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.



Wave 1 2 2a 3 4 5 6 7 8/11/13 9/12/14 10 15 16
Age baseline
(10-20 weeks gest)
30-32 wks gest
(index child)
medical records data abstraction 3 months postpartum
(index child)
6 months postpartum
(index child)
9 months postpartum
(index child)
12 months postpartum
(index child)
18 months postpartum
(index child)
6 months postpartum
(2nd/3rd/4th child)
12 months postpartum
(2nd/3rd/4th child)
4 yrs postpartum
(index child)
10 yrs postpartum
(index child)
11 yrs postpartum
(index child)
Notes Q1 CATI 1 Q2 Q3 CATI 2 Q4 Q5 Q6/Q9/Q11 Q7/Q10/Q12 Q8 M10 M11
No. 1507 1454 1454 1431 1400 1387 1357 1327 (ongoing) (ongoing) 1102 (ongoing) (ongoing)
Identifiers/miscellaneous Identifiers/miscellaneous
Anthropometrics Anthropometrics Anthropometrics
Behavioural problems Behavioural problems Behavioural problems
Birth Birth Birth
Cardiovascular health
Childcare and education
Demographics Demographics
General health
Medication Medication
Mental health Mental health
Neurocognitive development
Nutrition Nutrition
Parenting
Physical activity Physical activity Physical activity
Relationships Relationships
Reproductive health and pregnancy Reproductive health and pregnancy
Resilience and wellbeing Resilience and wellbeing
Sexual health and activity Sexual health and activity
Sleep Sleep
Speech, language and literacy
Respiratory health Respiratory health Respiratory health
Substance use Substance use Substance use
Temperament and personality
Study Summary
Study name Maternal Health Study
Study abbreviation MHS
Current principal investigator/s Prof Stephanie Brown
Current project manager Dr Hannah Woolhouse
Primary institution Murdoch Children’s 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 https://www.mcri.edu.au/research/projects/maternal-health-study
Key reference for study (published study protocol) 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 to others outside study team? No
Study focus (e.g. social development) 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 (April 2003 – December 2005)
Study type (e.g. randomised control trial, cohort, case-control) Longitudinal mother and child cohort study
Year commenced 2003
Commencement sample (N) 1507
Ongoing recruitment? No
Retention rate (%) W2 – 98.0%
W3 – 95.0%
W4 – 92.9%
W5 – 92.0%
W6 – 90.0%
W7 – 88.1%
W11 – 83.4%
Intergenerational (e.g. offspring)? Yes
Imaging (e.g. fMRI, ultrasound, retinal photograph)? No
Linkage (e.g. BioGrid, VPDC, NAPLAN, Medicare)? No
Biosamples (e.g. buccal, blood, hair)? No
Ethics approvals or requirements (e.g. specific, extended, unspecified, other)? This project only (Specific consent)
Wave Year Age (mean, range) Eligible sample (not deceased, not withdrawn)
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

Group Leader and ARC Principal Research Fellow

Professor Stephanie Brown

Ph: +61 3 9936 6675
Email: stephanie.brown@mcri.edu.au

Senior Research Officer

Dr. Hannah Woolhouse

Ph: +61 3 9936 6619
Email: hannah.woolhouse@mcri.edu.au

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