Can You Perform A Paternity Test During Pregnancy?

For a woman who finds herself suddenly expecting, not knowing the identity of the father can inflame what is potentially already an anxious situation — which is not a good situation for either mother or baby. In fact, a 2017 study conducted by the University of Zurich showed that when pregnant women experience stress while they're expecting, it can cause a spike in stress hormones in the amniotic fluid. In addition, stress during pregnancy can lead to such conditions as high blood pressure, preeclampsia, and preterm birth.

Women who are looking to positively identify the father of their child can opt for a postnatal paternity test (via American Pregnancy Association). This test is usually done via a collected blood sample from the umbilical cord or a cheek swab, which is then compared with a DNA sample collected from all of the prospective fathers, according to Assure Test. However, expectant mothers who are eager to resolve the issue of paternity do not have to wait nine months to have their questions answered.

A prenatal paternity test is fairly simple

It's a good idea to establish paternity as quickly as possible, according to the American Pregnancy Association (APA). Having this information can help you to make important legal decisions, including child support and custody. It can also be a good way to determine what role the father wants to play in your and your child's life — if that role is an active one, he begin to take part immediately, from attending classes together to buying the household items you will need once the baby is born.

Parents who are looking to settle the issue of paternity can, according to the APA, opt for a non-invasive prenatal paternity test. In this test, which is typically conducted beginning in the seventh week of pregnancy, blood is drawn from the mother and a cheek swab sample is taken from the father. The test then matches the fetal DNA from the blood sample to the father's DNA. The results usually come back within a week. However, it should be noted that, for women carrying twins, this type of test won't work, as the current lab technology can't isolate the two fetuses' DNA profiles.

Another way to determine paternity before birth is a test called chorionic villus sampling, or CVS (via the Medical College of Wisconsin). A CVS test involves removing a tissue sample from the placenta, either via the abdomen or the cervix. The cells from this sample can tell the mother a number of things about the fetus, ranging from genetic abnormalities to who the father is.

Working with a doctor is your best bet

An amniocentesis test, like chorionic villus sampling, can also test for genetic disorders and neural tube defects, as well as paternity (via Healthline). In determining paternity, amniocentesis is 99% accurate. Taking place between the 15th and 20th weeks of pregnancy, the process involves using a needle inserted into the mother's abdomen to draw out amniotic fluid from the uterus. There are risks involved with amniocentesis, however, most seriously the risk of miscarriage. 

Some expectant mothers may consider at-home paternity tests, however, these are not considered a particularly reliable option (via Arcpoint Labs). With a test done by a healthcare professional, the collection, testing and transportation are all handled by professionals. On the other hand, with an at-home test, everything is on your shoulders. You may accidentally contaminate the samples, they could end up getting lost in the mail, or someone could even tamper with them while they're in transit. What's more concerning is that the results of an at-home test are not admissible in court, rendering them ineffective in any sort of custody hearing or legal issue. Ideally, if you are trying to determine the paternity of your baby, it's best to consult with a doctor to determine the best, most reliable test for your situation.