Prenatal DNA Testing


The popularity of DNA paternity testing continues to grow in our society. Some observers have expressed concern about the emotional and financial impact of DNA paternity test results on young children. Paternity can now be determined before a baby is born through the use of prenatal DNA testing. Prenatal DNA testing is possible because a child’s DNA is formed at conception and does not change. Although prenatal DNA testing is a little more involved than a standard home DNA paternity test, the process is still fairly straightforward. The accuracy levels of prenatal DNA testing are identical to standard DNA paternity testing.

Prenatal DNA testing requires samples from the unborn child, the mother, and the alleged father. DNA samples from the unborn child are collected via amniocentesis or CVS. Amniocentesis is the removal of a small sample of the amniotic fluid surrounding the fetus. Amniocentesis can be performed during the 14th to 24th week of pregnancy.

CVS stand from Chorionic Villi Sampling. The CVS process collects DNA samples from the chorionic villi that make up the placenta, which is a membrane partially surrounding the fetus. CVS can be performed during the 10th to 13th week of pregnancy, which means a CVS sample offers an earlier answer than amniocentesis. Both of these methods of DNA sample collection must be performed by a physician. Also, both procedures carry a slight risk of infection as well as a smaller risk of miscarriage. Women who wish to perform prenatal DNA testing should discuss these risks thoroughly with their doctor.

Prenatal DNA testing also requires a separate physician’s fee for drawing the DNA samples. DNA samples from the parents are collected via a buccal swab rubbed against the inside of the mouth. As with standard DNA paternity testing, DNA sample collection procedures may vary depending on whether you need court-admissible results. Prenatal DNA testing for court proceedings requires proof of identities and chain of custody verification by a witness.

Questions have been raised regarding the ethics of prenatal DNA testing, given that there are risks to the fetus. But there are several instances in which prenatal DNA testing is preferred. For example, in cases of artificial insemination, there may be a need to verify the sample source.

In cases of rape where there is also a consensual partner, prenatal DNA testing can determine the father of the unborn child. Determining parentage may also provide financial benefit to the mother during pregnancy. Some mothers desire prenatal DNA testing because it gives them time to plan ahead, and may reduce stress during an already very stressful time.

Some DNA testing labs are now offering the option of non-invasive prenatal DNA testing. Fetal DNA can be isolated out of blood samples drawn from the mother’s arm. This lowers the cost of prenatal DNA sample collection, and expands the number of facilities where samples may be drawn. And, most importantly, it eliminates risk to the unborn child.