Background: Events during pregnancy and labour may influence the future health and well-being of offspring. Many studies rely on maternal reports of pre and peri-natal factors. Both maternal and child characteristics may potentially influence the reliability and accuracy of maternal recall. However, this has not been previously examined.
Aims: To examine agreement between information from maternally reported questionnaires and medical records for a range of pre and peri-natal factors. To examine whether maternal and child characteristics influence the level of agreement with medical records.
Methods: A survey of women who had school aged children born following in vitro fertilization (IVF) was carried out. Mothers completed a postal questionnaire booklet which included the Lewis and Murray scale which asks about antenatal and obstetric complications and the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire which assesses child behaviour problems. Antenatal case notes were also reviewed. Multi-centre ethical approval was obtained. Complete data were available for 126 women.
Results: The agreement between maternal report and medical records was very good for the majority of outcomes examined (infant birth weight, infant admission to special care baby unit, method of delivery, smoking during pregnancy, high blood pressure/oedema during pregnancy). Exceptions were length of labour and alcohol use during pregnancy. However, alcohol use during pregnancy was not routinely recorded in medical records. Maternal characteristics did not substantially influence level of agreement for the majority of outcomes examined. Exceptions were that agreement for length of labour was better in women with more educational qualifications and that agreement for pre-natal smoking was worse in women from higher socio-occupational groups. There was little evidence that child behaviour problems influenced the level of agreement between maternal recall and medical records.
Conclusions: For the majority of pre and peri-natal events examined, mothers can provide accurate reports in comparison to information from medical records.