Can You Get a Paternity Test Before a Baby Is Born?

Upon finding out about a pregnancy, it's not uncommon for people to have questions about paternity testing. As advances in modern medicine continue, more options for prenatal paternity testing are becoming available to prospective fathers and mothers who may be anxious to confirm the paternity of a growing baby.

Close-up of doctor using a stethoscope on a pregnant woman's stomach. (Image: Dangubic/iStock/Getty Images)

The Importance of Knowing

Confirming the paternity of a child is beneficial for a number of reasons. In order for a baby to receive valuable legal and social benefits -- such as social security, health care or inheritance -- it's necessary for paternity to be established and for the father's name to be listed on the birth certificate. Knowing who a baby's father is also allows doctors to have a more accurate family medical history, which is beneficial to healthcare providers as they diagnose potential issues and manage health records.

Chorionic Villus Sampling

Paternity testing can be done between the 10th and 12th weeks of pregnancy through a procedure called chorionic villus sampling or CVS. CVS is an invasive testing procedure that requires a sample of chorionic villi to be collected from the uterus. This test involves a needle being inserted into the mother's abdomen or through the cervix by way of the vagina to collect the sample. A doctor's consent is needed before CVS testing can occur.

Amniocentesis

Another in vitro procedure, amniocentesis, can be performed starting between the 14th and 20th weeks of pregnancy. This test involves gathering a small amount of amniotic fluid from the mother's uterus through a thin needle inserted into the abdomen. As this test is highly invasive, doctor's consent is needed for this method of paternity testing to be used.

Non-Invasive Prenatal Paternity Testing

In 2013, DNA testing company NATUS announced the availability of a prenatal paternity test that gives results as early as the fifth week of pregnancy. According to the company's press release, this non-invasive testing requires a small sample of blood to be taken from the mother, usually from the arm. The DNA in this blood sample is then compared to DNA collected from the alleged father in the form of a cheek swab, hair sample or blood sample.

Associated Risks

As the name suggests, non-invasive prenatal paternity testing poses no risk to a baby or pregnant mother. Amniocentesis and CVS, however, are both procedures that could potentially be harmful to the baby. According to a report on CVS and amniocentesis done by the Centers for Disease Control, these procedures put mothers at higher risk for miscarriage. There is also a small risk of limb deficiency -- improper or incomplete formation of a limb, usually a finger or toe -- associated with CVS, with the risk increasing the earlier in the pregnancy the procedure is performed.

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