Nina Kaminen-Ahola
Group Leader

Department of Medical

P.O. Box 63
(Haartmaninkatu 8)
00014 University of Helsinki


+358 (0)50 4482768

epigenetics of prenatal alcohol exposure

The purpose of this study is to understand how prenatal alcohol exposure affects fetal development. The mother’s alcohol use during pregnancy may cause a wide spectrum of disorders in the child such as learning difficulties and congenital deformations. These defects are known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). In addition to the time and amount of alcohol use, hereditary factors are also known to contribute to these defects, but the effects of the individual factors and the mechanism of action of the alcohol itself remain unclear. Our purpose is to improve the identification of alcohol-induced birth defects. The objective of the study is to discover the biological markers with which the defects arising from prenatal alcohol exposure can be identified immediately after birth, thus ensuring early developmental support.

We invite to participate in the study pregnant women who are being monitored at the HAL clinic due to alcohol abuse. The HAL clinic is a special outpatient clinic for pregnant women with substance misuse problems at the Helsinki University Central Hospital. We also invite to participate pregnant women who have used alcohol extensively before becoming aware of their pregnancy but who stopped after finding out.

We also invite women who are not using drugs or medication or smoking during their pregnancy to participate in the study as a control group. Their pregnancy must have begun without fertility treatments, and participants must be planning to give birth at the Women’s Hospital or the Kätilöopisto Maternity Hospital. In addition, we invite pregnant women who smoke and who plan to give birth at either the Women’s Hospital or the Kätilöopisto Maternity Hospital to participate as another control group. Alcohol use often coincides with smoking. By studying women who drink during pregnancy and their children, as well as mothers who smoke but do not use alcohol, we strive to separate the individual effects of alcohol and tobacco.

The research is conducted in cooperation with the University of Helsinki and the HAL outpatient clinic of the Helsinki University Central Hospital. The participant recruitment for the study commenced in autumn 2013 and will continue for several years. This website contains information on our research results. We welcome not only participants but all interested parties to follow our work!

Read more about our research:

Heidi Marjonen, Hanna Kahila, Nina Kaminen-Ahola, 2017. rs10732516 polymorphism at the IGF2/H19 locus associates with a genotype-specific trend in placental DNA methylation and head circumference of prenatally alcohol-exposed newborns. Human Reproduction Open 5.10.2017.

Press release

Further information on the research and participation is available from:
Nina Kaminen-Ahola, PhD, tel. +358 50 4482768
Hanna Kahila, MD, tel. +358 50 4271189