It is now quite common to carry out a paternity test before the birth of the child. Baby DNA testing is widely use and in many countries is pretty much standard since this type of DNA test can tell you whether your child may develop certain genetic conditions such as Down’s syndrome, Turner’s syndrome and a host of other illnesses related to the baby’s genes. Prenatal DNA test, as they are more often known, allow access to the fetal DNA, normally, by taking samples from inside the womb. The samples extracted can then either be used to determine the genetic health of the child or for a prenatal paternity test.

Non Invasive and Invasive Prenatal testing

We will discuss risky, invasive fetal DNA sampling methods such as amniocentesis a bit further on in this article. A new breakthrough in the field of DNA testing means that now there is the possibility of carrying out a prenatal paternity test without extracting fetal DNA from the womb; rather this new DNA test isolates and analyses fetal DNA that circulates in the maternal peripheral blood stream. To provide sampling for this test a simple blood draw from the mother is required. laboratory analysis of maternal blood samples containing fetal DNA is extremely complex and requires very advanced genetic fingerprinting technology. In fact, unlike conventional DNA tests which rely on analysis of repeated sequences of DNA known as short tandem repeats, non invasive prenatal testing analyses what are known as single nucleotide polymorphisms.

Amniocentesis Paternity Testing

Amniocentesis is a well-known procedure and was mostly carried out to detect genetic illnesses; however, this type of baby DNA test can also be used to solve paternity issues. The test involves putting the patient under localized anesthetic as a needle is needed to puncture the abdomen and draw out amniotic fluid from the sac with envelopes the fetus. In order to puncture the correct place, the doctor uses an ultrasound to guide him or her.

Although the incidence of miscarriage is very low following amniocentesis, the risk is nevertheless there. Other consequences may be vaginal bleeding and infection.

To establish paternity, a DNA profile is drawn up from the loose fetal cells found in the amniotic fluid drawn out. It is very important to also have a sample from the mother which can easily be got by taking a mouth swab sample from the mother. This is because the amniotic fluid will provide a mixed DNA profile as it contains the baby’s DNA and the mother’s. For the paternity test, the father’s DNA profile will be compared to that of the unborn child. If all the genetic markers match, than the alleged father will be included as the child’s biological father.

Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS) Paternity Testing

This is another invasive procedure that can be used for your baby DNA test and allows the possibility of being carried out earlier in the pregnancy. A doctor enters through the vagina to gather a sample of the chorionic villi which are protrusions involved in the exchange of blood between mother and baby. Again there are certain risks including infection and miscarriage.

Ethical implications of baby DNA testing

Once you receive the results informing you about the paternity of the child, what then? So the child’s father is not who you hope it would be? Do you terminate the pregnancy? In terms of abnormalities in the baby, if you find out the unborn child will not be normal? It is a complex issue that has sparked much debate as has the minor risks associated with these invasive procedures.

Baby DNA Testing: Is it a case of Better now than later?

Securing the rights of a child is crucial. Any child, depending on the country, is entitled to certain social benefits and legal security. Moreover, there are also issues of citizenship as well as inheritance laws. Essentially, however, the reasons for carrying out a pre-natal paternity test as opposed to a post natal test a few months after are personal and often involve the need to reduce anxiety and solve the paternity issue as soon as possible. After the birth of a child, most countries have a time frame within which a child’s father must be registered on the birth certificate. The time frame is big enough to allow for a DNA paternity test after the birth of the child.

One must weigh all the pros and cons, the fact that they will likely need a doctors consent, the possible after effects, the ethical debates, the cost and the baby and then decide whether to do the baby DNA test or not. The issue is quite thorny and not as clear-cut and simple as paternity testing after the birth so that many DNA testing companies do not offer paternity testing before birth.