The Maternal Health Study is a multi-wave, prospective cohort study investigating the health and well-being of over 1500 first-time mothers and their firstborn children. Women were recruited to the study from six Melbourne metropolitan hospitals between 2003-2005.In the early years of the study the main focus was on women’s health and recovery after childbirth. Women taking part in the study completed questionnaires and telephone interviews in early and late pregnancy, and at three, six, nine, 12 and 18 months postpartum, and when their first child was four years of age. Over 800 women in the study have also been followed up after second and subsequent births.

Data have been collected on common maternal physical and psychological health problems, including incontinence, sexual health problems, depression, anxiety and intimate partner abuse, and on a range of child health and developmental outcomes. We have also collected information regarding the social context of women and children, and changing life circumstances as the children grow up.

In 2013, we commenced the next wave of follow-up of mothers and their first-born children, as the children in the study turns 10.

The study aims to improve understanding of social and obstetric factors influencing maternal and child health. The information collected is being used to inform policy and practice in maternity care, early childhood services and primary health care.


Study name Maternal Health Study
Study abbreviation MHS
Current principal investigator/s Prof Stephanie Brown
Current project manager Dr. Deirdre Gartland
Cohort representative (study contact) Prof Stephanie Brown
Postal address Healthy Mothers Healthy Families Research Group, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, West Level 5, Royal Children’s Hospital, 50 Flemington Rd, Parkville, VIC, 3052
Phone +613 9936 6675
Primary Institution Murdoch Childrens Research Institute
Collaborating Institution/s University of Melbourne, Judith Lumley Centre, University of Birmingham
Major funding sources National Health and Medical Research Council; VicHealth Public Health Research Fellowship; Medical Research and Technology in Victoria Fund; William Buckland Foundation; La Trobe University
Study website
Key reference Brown, S. J., Lumley, J. M., McDonald, E. A. and Krastev, A. H. (2006). Maternal health study: a prospective cohort study of nulliparous women recruited in early pregnancy, BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, 6(12), doi:10.1186/1471-2393-6-12
Are data available outside study team? No
Study focus Women’s physical and psychological health and recovery after childbirth 
Sampling frame Prospective pregnancy cohort of >1500 nulliparous women recruited in early pregnancy at six metropolitan public hospitals in Melbourne Australia (April 2003 – December 2005)
Year commenced 2003
Commencement sample 1507
Retention rate W2 – 98.0%
W3 – 95.0%
W4 – 92.9%
W5 – 92.0%
W6 – 90.0%
W7 – 88.1%
W11 – 83.4% 
Intergenerational? Yes
Linkage No 
Biosamples? No 
Ethics approvals or requirements? This project only (Specific consent)


Wave Year Age (mean, range) Eligible sample
1  2003-2005 Baseline (10-20 weeks gestation) 1507
2  2003-2005 30-32 weeks gestation (index child) 1454
3  2003-2006 3 months postpartum (index child) 1431
4  2004-2007 6 months postpartum (index child) 1400
5  2004-2007 9 months postpartum (index child) 1387
6  2004-2006 12 months postpartum (index child) 1357
7  2005-2008 18 months postpartum (index child) 1327
8  2005-ongoing 6 months postpartum (second child) 840 (ongoing)
9 2006-ongoing 12 months postpartum (second child) 840 (ongoing)
10 2008-2011 4 years postpartum (index child) 1102
11 2006-ongoing 6 months postpartum (third birth) 214 (ongoing)
12 2007-ongoing 12 months postpartum (third birth) 222 (ongoing)
13 2007-ongoing 6 months postpartum (fourth birth) 29 (ongoing)
14 2008-ongoing 12 months postpartum (fourth birth) 32 (ongoing)
15 2013-ongoing 10 years postpartum (index child) Currently underway
16 2014-ongoing 11 years postpartum (index child) Currently underway