THL and Päijät-Häme will pilot blood testing trial to screen for use of intoxicants by pregnant women

Publication date 8 Apr 2021

The Finnish Institute for Welfare and Health (THL) and the Welfare District of Päijät-Häme (PHHYKY) are piloting a screening trial to test for the use of intoxicants by expectant mothers visiting prenatal clinics. The aim of the studies is to ascertain if new blood test screenings in the early stages of pregnancy can help detect the use of intoxicants during pregnancy. The pilot study is the first of its kind in the world.

The six-month study is being carried out in all PHHYKY maternity clinics from the spring of 2021. All women taking part in screening blood tests in the early stages of pregnancy are being asked to join. Participation in the trial is voluntary. 

The samples will be examined for the alcohol use indicator phosphatidylethanol (PEth), and for hepatitis C antibodies. The samples will be taken in conjunction with other early pregnancy blood tests. The research material will be collected at random from the patient data system and analysed with complete anonymity.

”The PEth tracer helps detect the use of alcohol. Hepatitis C antibodies, meanwhile, are usually connected with drug use or a history of use in Finland”, says Chief Physician Margareeta Häkkinen at THL.

The goal of the study is to get information about the need and the possibilities for changing national screening practices.

In Finland, alcohol use by mothers during pregnancy is a development hazard affecting thousands of foetuses each year. The Finnish Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities estimates that between 600 and 3000 children are born each year with some degree of damage caused by alcohol.

Reliable information on the use of intoxicants during pregnancy

The study also aims at ascertaining how well the use of intoxicants is being identified at prenatal clinics and how much effort clinics need to be put into early identification of the use of intoxicants in the future.

“At present the aim is to ascertain the use of intoxicants by expectant mothers by asking them to fill a questionnaire at prenatal clinics. With blood test screening we can objectively indicate the use of intoxicants and to guide our customers to substance abuse services”, says Anne Arponen, Senior Planning Officer at THL.

Further information:

Margareeta Häkkinen
Chief Physician
tel. +358 29 524 7865
[email protected] 

Anne Arponen
Senior Planning Officer
puh. +358 29 524 6208
[email protected]

Eija Virtanen
Service Supervisor, prenatal clinic services Welfare District of Päijät-Häme
tel. +358 44 440 6555
[email protected]

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