Prenatal follow-up for the health of pregnant women is an important part of the preventable health care system in Finland. The National Institute for Health and Welfare THL has nationwide responsibility for infectious disease screening.
According to the Infectious Diseases Act, all pregnant women should be screened during the first trimester of pregnancy for HIV, hepatitis B and syphilis. The screening program covers virtually all pregnant women in Finland (≈ 99%). The Prenatal Serology Laboratory at the Department of Children, Young People and Families, THL, is an accredited testing laboratory and provides tests for these diseases. If any of these infections is identified, the newborn can be protected with specific drugs or by vaccination.
The Finnish Maternity Cohort (FMC) serum bank is a nationwide biorepository of serum samples established by THL in 1983. Following an informed consent, blood samples are drawn from pregnant women during the first trimester of pregnancy (gestational weeks 10 to 12). The blood draw takes place at the municipal maternity care units for the express purpose of screening for congenital infections. After the screening, 1-3 mL of serum is stored at -25 0C in polypropylene cryo vials at THL, Oulu, Finland.
Since inception, more than 850 ,000 pregnant women have donated serum samples to the FMC. At the end of 2011, the FMC serum biorepository contains over 1.9 million serum samples, with an average of 60 ,000 new samples added each year. Representing the whole population, the FMC serum bank is irreplaceably valuable to THL’s scientific research aimed at maintaining population health and preventing diseases.
The preservation of a sample entails obtaining signed consent from the mother-to-be and conforms to legislation governing THL’s operations. The preserved specimen is also available to aid possible medical examinations relating to the health of the mother or the child.
The FMC has made substantial contributions to the scientific literature in terms of our understanding of the associations of various biomarkers with the later health of the mother and child.