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Background: The extent of postnatal morbidity has become increasingly apparent over the last 15 years, but currently no tool is available that measures postnatal quality of life. This pilot study introduces a subjective tool, the Mother-Generated Index, which assesses the woman's quality of life and identifies those aspects that are of most concern to her. Methods: The Mother-Generated Index was administered by structured interview to 60 participants at 6 to 8 weeks and to 43 participants at 8 months postpartum. Validation was sought through concurrent use of the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, the SF12, and two indexes related to maternal and neonatal physical morbidity. The Mother-Generated Index gives a primary index (quality of life) score, which is reported here, and a secondary index, which identifies the areas considered most important by the mother. Results: The primary index was more sensitive at 8 months. The highest and lowest quartile scores were compared. Statistically significant differences in were found in the mothers' Edinburgh Postnatal Depression scores at 6 to 8 weeks, and in their Edinburgh Postnatal Depression and SF12 mental component scores and their physical morbidity index at 8 months. Although physical problems were only a small feature at 8 months, social and psychological issues were prominent in both groups. Age, parity, and mode of delivery had no significant effect on the women's scores or the areas they identified as most important. Conclusion: Quality of life of is a complex and personal area, affected by many different aspects of health and well-being. From this pilot study the primary index appears to be a useful step in assessing a mother's quality of life. It identifies which areas of her life are most important to her, and allows her to indicate where she would like to see improvements. (BIRTH 29:1 March 2002)