The study is taking place in Al Ain city, the second largest city in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi (the largest UAE emirate in terms of land mass and population size). Al Ain has the largest and a relatively stable population of Emirati citizens compared with other parts of the country. This makes it an ideal setting for a birth cohort study with longitudinal follow-ups. In 2016, the Emirate of Abu Dhabi population was estimated to be approximately 2.9 million, of which, <19% were Emiratis and around 41% of these Emiratis lived in the Al Ain region. The population of Al Ain is approximately 766,900 (mid-2016) of which 226,300 are Emirati citizens and of these 53,995 are women of reproductive age (15–44 years). Levels and standards of antenatal care are high, and all births take place in hospital.
Although this study has the potential to expand to involve many health institutions, the initial recruitment has been confined to three major hospitals in Al Ain: the only two public hospitals and one large private hospital; Al Ain Hospital, Tawam Hospital and Kanad Hospital, respectively. As all of the Emirati population has full health insurance allowing them to have the same level of healthcare at any health facility, there is no difference in healthcare access between pregnant women attending these three hospitals and those who use other institutions. Therefore, a representative sample of the Emirati population in Al Ain can be recruited from these three hospitals.