Background: The prospective cohort study design is ideal for examining diseases of public health importance, as its inherent temporal nature renders it advantageous for studying early life influences on health outcomes and research questions of aetiological significance. This paper will describe the development and characteristics of the All Our Babies (AOB) study, a prospective pregnancy cohort in Calgary, Alberta, Canada designed to examine determinants of maternal, infant, and child outcomes and identify barriers and facilitators in health care utilization.
Methods: Women were recruited from health care offices, communities, and through Calgary Laboratory Services before 25 weeks gestation from May 2008 to December 2010. Participants completed two questionnaires during pregnancy, a third at 4 months postpartum, and are currently being followed-up with questionnaires at 12, 24, and 36 months. Data was collected on pregnancy history, demographics, lifestyle, health care utilization, physical and mental health, parenting, and child developmental outcomes and milestones. In addition, biological/serological and genetic markers can be extracted from collected maternal and cord blood samples.
Results: A total of 4011 pregnant women were eligible for recruitment into the AOB study. Of this, 3388 women completed at least one survey. The majority of participants were less than 35 years of age, Caucasian, Canadian born, married or in a common-law relationship, well-educated, and reported household incomes above the Calgary median. Women who discontinued after the first survey (n=123) were typically younger, non-Caucasian, foreign-born, had lower education and household income levels, were less likely to be married or in a common-law relationship, and had poor psychosocial health in early pregnancy. In general, AOB participants reflect the pregnant and parenting population at local and provincial levels, and perinatal indicators from the study are comparable to perinatal surveillance data.
Conclusions: The extensive and rich data collected in the AOB cohort provides the opportunity to answer complex questions about the relationships between biology, early experiences, and developmental outcomes. This cohort will contribute to the understanding of the biologic mechanisms and social/environmental pathways underlying associations between early and later life outcomes, gene-environment interactions, and developmental trajectories among children.