Background: The Danish Medical Birth Registry (MBR) was established in 1968 and has been computerized since 1973. The primary purpose of the registration is to monitor the health of the newborns and of the quality of the antenatal and delivery care services, but the registry is increasingly being used in research. Major changes in registration have taken place in 1978 and 1991. The paper describes the content and usage of the MBR over time and suggests research topics for the future.
Results: A broad scope of studies illustrates how the MBR has been used, either as single data source, linked with data from other registries or with data from interviews or self-completed questionnaires. Validations have shown variations in the quality of data, depending on source, and have underlined the need for constant quality control. Any access to data at the individual level is subjected to special provisions laid down by the Data Surveillance Authority and also requires a permission from the National Board of Health.
Conclusions: The time from conception to early childhood is an important period concerning future health for the individual. The Danish Medical Birth Registry is a valuable tool in this respect, which has not yet been used to its full potential in research or monitoring. Experience indicates that the quality of the registry depends upon having a close link to the staff responsible for delivery services and thus having the necessary specialised skills and interest.