A DNA paternity test is nearly 100% accurate at determining whether a man is another person’s biological father. DNA tests can use cheek swabs or blood tests. You must have the test done in a medical setting if you need results for legal reasons. Prenatal paternity tests can determine fatherhood during pregnancy.
Deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, is the genetic material you inherit from your mother and father. Paternity refers to fatherhood. A DNA paternity test uses DNA, usually taken from a cheek swab, to determine whether a man is the child’s biological father.
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DNA paternity tests are extremely accurate. A test can show with 99.9% accuracy if a man isn’t a person’s biological father.
Establishing paternity can be important for several reasons. It can help:
If you’re trying to prove or disprove paternity for legal reasons, the test must take place in a medical setting (a legal DNA paternity test). Otherwise, you can use an at-home DNA paternity test kit bought online or at a drugstore.
There are two equally accurate ways to test for paternity:
The lab runs a series of tests called DNA sequencing. These tests look for genetic matches between the potential father and child. A match confirms paternity.
There are three different ways to test paternity before a baby is born. The tests are as accurate as those performed after a child’s birth. The three methods include:
An ancestry DNA can identify potential DNA matches, but only a DNA paternity test can prove a father-child DNA match.
An at-home DNA paternity test costs $60 to $200 (including the cost of the kit). You’ll pay more — up to $500 — for a legal test in a medical setting. Health insurance doesn’t cover these costs.
Turnaround times for lab results vary. Remember to account for the time it takes for the sample to reach the lab and the lab to run its tests. Results may be available in two days — or longer. For an additional fee, some businesses offer same-day or one-day results. Many DNA testing centers post results on a secure website for faster access.
It may take several weeks to get results from prenatal paternity tests like CVS and amniocentesis.
When a child’s paternity is in question, a DNA paternity test can provide answers. Your healthcare provider can help you choose the best testing method for your situation. Whether you use an at-home test or go through a medical office, you should make sure the laboratory is accredited by the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB). AAAB-accredited relationship (DNA) testing facilities must meet strict standards for testing and accuracy.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/21/2020.
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