We conducted a longitudinal study with a population-based sample of pregnant women, aged 18 years and older, in the United States, from early in pregnancy to 12 weeks postpartum. The sampling frame for this work was the BabyCenter website. Additional inclusion criteria for the study were as follows: weeks 4 to 10 of pregnancy (Panel 1) or weeks 28 to 33 of pregnancy (Panel 2) and not currently participating in other research studies.

From August 25 to September 19, 2016, BabyCenter website visitors were selected at random and shown a floating invitation during their website experience (see Figure 1). Invitations used friendly language, a description of incentives for participation, and an altruistic approach, as this has been shown to be a key motivator for pregnant women to participate in research [3]. The recruitment goal was to enroll 1200 participants in a 6-week period. The goal of 1200 participants was determined with consideration to power calculations, anticipated time frames for recruitment, and an effort to sample a similar or larger panel size than had been demonstrated in previous longitudinal studies of pregnancy and mental health.

Survey floater invitation on a mobile device. The advert shows a smiling pregnant lady with the text “Pregnant? We Need You! Take short surveys and help other moms.”

Participants enrolled in the study on their own, without support of study researchers, within the digital survey environment upon completion of a screening and enrollment baseline assessment. They were provided detailed information about the study’s timing, protocol, and incentives. Participants’ consent was obtained via digital agreement within this same baseline assessment. We had New England Institutional Review Board approval to complete this work.

Recruitment strategies were designed to balance the sample to closely match the demographic profile of US women giving birth as reported by government agencies [9]. To this end, adjusting specific digital sampling parameters either increased or decreased the proportion of participants in certain demographic groups.

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