European Journal of Epidemiology

, Volume 13, Issue 2, pp 169–175 | Cite as

Nordic Medical Birth Registers in epidemiological research

  • Mika Gissler
  • Pekka Louhiala
  • Elina Hemminki


This review discusses the use of Nordic Medical Birth Registers (MBRs) in epidemiological studies, paying special attention to the topics that have been investigated and to other data sources that increase the usefulness of MBRs. We divided the reviewed studies into four groups according to the data sources on which they were based: (1) studies using MBR data only; (2) studies combining maternal or paternal background information, obtained from other data sources, with MBR data; (3) studies combining MBR data with subsequent outcome information on newborns; and (4) studies using information about consecutive pregnancies and generations. Our review shows that MBRs are good sources for studying the following topics: maternal biological and obstetric background; interventions and health care during pregnancy and birth; newborns' short-term outcome; and the relations between these factors. In addition, the usefulness of MBRs increases when the data they contain are combined with data from other sources. We found that data from more than twenty different sources have been linked with MBR data in the Nordic counties. As time passes, national MBRs become a useful source of information for studies on consecutive pregnancies or generations. In addition, the associations between pregnancy, delivery, perinatal health and long-term outcome can be studied by using an MBR as the basic data source.

Births Health outcomes Medical Birth Register Perinatal health Record linkage 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Barker DJP (ed). Fetal and infant origins of adult disease. Plymouth: British Medical Journal, 1992.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Amnell G. Mortalitet och kronisk morbiditet i barnåldern. Samfundet Folkhälsan. Helsinki, 1974 (in Swedish).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Rantakallio P, von Wendt L. Mental retardation and subnormity in a birth cohort of 12,000 children in Northern Finland. Am J Mental Def 1986; 4: 380–387.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Rantakallio P. The longitudinal study of the Northern Finland birth cohort of 1986. Paediatr Perinat Epidemiol 1988; 2: 58–88.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Bakketeig LS. Perinatal epidemiology — a Nordic challenge. Scand J Soc Med 1991; 19(3): 145–147.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Teperi J. A Multi-method approach to the assessment of data quality in the Finnish Medical Birth Registry. J Epidemiol and Comm Health 1993; 47: 242–247.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Derom R, Pelfrene E, Vlietinck R, Thiery M. Organisation of obstetrical care in Belgium. Biol Neonate 1989, 55: 63–69.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Socioekonomiska förhållanden och förlossningsutfall i Sverige. EpC-rapport 2: 1996. Socialstyrelsen, 1996 (in Swedish).Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Meriläinen J, Gissler M, Hemminki E, Teperi J. Finnish Perinatal Statistics 1993. Stakes Tilastotiedote 18: 1995.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Teperi J. Use of Registry Data in the Analysis of Medical Practices — Cesarean Birth in the Finnish Medical Birth Registry. Stakes Research Reports 47. Helsinki, 1994.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Gissler M, Teperi J, Hemminki E, Meriläinen J. Data quality after restructuring a nationwide medical birth registry. Scand J Soc Med 1995; 23: 75–80.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Socialstyrelsen: Kvaliteten av medicinskt födelse register, 1974. Stockholm, 1977 (in Swedish).Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Socialstyrelsen. Kvaliteten av medicinskt födelse register, 1986. No. 33620.436/88. Stockholm, 1988 (in Swedish).Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Cnattingius S, Ericson A, Gunnarskog J, Källén B. A Quality Study of a Medical Birth Registry. Scand J Soc Med 1990; 18: 143–148.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Aarøy Lundgren R. Reliabiliteten av medisinsk fødelseregistrering — hvor pålitlige er opplysningene? Eksamenoppgave i folkehelsevitenskap. Institutt for samfunnmedisin. Universitetet i Tromsø 1989 (in Norwegian).Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Bardy AH, Seppälä T, Lillsunde P, Kataja JM, Koskela P, Pikkarainen J, Hiilesmaa VK. Objectively measured tobacco exposure during pregnancy: neonatal effects and relation to maternal smoking. Br J Obstetr Gyn 1993; 100(8): 721–726.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Pradat P. Maternal occupation and congenital heart defects: a case-control study. Int Arch Occup Environ Health 1993; 65(1): 13–18.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Carlgren LE, Ericson A, Källén B. Monitoring of congenital cardica defects. Pediatr Cardiol 1987; 8(4): 247–256.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Hemminki E, Meriläinen J, Teperi. Reporting of malformations in routine health registers. Teratology 1993; 48: 227–231.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Källén B, Bertollini R, Castilla E, Czeizel A, Knudsen LB, Martinez-Frias ML, et al. A joint international study on the epidemiology of hypospadias. Acta Paediatr Scand Suppl 1986; 324: 1–52.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Källén B. Case control study of hypospadias, based on registry information. Teratology 1988; 38(1): 45–50.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Gissler M, Ollila E, Teperi J, Hemminki E. Impact of Induced Abortions and Statistical Definitions on Perinatal Mortality Figures. Pediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology 1994; 8: 391–400.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Högberg U, Innala E, Sandström A. Maternal mortality in Sweden 1980–1988. Obstet Gynecol 1944; 84: 240–244.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Bakketeig LS, Hoffman HJ. The tendency to repeat gestational age and birth weight in successive births, related to perinatal survival. Acta Obstetr Gynecol Scand 1983; 62(5): 385–392.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Magnus P, Bakketeig LS, Skjærven R. Correlations of birth weight and gestational age across generations. Ann Hum Biol 1993; 22(2): 89–97.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Barker DJP. Mother's, babies and disease in later life. Plymouth: British Medical Journal, 1994.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Kud D, Davey Smith G. When is mortality risk determined? Historical insights into a current debate. Soc Hist of Med 1993; 6: 101–123.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Lynge E. New draft of European directive on confidential data. Br Med J 1995; 310: 1024.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mika Gissler
    • 1
  • Pekka Louhiala
    • 2
  • Elina Hemminki
    • 1
  1. 1.National Research and Development Centre for Welfare and HealthSTAKESHelsinkiFinland
  2. 2.Department of Public HealthUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland

Personalised recommendations