The subject of paternity has always been a source of controversy and brings to mind an old adage my late aunt used to say: “Mama’s baby. Daddy’s maybe.” Because 50 percent of pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned, paternity becomes a huge issue when there are multiple partners involved.
What haven’t I seen as an obstetrician? There was the patient who wanted me to change her due date and induce her 2 months early to correspond with her male partner of choice, rather than the baby’s biological father. Of course, the answer was no. It’s also difficult to explain how two parents of one race can produce a baby of another. And then there’s always the pregnant teen whose boyfriend’s mother is demanding a paternity test.
In 2009, an article in the Sunday New York Times Magazine published a story that nearly brought me to tears. Ruth Padawer wrote a story about fathers who had been “duped” regarding their children’s paternity. Who Knew I was Not the Father, is a cautionary tale of men who raised children, paid child support only to discover that they are not the biological father. It was disheartening to read about the profound betrayal these men felt upon discovering the truth.
Traditionally, mothers and fathers would have to wait until after the birth of the baby to determine paternity or have an invasive procedure called an amniocentesis that took a sample of fluid around the baby and tested it against the father’s DNA. Now, things have changed, thanks to modern genetics and Ravinder Dhallan, MD, PhD, who discovered the test through his research. Although fetal cells are present in a mother’s blood, it was difficult to isolate them based on technical difficulties. Dhallan discovered that if he mixed the mother’s blood with a fixative, the fetal blood cells could be obtained. Therefore, rather than have an invasive test that runs the risk of causing a miscarriage or waiting until after the baby is born, the paternity of a baby can be established as early as 8 weeks gestation.
This new DNA tests is a game-changer. It allows women to make informed choices and empowers men to prove or disprove paternity much earlier in the pregnancy. Would you use this test if it were available? Please share your thoughts.