Design and Conduct of an Internet-Based Preconception Cohort Study in North America: Pregnancy Study Online

Paediatr Perinat Epidemiol. 2015 Jul;29(4):360-71. doi: 10.1111/ppe.12201.


Background: We launched the Boston University Pregnancy Study Online (PRESTO) to assess the feasibility of carrying out an Internet-based preconception cohort study in the US and Canada.

Methods: We recruited female participants age 21-45 and their male partners through Internet advertisements, word of mouth, and flyers. Female participants were randomised with 50% probability to receive a subscription to (FF), a web-based programme that collects real-time data on menstrual characteristics. We compared recruitment methods within PRESTO, assessed the cost-efficiency of PRESTO relative to its Danish counterpart (Snart-Gravid), and validated retrospectively reported date of last menstrual period (LMP) against the FF data.

Results: After 99 weeks of recruitment (2013-15), 2421 women enrolled; 1384 (57%) invited their male partners to participate, of whom 693 (50%) enrolled. Baseline characteristics were balanced across randomisation groups. Cohort retention was similar among those randomised vs. not randomised to FF (84% vs. 81%). At study enrollment, 56%, 22%, and 22% couples had been trying to conceive for < 3, 3-5, and ≥ 6 months, respectively. The cost per subject enrolled was $146 (2013 US$), which was similar to our companion Danish study and half that of a traditional cohort study. Among FF users who conceived, > 97% reported their LMP on the PRESTO questionnaire within 1 day of the LMP recorded via FF.

Conclusions: Use of the Internet as a method of recruitment and follow-up in a North American preconception cohort study was feasible and cost-effective.

Keywords: Internet; fertility; methods; mobile apps; prospective studies.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Contraception Behavior
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Fertilization*
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Male
  • North America / epidemiology
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Patient Selection
  • Preconception Care / methods
  • Preconception Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prospective Studies
  • Research Design
  • Surveys and Questionnaires