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Can A DNA Test Like 23andMe Prove Paternity & Maternity? (What You Should Know)
Updated on September 15, 2022
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Can A DNA Test Like 23andMe Prove Paternity & Maternity? (What You Should Know)

For decades, we’ve used genetic tests to confirm paternity. These tests were done in laboratories and took several months.

Now, you can take a DNA test at home and get your results after 3 to 8 weeks. Depending on the test you’re taking, it can determine a child’s parents or help you find lost relatives. 

Genetic ancestry tests like 23andMe and AncestryDNA connect you to potential relatives by finding people who share similar DNA as yours.

But if you want to establish paternity or maternity, you should take a maternity or paternity test. These tests prove parenthood with an exact DNA match between a parent and child.

We asked the help of pediatrician Dr. Rizza Mira to explain the differences between a standard DNA test and tests that confirm the maternity and maternity of a child.

Can A DNA Test Like 23andMe Prove Paternity & Maternity? (What You Should Know) 2

How Much DNA Do You Share With Your Parents?

Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) holds genetic information. It dictates our physical characteristics. To an extent, it influences our health and personality.

Each person’s DNA is unique. We get half of our genes from our biological father and the other half from our mother. Our genetic makeup makes it possible to confirm:

  • Paternity or the relationship between a father and his child
  • Maternity or the connection between a mother and her child

Why Do You Need to Confirm Paternity or Maternity?

Establishing parenthood has legal implications. You can use the DNA test results to gain child support and other legal rights — such as child custody, benefits, and inheritance.

Paternity and maternity testing may also be helpful in criminal investigations and forensics.

It gives you the opportunity to find out which health conditions you’re most at risk for. For example, you can explore your parents’ ancestry to uncover genetic predispositions.

If you were adopted or abandoned at an early age, knowing who your parents are can give you peace of mind. Parents who put up their children for adoption may also find closure.

What Is DNA Paternity Testing?

A DNA paternity test is commonly used to prove the biological relationship between a father and child. The child in question may be a minor or an adult at the time of testing.

In rare cases, paternity test results can disprove paternity or a man’s fatherhood to a child.

What You Need For A DNA Paternity Test

To perform the test, you need to collect DNA samples from the suspected father and child. The biological mother of the child may also provide samples for some tests.

Prenatal paternity tests may require amniotic fluid, placental tissue, or fetal DNA from the mother’s blood. A home DNA paternity test only needs cheek swabs with buccal (cheek) cells.

How Paternity DNA Testing Works

The test compares DNA samples from the alleged father and his child. To prove their relationship, the man being tested must have the same genetic markers as the child.

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What Is A Maternity DNA Test?

Maternity DNA testing is typically used to confirm the biological relationship of a mother and child. The child doesn’t have to be young. They can be an adult and still take the test. 

Sometimes, it’s used to disprove maternity or a woman’s motherhood to a child.

What You Need For A DNA Maternity Test

DNA samples are collected from the mother and child. The child’s father may also provide his samples, but it’s optional.

Maternity tests may need blood samples or swabs containing cheek cells.

How DNA Maternity Testing Works

The test compares the genetic material of the alleged mother and her child. A woman must have the same genetic markers as her child before she is considered the biological mother.

How Accurate Are Paternity Tests & Maternity Tests?

Maternity and paternity testing are 99.99% accurate both for confirming biological parents or excluding them. When a parent is excluded, it means two things:

  • Their genes didn’t match the child
  • They aren’t related to the child

General practitioner Dr. Rizza Mira has this to say about their accuracy:

“Older methods of proving parenthood are ABO blood group typing, analysis of proteins and enzymes, and using human leukocyte antigen (HLA). But DNA testing is the most formal and exact method of providing proof of paternity or maternity.”

The accuracy of these tests depends on the number of markers being tested. According to geneticists, only specific markers should be tested to confirm parenthood.

Can 23andMe Determine Paternity & Maternity?

23andMe is known for its DNA testing kits. You can order these tests at home to learn about your ancestry, health, and traits. 

