The principle of organising prenatal screening tests to find out whether the pregnancy is developing normally is that pregnant women are offered uniform, voluntary, high-quality screening tests and, when necessary, further tests.
The aim is also to help to plan the right treatment for the foetus or child and to reduce morbidity and mortality among newborn children. Expectant parents are also given information on the different alternatives regarding screening and further tests.
Screenings offered by municipalities to pregnant women
It is the duty of the municipalities to offer the following screenings to pregnant women:
- early pregnancy general ultrasound examination at 10–13 weeks of pregnancy (10+0–13+6)
- screening for chromosomal abnormality
- primarily by using early pregnancy combined screening: blood test at 9–11 weeks of pregnancy (9+0–11+6) and measuring the amount of fluid at the back of the baby’s neck in connection with the general ultrasound examination at 11–13 weeks of pregnancy (11+0–13+6)
- or alternatively by a second trimester blood screening test at 15–16 weeks of pregnancy (15+0–16+6)
- ultrasound screening to examine if there are any severe structural abnormalities at 18–21 weeks of pregnancy (18+0–21+6) or after 24+0 weeks of pregnancy.
(The duration of pregnancy is expressed as weeks + days.)
If foetal abnormality is suspected, the pregnant woman will be offered further testing (for example to examine the chromosomes of the foetus by taking a sample of the placenta or amniotic fluid).
- Raskauden ajan ultraäänitutkimukset ja seerumiseulonnat rakenne- ja kromosomipoikkeavuuksien tunnistamisessa (FinOHTA 2005, in Finnish)
Guides for expectant parents
After the first consultation visit to the prenatal clinic, pregnant women must rather quickly decide whether they want to be screened for foetal abnormalities. If the screening indicates a risk for abnormality, pregnant women must also decide whether they want to participate in further examinations.
There are two guides available to help them decide:
- Prenatal screening: a guide for expectant parents : Information about screening tests for chromosomal and structural abnormalities (Publication of the National Institute for Health and Welfare THL, 2009)
- Further testing after prenatal screening : Examining a suspected chromosomal or structural abnormality (Publication of the National Institute for Health and Welfare THL, 2009)
Information to professionals
Professionals in the field of maternity healthcare shall give appropriate, impartial information to expectant parents on the principles of screening for foetal abnormalities, screening methods, what the examination results mean and on further examinations. It is a demanding task to give such information. There is material available to help professionals talk about these matters and to harmonise the information to be given: training packages, a guide on how to interact, and cards providing information on the risks of screening.
- Kuinka kertoa sikiön poikkeavuuksien seulonnasta: Opas äitiyshuollon työntekijöille (Guide from THL, 2009:2, in Finnish)
- Sikiön kromosomipoikkeavuuksien seulonta: Riskien suuruutta kuvaavat kortit (Cards from THL 2009, in Finnish)