Is meconium screening appropriate for universal use? Science and ethics say no

Adv Neonatal Care. 2007 Aug;7(4):207-14. doi: 10.1097/01.ANC.0000286338.90799.99.


Researchers have been actively looking to biomarker development as a way to improve diagnosis in conditions such as fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) that have typically been difficult to identify at an early stage. Meconium testing is considered a potentially useful newborn screening method. Screening for alcohol (and other drug) use is unique from all other types of newborn screening in that there is a greater element of social risk for parents, particularly mothers (public exposure of substance use with potential for child welfare involvement). There are many factors related to the science and ethics of the meconium screening process to consider before implementing universal or targeted screening. As care providers who participate in the screening and counseling process and as advocates for infants and their families, neonatal nurses should be active participants in discussions surrounding the ethical and clinical appropriateness of meconium screening program development and expansion. The science behind meconium screening at present is not strong enough to warrant widespread implementation of screening; neonatal nurses are cautioned to approach screening carefully because of the critical social implications for mother and baby.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Child
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Female
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders / metabolism
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders / nursing
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Informed Consent / ethics
  • Meconium* / chemistry
  • Neonatal Nursing / ethics
  • Neonatal Nursing / methods
  • Neonatal Screening* / ethics
  • Neonatal Screening* / methods
  • Neonatal Screening* / nursing
  • Nurse's Role
  • Nursing Assessment / ethics
  • Nursing Assessment / methods
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Patient Advocacy / ethics
  • Patient Selection
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Pregnancy
  • Principle-Based Ethics
  • Reproductive Rights / ethics
  • Substance Abuse Detection* / ethics
  • Substance Abuse Detection* / methods
  • Substance Abuse Detection* / nursing


  • Biomarkers