What is a Prenatal Paternity Test?

Felicia Dye

A prenatal paternity test provides a way to determine whether a person is the father of a particular child before the child is born. This type of test is usually not an option until at least the tenth week of pregnancy. To conduct the test, DNA samples are needed from the mother, the suspected father, and the unborn child. Even when the mother has health care coverage, in most cases this type of testing must be paid for from personal finances.

A baby's DNA, from the amniotic fluid, is compared against the mothers as well as with the potential father's DNA, to test for paternity.
A baby's DNA, from the amniotic fluid, is compared against the mothers as well as with the potential father's DNA, to test for paternity.

Any time the word prenatal is used, it means before birth. At one time, when there was a question about the paternity of a child, the answer was only obtained after the pregnancy concluded. The advent of the prenatal paternity test allows such an issue to be settled much earlier, often in the first trimester.

A pregnant woman.
A pregnant woman.

To conduct a prenatal paternity test, three DNA samples are required. The suspected father needs to provide one. This can be done if he contributes bodily items such as cheek cells, hair, or blood. The pregnant woman also provides one.

The third sample is from the fetus. Obtaining the fetal sample usually requires the involvement of the pregnant woman’s doctor. Using a procedure known as chorionic villi sampling (CVS), the doctor can take a sample from the placenta either by vaginal extraction or extraction through the abdominal wall. The sample from the fetus can also be obtained by having an amniocentesis performed. This is a procedure in which a long needle is inserted into the stomach and used to extract amniotic fluid.

CVS testing is usually possible several weeks before an amniocentesis, which is not recommended before the 14th week. There are also some testing methods that claim to be able to extract fetal samples from the mother’s blood. These are not, however, as common.

The samples are submitted to a laboratory, and the results of the prenatal paternity test are often available within a few days. These tests are marketed as being equally as reliable as post-maternity tests. In many instances, the results are guaranteed to be at least 99 percent accurate.

Getting a prenatal paternity test generally involves out-of-pocket costs. Even if a person has health care coverage, this procedure is not likely to be covered. If fetal samples need to be extracted for other purposes, a portion may be utilized for the test, and the cost of obtaining the sample may then be paid for by the insurance company.

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