We live in times which are not as straightforward as they used to be. Just a few decades ago it was usually much easier to determine who the father of your baby was. Because it was socially frowned upon for a woman to have any questions surrounding paternity she was less likely to have multiple partners. The baby’s father was her husband, and it was 100% certain (although that wasn’t truly the case in many instances!).
Nowadays, we live much freer lives; times have changed and there are many women who may have doubts about the biological father of their unborn child is.
You may find yourself in this situation and want to know whether there are any ways to find out who the father is whilst you’re still pregnant. Knowing this information is vital to many moms-to-be because the uncertainty causes a lot of stress which can put the baby and mother at risk of complications.
So, are there any ways to find out?
Yes, but most of them require a DNA sample from the man – or men – you want to test for paternity. Of course, that requires you to tell the man that you are testing for paternity, otherwise it is a total invasion of their privacy and respect.
That will not be an easy conversation to have, but it’s important to have it. If you gain their consent, and hopefully that is the case, then there are three main ways to test whether or not they are the biological father of your child.
You’ve probably heard of amniocentesis before because this is a procedure which is offered to women who have a higher than normal risk for Down’s syndrome. Traditionally, amniocentesis is used to check for neural tube defects, chromosomal abnormalities, and genetic disorders, but is also a good way check on the DNA the baby has. Of course, if this DNA matches with the man being tested, that means they are the father. If it doesn’t, they are not the father. It’s quite simple.
Amniocentesis does carry a small risk of miscarriage and for that reason many women choose to not have it at all. The other risks include infection and possible tearing of the amniotic sac (the sac the baby is currently growing within). This test is also usually performed during weeks 14-20.
A small needle is inserted to gain a small sample of the amniotic fluid which surrounds your unborn baby. This is then tested and an accurate DNA profile is generated from it.
2. NIPP – Non-Invasive Prenatal Paternity Test
The fact this test has the word ‘non-invasive’ within it puts many women at ease. For this test to be done, there needs to be a blood sample from the mother and a DNA sample from the man who you are testing for paternity. As you can imagine, this means there is no risk to the baby at all during a NIPP test. You can also use this test at any time beyond 8 weeks.
The blood sample from the father is compared with the DNA sample, and should there be any evidence of that DNA within it, that is a positive indicator for paternity.
3. CVS – Chorionic Villus Sampling
A CVS test is another which is quite invasive and does carry a small risk of miscarriage (quoted to be 1%). The test can be done between 10-13 weeks of pregnancy and involves a needle to be inserted into the cervix, allowing a small amount of uterine wall tissue to be removed. This is then sent to the lab to be tested and compared to the DNA sample of the man. If there is a match, then you can be sure that paternity is proven.
The problem with CVS is that is isn’t a specific test for paternity, and because of the risks, it shouldn’t really be a test to opt for at the start of your search. CVS is traditionally used to detect any prospective genetic problems with the unborn baby, as well as any birth defects, and can be quite traumatic for the mother-to-be.
These are the three main ways to find out the father of your child whilst you’re pregnant. The only test which doesn’t have any risk at all is the NIIP, although you will need to inform the man you are testing why you need a sample of his DNA! This can be a swab of saliva, or it can be a few strands of hair. Generally, a testing kit is given to you, which contains a sterile pot for you to store the sample material. This is then sent off for testing to give you a clear result.
A Difficult Question
Of course, any women going through this confusing time needs answers, but you should be very cautious about the route you choose to go down. Putting your baby at risk in order to get an answer on paternity is not something which is recommended, and there are safer ways to test for this after your baby has been born.
Having said that, we understand that you simply want to know because it will alleviate stress and worry and allow you to plan for the future.
If you are going through the difficult choice of whether to do a paternity test during pregnancy don’t be afraid to reach out and get help. There is a lot of advice and support out there from your doctor, midwife, and other healthcare professionals, and they will be more than happy to give you a helping hand with your decision.