Currently, there’s no 23andMe paternity test or maternity test. The company can’t confirm a child’s biological relationship to an alleged parent.

But if you’re looking for a lost relative (like a mother or father), 23andMe’s ancestry tests can narrow down your search and make it easier to find them.

23andMe has a feature called DNA Relatives. It matches you with people who have shared DNA. While this can help you find a child’s parents, a few things are needed:

  • The child must take the 23andMe ancestry test
  • At least one of the child’s parents must be genotyped with 23andMe
  • The lost parent must be a 23andMe user

You should know the test’s limitations so you’ll know what to expect from your DNA results.

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23andMe - The best for Health and Diseases

23andMe offers the only health test that’s authorized by the FDA. For this reason alone, 23andMe should be your first choice when searching for a DNA test kit to check for health conditions.

Can AncestryDNA Determine Paternity & Maternity?

AncestryDNA has the largest genetic database, with over 15 million users from around the world. The company specializes in DNA tests for ancestry and traits.

Unfortunately, they do not offer an AncestryDNA paternity test or maternity test. So they can’t determine whether a child is related to a suspected parent.

That said, you can use AncestryDNA to find a child’s mother or father. But you would need:

  • The child to take an AncestryDNA test
  • At least one of the child’s parents genotyped with AncestryDNA
  • The missing parent must be on the AncestryDNA database

When these criteria are met, it will improve your chances of locating a child’s mother or father.

Can You Take A Paternity Test At Home?

Yes. A home paternity test like Paternity Depot conveniently tests for paternity at home. You can order them online, collect the DNA samples yourself, and send them back for analysis.

DNA test results are usually available after 3 to 8 weeks. When they’re ready, you can access them online or have them printed out and delivered by mail.

For security reasons, most paternity testing companies do not send results through email.

Is DNA Paternity Testing Admissible In Court?

Yes. But it depends on the test. Only legal paternity testing provides court-admissible results.

You can use these test results on cases involving child custody and child support. They can also help with immigration and disputes on inheritance.

“For a paternity test to be admissible in court, a third-party must verify the identity of the prospect parent, witness, or collect the DNA samples themselves,” says Dr. Riza Mira, a pediatrician.

How Much Does A Paternity Test Cost?

The cost of a DNA paternity test may vary. It depends on the testing process and how samples are collected. 

Paternity tests that are performed in a doctor’s office cost about $400 to $800. Home paternity testing is much cheaper and costs an average of $150.

Pregnant women who opt for prenatal paternity testing may have to spend more than $1,000. A legal paternity test with court-admissible results costs anywhere from $300 to $500.

Are Paternity Tests Covered By Insurance?

No. Health insurance companies do not cover paternity tests. It’s because DNA tests (such as paternity testing) are not medical tests used for diagnosing health conditions.

Can A Paternity Test Be Wrong?

Yes. A paternity test can be wrong. While it’s unlikely for paternity tests to be inaccurate, there are rare cases where they turn up a false positive or a false negative.

Paternity tests may produce incorrect results if:

Someone tampered with the test or samples
There was human error during testing
The suspected parent is related to the biological parent
The child and/or parent has a genetic mutation that prevents an exact match

Taking several tests after the first can help confirm or refute its accuracy. 

In legal situations where it’s necessary to establish or exclude parentage beyond reasonable doubt, the court may order more than one test.

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Dr. Rizza Mira
Dr. Rizza Mira
Medical Reviewer
Dr. Rizza Mira is a medical doctor and a general practitioner who specializes in pediatrics, nutrition, dietetics, and public health.

As a pediatrician, she is dedicated to the general health and well-being of children and expecting parents. She believes that good nutrition, a healthy lifestyle, and prevention of illness are key to ensuring the health of children and their families.

When she’s not in the hospital, Rizza advocates and mobilizes causes like breastfeeding, vaccination drives, and initiatives to prevent illness in the community.
Ada Sandoval
Ada Sandoval
Content Contributor
Ada Sandoval is a B.S. in Nursing graduate and a registered nurse with a heart for abandoned animals. She works as a content writer who specializes in medical-related articles and pet health.
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