Pregnancy can be a blissful experience, and it is for many women. For others, it might be a time fraught with frustration, disappointment, and anxiety. For some expectant mommas, the latter stems from not knowing for sure who the father of their baby is. Before casting judgment, understand that this story isn’t as uncommon as most people think it is.
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Judgment is the last thing mothers in this position need. Instead, they need support that will hold them up as the next nine months of their life puts them to the ultimate test. Sometimes there is financial stress pending the results and sometimes there is financial stress in getting the test done, too. Of course, there is also the issue of the emotional burden that mothers must bear when they don’t know who their baby’s father is. The stress they will endure isn’t good for them or the baby they’re growing inside of their bodies.
Can You Do a Paternity Test on an Unborn Child?
A lot of people wonder whether it’s required to wait for birth to perform a paternity test or if it can be done sooner. Can you find out the father of a baby before it’s born? The short answer is that yes, it can, but not without risks.
Why Might Someone Want a Paternity Test?
There are several reasons that people need and want to have a paternity test performed. For starters, child support claims can rarely be processed without proof of paternity. Women who need financial support in raising their child will need this. However, that can wait for birth, too. Still, getting it sooner means child support payments may be rendered starting at birth rather than facing a delay.
In addition, some women may desire to allow the father to be involved in the pregnancy. If either party is unsure of paternity, this can complicate matters. It is understandable that a man would not want to attach himself to a woman and her unborn baby — getting excited for the baby to be born those nine long months — when there could be a chance that the baby that is born won’t even be his.
Others may need to secure medical help or beneficiary positions under life insurance policies and trust funds. In order to accommodate those women, an early paternity test can confirm who the father is well in advance of birth. Some couples who have struggled with infidelity have also found themselves waiting to marry dependent on the fatherhood of an unborn child. Furthermore, alleged fathers may also be wary of helping to pay for bills that are incurred during the pregnancy if the baby turns out not to be his own.
Also, it is important for women while they are pregnant to have all applicable medical history information that they can. Not knowing who the father is means they cannot possibly be armed with knowledge of genetic disorders or the potential for birth defects that may run in the father’s family. Knowing these things ahead of time gives just cause to test for them — if they can be tested for in advance. It also prepares the parents for the likelihood of such an outcome so they can be armed with the services they need at the time of birth for babies that may have certain disadvantages, such as Down Syndrome, a condition that affects 6,000 babies born each year, per the National Down Syndrome Society.
Paternity Tests of the Past
In the past, the only ways to test the paternity of a fetus while still in utero have been amniocentesis and CVS — short for chorionic villus sampling. These methods carried a lot of risks. CVS removes chorionic villi cells from the placenta where it is attached to the uterine wall. Sometimes it is performed through the abdominal wall much like amniocentesis; other times it can be performed transvaginally. The cells are tested for paternal DNA. Results may be returned with this method in as little as a day but could take up to a week. Amniocentesis involves placing a needle into the abdominal wall and extracting amniotic fluid from the amniotic sac. There is a 0.6 percent risk of miscarriage when performing an amniocentesis in the second trimester, per the Mayo Clinic.
The New Testing Process
Today, paternity can be revealed by a simple blood test. The mother’s blood supply, while pregnant, contains traces of fetal DNA. This DNA can even be used to determine the gender of the baby as early as 10 weeks into pregnancy. While a blood sample is required of the mother, it is not required of the father, although it does make it easier. If a paternal blood sample isn’t available, other sources of DNA can be used, such as semen stains from sheets or clothing and DNA from a toothbrush or hair sample.
The test analyzes the mother’s DNA first to separate it from the fetal DNA — which will be a combination of mom’s and dad’s. These tests work best when all possible fathers are included in the analysis. After all, paternity cannot be confirmed for a father that hasn’t submitted a sample. The results are usually fairly quick and can be returned within a week to 10 days. In addition, they will either include a man’s DNA as a match or exclude it. These tests are reportedly 99.9 percent accurate.
How Much is a Prenatal Paternity Test?
Traditional paternity tests cost only a few hundred dollars. Those performed via amniocentesis and CVS range from $500 to $700, and prenatal paternity screenings can be upwards of $1,000. Whether or not a DNA test happens during pregnancy is ultimately up to the mother. In rare cases, court orders may demand that a woman have a paternity test performed. However, alleged fathers generally have to first demand this action themselves to garner such action from a court. Furthermore, general child support orders are often dependent on paternity results, as well. Still, these tests are given the grace period of pregnancy until a baby is born before they are requested. Women who resist undergoing such testing during a pregnancy are entitled to that right.