Can a paternity test be performed before birth?

Updated April 17, 2017

If a woman has had more than one sexual partner around the time of conception, she may wish to take a paternity test to determine the identity of her baby's father. Such a test, known as a prenatal paternity test, can be performed before the baby is born. A genetic sample from the mother's womb is compared with genetic samples from the mother and suspected father. The test will either conclusively exclude the man as the child's father or state that the man is the child's father with at least 99.99 per cent certainty.

Chorionic Villus Sampling

In the 10th through 13th week of pregnancy, paternity testing can be done through chorionic villus sampling (CVS). The Ob-Gyn inserts a thin needle into the vagina and through the cervix to collect chorionic villi, pieces of placenta tissue attached to the walls of the uterus. These cells have the same genetic make-up as the foetus, so they provide a suitable sample for genetic comparison. The procedure is guided by ultrasound and can also be collected through the abdomen.


In the 14th to 24th week of pregnancy, a paternity test can be performed through amniocentesis. In this procedure, the Ob-Gyn inserts a thin needle, guided by ultrasound image, through the abdomen and into the uterus to collect a sample of amniotic fluid. Like chorionic villi, amniotic fluid also shares the same genetic material as the baby.


Giving your partner the certainty of knowing that he is your baby's father is the main benefit of prenatal paternity testing. From the beginning, your partner will have the opportunity to be as involved with his child's life as he desires, whether that means emotionally supporting you throughout your pregnancy or helping out financially.


Both CVS and amniocentesis carry a small risk of miscarriage. According to the Cleveland Clinic, the risk of miscarriage is 1 per cent for CVS and 0.5 per cent for amniocentesis. Waiting until after birth to perform a paternity test poses no risk to the baby, so the danger of miscarriage should be taken into consideration when deciding when to perform the test.

Cost and Wait Time

Prenatal paternity testing can range in cost from £260 to £1,300. Prenatal testing is more expensive than testing after birth because it includes the fee for CVS or amniocentesis. Results from the paternity test are usually available within five work days.

Other Options

Paternity testing can also be performed after birth. Immediately after birth, testing can be done using cells from the umbilical cord. Testing can also be performed through buccal swab collection, a painless method that involves collecting cells from the cheek. Testing after birth is just as accurate as prenatal testing and poses no risk to the baby. If you opt to skip prenatal paternity testing, you should still consider testing after birth. Knowing the identity of your child's father can help you protect your child's legal rights and access to social services such as veteran's benefits and health insurance. Knowledge of your child's family history is also helpful in screening for diseases such as heart disease and breast cancer that have been shown to have a hereditary link.

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About the Author

Meghan Slocum has a bachelor's degree in English from Whitman College. In the past she's written for Whitman College's newspaper and organizations that she interned for, including Breathe California, Blossom Birth and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.