Abstract: Background: The Maternity Experiences Survey is a project of the Canadian Perinatal Surveillance System. Its primary objective is to provide insight into Canadian women's maternity experiences. A pilot study was conducted in 2002/2003 to determine to what extent women's reports could be used to assess Canadian perinatal health policies and practices, and to test the procedures proposed for a national maternity experiences survey. Methods: A nonrepresentative sample of 291 mothers was drawn from Canadian birth registration records. Mothers whose children had died or were no longer in their care were excluded. Participants were interviewed 9 to 11 months postpartum about prenatal, labor, and birth and postpartum experiences. Results: The response rate was 86 percent. Respondents were generally comfortable answering all questions and identified areas of potential strength and weakness in the Canadian maternity care system. They had difficulty recalling information on some prenatal tests, and labor and birth procedures. The use of birth registrations to draw the pilot sample worked well. However, some regions may not be able to provide timely access to birth registrations for the purposes of a national survey. Conclusions: The high response rate and women's ability to provide information on a wide range of topics demonstrates that a national maternity survey would be an effective method of providing important maternal health information. The data collected would allow Health Canada to carry out more effective national perinatal health surveillance with a view to influencing perinatal health policy and practice.