How is the cheek cell test conducted?

Cells are collected by gently rubbing a cotton swab, similar to a Q-tip®, on the inside cheek of the alleged father’s mouth. The swab is sent to a laboratory, and a certain number of specific DNA sequences are examined to determine if the DNA collected from the baby match DNA collected from the alleged father.

Can paternity be confirmed before the baby is born?

Technically, yes. Two different tests can be done while the baby is still developing in the mother’s womb. One test, called chorionic villus sampling (CVS), is conducted only between 11 and 13 weeks of pregnancy. This test involves testing a small sample of tissue from the placenta.

Another test, called amniocentesis, is usually performed between 16 and 22 weeks of pregnancy. This test involves passing a needle through the mother’s abdomen into the womb to collect a small sample of amniotic fluid (the “water” around the baby), which also contains cells from the baby. The collected samples are then sent to a laboratory for examination.

Although it is technically possible to confirm paternity with these tests, the risk of miscarriage – 1% (1 in 100) for CVS and 0.5% (1 in 200) for amniocentesis – leads most physicians to not offer CVS or amniocentesis for paternity testing only. People who have questions about this should speak with their physicians.

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