7 days at follow-up.


Self-report of prepregnancy weight, duration of pregnancy, and child's birthweight after almost 30 years was good, whereas self-reported pregnancy-related exposures resulted in higher levels of reporting error. Social desirability appeared to influence women's report of their behaviors at follow-up. Self-reported assessment of confidence in the recalled information was unrelated to accuracy.

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