Southampton Women's Survey (SWS)

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The Southampton Women’s Survey (SWS) is the only birth cohort study in Europe in which mothers were recruited before conception of the child. The SWS aims to assess the influence of maternal dietary, lifestyle, intrauterine, genetic and epigenetic factors on the children’s health and development, and on the health of the mothers themselves. Using this information, the survey can inform the development of interventions to optimize foetal, infant, and childhood growth and development.

MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit, University of Southampton

Geographic coverage - Nations

Geographic coverage - Regions

Start date

Catalogue record last updated


Sample type
Cohort study

Sample details
Between 1998 and 2002 all general practitioners in Southampton were asked to help recruit female patients aged 20-34 years to the study. SWS team members were provided with a list of eligible women, excluding any that the GP felt should not be approached. A letter and a leaflet explaining the study were sent to each woman, followed by a telephone call. If the woman could not be contacted by telephone, a repeat letter was sent to ask for updated contact details. Where there was no response we attempted to visit the home to ascertain whether the woman still lived there or not. The study was extensively publicized locally and women not registered with GPs or registered with an incorrect address were recruited by approaching women at local events and in supermarkets in the city. Of those women contacted about the study, 12 579 (75%) agreed and were interviewed by a research nurse.

At the end of the interview, each woman was encouraged to contact the office if she became pregnant and to provide written consent for her GP or local maternity hospital to notify the SWS team if she became pregnant. Women who become pregnant are recruited into the pregnancy phase of the SWS. By the end of May 2005, 2567 babies had been born to SWS women.

Sample size at recruitment
12,579 women (pre-pregnancy interview)
2,567 babies

Sample size at most recent sweep
1,214 cohort members (2014 - 8-9 Year Questionnaire)


Age at recruitment
20-34 years (women) Birth (babies)

Cohort year of birth


Data access
Data request - CLOSER

Genetic data collected

Linkage to administrative data
Health data

Additional information


Related themes
Covid-19 data collection, Biomarkers, Cognitive measures, Diet and nutrition, Housing, Socioeconomic status and deprivation, Language and literacy, Neighbourhood, Physical health assessment, Digital technology and social media, Reproductive health, Work and employment, Parenting and family, Sleep problems, Social care - receipt, Social care - provision, Social care - need

Key Papers

Cohort profile: The Southampton Women’s Survey.

Medical Research Council
British Heart Foundation
EU University of Southampton
Mental health measures timeline

Sweep name:

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Physical health measures:

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