Conflicts of interest: the authors have declared no conflicts of interest.
United States vital statistics and the measurement of gestational age
Article first published online: 30 AUG 2007
Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology
Special Issue: Addressing Gestational Age Measurement Using Birth Certificate Data
Volume 21, Issue Supplement s2, pages 13–21, September 2007
How to Cite
Martin, J. A. (2007), United States vital statistics and the measurement of gestational age. Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology, 21: 13–21. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-3016.2007.00857.x
- Issue published online: 30 AUG 2007
- Article first published online: 30 AUG 2007
- clinical estimate of gestation;
- LMP estimate of gestation
Estimates of the gestational age of the newborn based on US Birth Certificate data are extensively used to monitor trends in infant and maternal health and to improve our understanding of adverse pregnancy outcome. Two measures of gestational age, the ‘date of the last normal menses’ (LMP) and the ‘clinical estimate of gestation’ (CE), have been available from birth certificate data since 1989. Reporting irregularities with the LMP-based measure are well-documented, and important questions remain regarding the derivation of the CE. Changes in perinatal medicine and in vital statistics reporting in recent years may have importantly altered gestational age data based on vital statistics. This study describes how gestational age measures are collected and edited in US national vital statistics, and examines changes in the reporting of these measures by race and Hispanic origin between 1990 and 2002. Data are drawn from the National Center for Health Statistics' restricted use US birth files for 1990–2002. Bivariable statistics are used.
The percentage of records with missing LMP dates declined markedly over the study period, overall, and for each racial/Hispanic origin group studied. A marked shift in the distribution of the CE of gestational age was also observed, suggesting changes both in the true distribution of age at birth, and in the derivation of this measure. Agreement between the LMP-based and CE estimates increased over the study period, especially among preterm births. However, a high proportion of LMP dates continue to be missing or invalid and the derivation of the CE is still uncertain. In sum, although the reporting of gestational age measures in vital statistics appears to have improved between 1990 and 2002, substantial concerns with both the LMP-based and the CE persist. Efforts to identify approaches to further improve upon the quality of these data are needed.