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How Does Paternity Testing Work?

An unexpected pregnancy is bound to feel scary under any set of circumstances, but maybe your situation is uniquely overwhelming because you’re not sure who the father is.  Prenatal paternity testing may be an opportunity that you choose to explore.  Well done for asking the question, “How does paternity testing work?”  It’s always wise to seek knowledge about any medical process you’re considering for yourself, so you can take informed next steps concerning your health.  Let’s take a closer look at paternity testing… the processes, benefits, and risks involved with this modern innovation.

Are you thinking about pursuing DNA paternity testing in the hopes of identifying who you’re pregnant by?  If so, your feelings about this pregnancy may be especially complex.  Avenue Women’s Center is here to help you find clarity within the confusion by offering compassionate no-cost pregnancy support.  We’re a limited medical clinic with five locations in Chicagoland.  We provide confidential services like pregnancy consultations and limited medical ultrasounds, so you can move forward feeling confident about where things stand with your body, and what options are available to you.

Learn more about Avenue!  We’ve been serving individuals, couples, and families from our own community and beyond for over forty years!

*As a limited medical clinic, Avenue does not provide paternity testing.  Learn more about the free services that we offer!  Our aim is to help women get baseline information about their pregnancies, options, and resources, so they’re equipped to make the most knowledgeable decisions possible.

What Methods Are Available?

Believe it or not, the DNA of a pregnancy can be sampled long before birth (and, nowadays, this can be accomplished non-invasively)!  The pregnancy’s DNA can then be compared with the DNA of the potential father to evaluate whether or not the pregnancy is his (Forbes Health).  According to Forbes Health, there are 3 ways to collect a pre-birth DNA sample:

  • Non-invasive prenatal paternity (NIPP): The DNA profile of the pregnancy is determined by taking a blood sample from the mother. This is possible because her blood contains fetal cells.  NIPP can take place as early as 7 weeks into a pregnancy.  It’s the most common method, as it’s less invasive and less risky than other DNA sampling options.
  • Amniocentesis: DNA is taken from the amniotic fluid, which surrounds the pregnancy inside the uterus. A medical professional can obtain the sample by inserting a needle into the mother’s abdomen.
  • Chorionic villus sampling (CVS): A tissue sample is taken from the placenta to obtain the DNA of the pregnancy. This is done by inserting a needle or tube into the woman’s abdomen or cervix.

Benefits and Risks

According to Forbes Health, DNA paternity testing is generally very accurate.  During one study in which 20 samples were taken from the blood of pregnant mothers, paternity was accurately identified 100% of the time.  Some methods also have a quick turnaround time.  Paternity test results that utilize NIPP can be gathered in, “about a week” (Forbes Health).  With amniocentesis, results may be available in just a few days.  With CVS, it can take up to 2 weeks. (Approximate timelines may vary by clinic.) Costs of testing range significantly.

Non-invasive paternity testing is generally low-risk (this method comes with the same risks that any process involving a blood draw would carry).  In some cases, a redraw is needed if the blood sample does not contain enough DNA.  Amniocentesis and CVS carry the risk of infection, the risk of the procedure being unsuccessful, and the low risk of miscarriage (Forbes Health).

For most people who decide to get a paternity test, this process includes a lot of anxiety.  Waiting for the results is never easy, and the answers a woman receives can significantly impact her decision-making process (for abortion, adoption, or parenting).  Our expert team at Avenue meets those facing these circumstances with the highest standards of compassion and sensitivity.  Having partnered with unexpectedly pregnant individuals and couples since 1981, we understand what a delicate and complex subject this can be.  We’re here to provide unconditional emotional support while empowering you to take your next best steps.

Reach out to speak with a staff member and learn more!  At Avenue, your health, safety, and overall well-being are our highest priorities.



Forbes Health.  (2023, September).  Can I Get A Paternity Test While Pregnant?  Retrieved from:

Reviewed by Patricia Kuenzi, APN-CNP, MSN, ANP, PNP.

The information provided here is general in nature.  It is not a substitute for a consultation with a medical professional. Before any medical procedure, it is imperative that you discuss your personal medical history, risks, and concerns with your doctor. If you have questions during or after a procedure, your doctor should be immediately contacted. Avenue Women’s Center is not an emergency center.  If you are experiencing severe symptoms, such as bleeding and/or pain, seek immediate medical attention.  Contact your physician, go to an emergency room, or call 911.