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West Michigan lab introduces prenatal paternity tests

The new tests could have important legal implications and prove valuable for both men and women across Michigan. A Kalamazoo-based testing facility will become the first lab in West Michigan to allow patients to test a fetus's DNA to establish paternity before a child is born. The facility's co-founder explained that men often want to know whether they are the father of a child without having to wait until it is born. However, states could decide to use the tests to require prenatal paternity tests and force non-custodial fathers to pay child support before their children are actually born.

The testing of the fetus's DNA has historically been considered infeasible due to financial, medical and legal issues, but a new procedure allows technicians to collect a fetus's DNA from the mother's bloodstream. This allows them to conduct paternity tests during the first trimester of pregnancy.

The tests could also provide benefits for both mothers and their children. According to some studies, providing a woman with financial and emotional support throughout her pregnancy can lead to healthier newborns. Experts say that early paternity tests could help encourage potential fathers to better support mothers in this way.

Doctors say the new procedure allows them to simply determine paternity by drawing blood from a mother and collecting a cheek swab from the prospective father. Prior to its introduction, the only way to test for paternity before birth was through a process called amniocentesis. This procedure requires a needle to be inserted into a pregnant woman's amniotic sac and puts the mother at risk for miscarriage.

While the new test is generally three times more expensive than traditional paternity testing, medical studies found that it correctly identified fathers in all 30 test cases.

Source: MLivecom, "Kalamazoo lab first in West Michigan to conduct new prenatal paternity test," Yvonne Zipp, Dec 4, 2012

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