STUDY QUESTION: What is the self-reported use of in vitro fertilization (IVF) and ovulation induction (OI) in comparison with insurance claims by Australian women aged 28-36 years? SUMMARY ANSWER: The self-reported use of IVF is quite likely to be valid; however, the use of OI is less well reported. WHAT IS KNOWN AND WHAT THIS PAPER ADDS: Population-based research often relies on the self-reported use of IVF and OI because access to medical records can be difficult and the data need to include sufficient personal identifying information for linkage to other data sources. There have been few attempts to explore the reliability of the self-reported use of IVF and OI using the linkage to medical insurance claims for either treatment. STUDY DESIGN: This prospective, population-based, longitudinal study included the cohort of women born during 1973-1978 and participating in the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health (ALSWH) (n = 14247). From 1996 to 2009, participants were surveyed up to five times. PARTICIPANTS AND SETTING: Participants self-reported their use of IVF or OI in two mailed surveys when aged 28-33 and 31-36 years (n = 7280), respectively. This study links self-report survey responses and claims for treatment or medication from the universal national health insurance scheme (i.e. Medicare Australia). MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE: Comparisons between self-reports and claims data were undertaken for all women consenting to the linkage (n = 3375). The self-reported use of IVF was compared with claims for OI for IVF (Kappa, K = 0.83), oocyte collection (K = 0.82), sperm preparation (K = 0.83), intracytoplasmic sperm injection (K = 0.40), fresh embryo transfers (K = 0.82), frozen embryo transfers (K = 0.64) and OI for IVF medication (K = 0.17). The self-reported use of OI was compared with ovulation monitoring (K = 0.52) and OI medication (K = 0.71). BIAS, CONFOUNDING AND OTHER REASONS FOR CAUTION: There is a possibility of selection bias due to the inclusion criteria for participants in this study: (1) completion of the last two surveys in a series of five and (2) consent to the linkage of their responses with Medicare data. GENERALIZABILITY TO OTHER POPULATIONS: The results are relevant to questionnaire-based research studies with infertile women in developed countries.