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Validity of Self-Reported Time to Pregnancy

Cooney, Maureen A.a; Buck Louis, Germaine M.a; Sundaram, Rajeshwaria; McGuiness, Bridget M.b; Lynch, Courtney D.a

doi: 10.1097/EDE.0b013e31818ef47e
Fertility: Brief Report

Background: The reliability of retrospective time to pregnancy (TTP) has been established, but its validity has been assessed in only 1 study, which had a short follow-up.

Methods: Ninety-nine women enrolled a decade earlier in a prospective TTP study were queried by means of mailed questionnaires about the duration of time they had required to become pregnant. Their responses were compared with their earlier data from daily diaries (gold standard).

Results: One-third of women could not recall their earlier TTP either in menstrual cycles or calendar months. Only 17%–19% of women recalled their TTP exactly. Agreement increased to 41%–51%, 65%–72%, and 72%–77% when defined as ±1, ±2, and ±3 months, respectively. Women with longer observed TTPs or previous pregnancies were more likely to under-report their TTP.

Conclusions: The findings raise questions about the commonly assumed validity of self-reported TTP. Recalled TTP may introduce error when estimating fecundability or classifying couples’ fecundity status.

From the aDivision of Epidemiology, Statistics and Prevention Research, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Rockville, MD; and bDepartment Social and Preventive Medicine, University at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY.

Submitted 28 March 2008; accepted 2 June 2008; posted 2 December 2008.

Supported by the Great Lakes Protection Fund (RM791-3021), the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (H751 ATH 298338), and the Intramural Research Program of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Correspondence: Germaine M. Buck Louis, Epidemiology Branch, Division of Epidemiology, Statistics and Prevention Research, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 6100 Executive Boulvard, Rm. 7B03, Rockville, MD 20852. E-mail: louisg@mail.nih.gov.

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.