Screening for Pregnancy Status in a Population-Based Sample: Characteristics Associated with Item Nonresponse

  • Suzanne C. Hughes
  • Carol J. Hogue
  • Melissa A. Clark
  • Jessica E. Graber
  • Elaine D. Eaker
  • Amy H. Herring
  • the National Children’s Study



Population-based recruitment of a cohort of women who are currently pregnant or who may become pregnant in a given timeframe presents challenges unique to identifying pregnancy status or the likelihood of future pregnancy. Little is known about the performance of individual eligibility items on pregnancy screeners although they are critical to participant recruitment. This paper examined the patterns and respondent characteristics of key pregnancy screener items used in a large national study.


Cross-sectional analyses were conducted. Descriptive statistics and multivariable logistic regression models were used to examine nonresponse patterns to three questions (currently pregnant, trying to get pregnant and able to get pregnant). The questions were asked of 50,529 women in 17 locations across the US, as part of eligibility screening for the National Children’s Study Vanguard Study household-based recruitment.


Most respondents were willing to provide information about current pregnancy, trying, and able to get pregnant: 99.3% of respondents answered all three questions and 97.4% provided meaningful answers. Nonresponse ranged from 0.3 to 2.5% for individual items. Multivariable logistic regression results identified small but statistically significant differences in nonresponse by respondent age, marital status, race/ethnicity-language, and household-based recruitment group.

Conclusions for Practice

The high levels of response to pregnancy-related items are impressive considering that the eligibility questions were fairly sensitive, were administered at households, and were not part of a respondent-initiated encounter.


Item nonresponse Nonresponse Missing data Pregnancy screener Prenatal Children National Children’s Study Recruitment 



This manuscript, a ‘primary NCS publication’, was developed by a Writing Team assembled by the National Children’s Study (NCS) Publications Committee for the purpose of timely sharing of centrally collected NCS data. The analysis was conducted as part of the National Children’s Study, supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and funded, through its appropriation, by the Office of the Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This manuscript was supported in whole or part by NICHD Contract(s) No(s): NICHD HHSN275200503411C/N01-HD-5-3411; NIH-NICHD-HHSN267200700021C; HHSN275201200021C, and HHSN275200800024C. The authors acknowledge Valerie Hsu MS, Xiaoshu Zhu Ph.D., and David Hubble MA of WESTAT for conducting the data analyses for this paper; Christina Chambers MPH, Ph.D. for serving as their NCS publications committee liaison; NCS publications committee members for reviewing the manuscript (Omar Abdulrahman MD; Dana Dabelea MD, Ph.D.; Donald Dudley MD; Mike Varner MD; and Christina Park Ph.D., MHS); and the NCS study teams. The authors are grateful to the thousands of respondents who participated in the pregnancy screening for the NCS. The views expressed in this article are the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the position of the National Children’s Study, the National Institutes of Health, or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Suzanne C. Hughes
    • 1
  • Carol J. Hogue
    • 2
  • Melissa A. Clark
    • 3
  • Jessica E. Graber
    • 4
    • 7
  • Elaine D. Eaker
    • 5
    • 8
  • Amy H. Herring
    • 6
    • 9
  • the National Children’s Study
  1. 1.Graduate School of Public HealthSan Diego State UniversitySan DiegoUSA
  2. 2.Rollins School of Public HealthEmory UniversityAtlantaUSA
  3. 3.School of Public Health, Brown UniversityProvidenceUSA
  4. 4.Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of HealthBethesdaUSA
  5. 5.WESTATRockvilleUSA
  6. 6.Department of BiostatisticsGillings School of Global Public Health and Carolina Population CenterChapel HillUSA
  7. 7.United States Census BureauWashingtonUSA
  8. 8.Eaker Epidemiology Enterprises, LLCWalla WallaUSA
  9. 9.Department of Statistical ScienceDuke UniversityDurhamUSA

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