Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Health & Pregnancy

Font Size

New Earlier, Noninvasive Paternity Test Developed

Experts Say the Test Has Important Medical, Legal Applications
WebMD Health News

May 2, 2012 -- Researchers say they've found a way to identify the father of a baby as early as the eighth week of pregnancy.

The new method, reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, uses fetal DNA isolated from the mother's blood.

The test has already been used to prove an affair in a murder trial, and experts say it has other significant medical and legal applications.

"The technology is extremely important and really a very, very significant step forward for medical prenatal diagnosis," says Peter Benn, PhD, director of the diagnostic medical genetics laboratories at the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington. He was not involved in the research.

A previous study by the same researchers showed how the test could be used early in pregnancy to determine whether a fetus has Down syndrome, for example.

"That technology will allow genetic disorders to be identified without going through amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling. That's a very important and useful step forward because those tests are not without some degree of risk to the fetus," Benn says.

Amniocentesis, in which a small sample of fluid that surrounds the fetus is removed and analyzed, and chorionic villus sampling, in which a small piece of tissue from the placenta is removed and analyzed, can cause infections, miscarriages, and birth defects. These tests are not able to be done before 10 to 15 weeks of pregnancy.

"Before we could only rely on tests that were invasive and could only be done later in pregnancy," says Jill Rabin, MD, chief of ambulatory care, obstetrics, and gynecology at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y.

"Here you have a blood test with the possibility of giving you an answer so that a woman can decide whether to proceed with a pregnancy or not based on the results of a noninvasive test. That is, right there, a tremendous utility," says Rabin, who was not involved in the research. "This is really cutting-edge stuff. It's very exciting."

Finding Fetal DNA in Mom's Blood

The new test overcomes several significant obstacles.

Pregnancy Week-By-Week Newsletter

Delivered right to your inbox, get pictures and facts on
what to expect each week of your pregnancy.

Today on WebMD

hand circling date on calendar
Track your most fertile days.
woman looking at ultrasound
Week-by-week pregnancy guide.
Pretty pregnant woman timing contaction pains
The signs to watch out for.
pregnant woman in hospital
Are there ways to do it naturally?
slideshow fetal development
pregnancy first trimester warning signs
What Causes Bipolar
Woman trying on dress in store
pregnant woman
Woman looking at pregnancy test
calendar and baby buggy
dark chocolate squares