It is an uncomfortable question that, in today’s world, is often asked by expectant mothers who had more than one male partner at the time they became pregnant. Who is the father?
With more than half of births to women under 30 now out of wedlock, it is a question that may arise more often.
Now blood tests are becoming available that can determine paternity as early as the eighth or ninth week of pregnancy, without an invasive procedure that could cause a miscarriage.
Besides relieving anxiety, the test results might allow women to terminate a pregnancy if the preferred man is not the father — or to continue it if he is.
Men who clearly know they are the father might be more willing to support the woman financially and emotionally during the pregnancy, which some studies suggest might lead to healthier babies.
And if the tests gain legal acceptance, some lawyers say, women and state governments might one day pursue child support payments without having to wait until the birth. Under current law, “until and unless the pregnancy produces a child, any costs associated with it are regarded as the woman’s personal problem,” said Shari Motro, a law professor at the University of Richmond.
一些律师指出，如果这项测试技术在法律上获得许可，那么，女性和州政府或许有机会在宝宝出生之前就争取子女抚养费。根据现行法律，“除非孩子出生，否则在孕期的任何相关费用均需女方个人承担，” 里士满大学 （University of Richmond）的法学教授莎丽·莫特罗 (Shari Motro)如是说。
The testing itself, however, can be awkward because it requires a blood sample from at least one of the possible fathers.
Courtney Herndon, after breaking up with her boyfriend, had a brief relationship with a man she regarded more as a friend. She found herself pregnant at age 19, without knowing which man was the father.
和男朋友分手之后，库特尼·赫恩登 (Courtney Herndon) 和另一个男人有过短暂关系，这个人，她更多地是当作朋友。19岁的时候，她发现自己有了身孕，但不知道谁是孩子的父亲。
The friend also wanted to know, so he agreed to the testing. He turned out to be the father, and the two agreed on child support even before the baby was born.
“I got the test done and was able to go on with my life,” said Ms. Herndon, who lives in Fort Polk, La.
Estimates of the extent of paternal uncertainty vary.
Studies have found a discrepancy rate — when the presumed father is not the biological father — of anywhere from 0.8 percent to 30 percent, with the median being 3.7 percent, according to one review of such studies. Another study found that about 9 percent of birth certificates in Florida, even excluding births to teenage mothers, did not list the full names of the father, though it was not clear how much of this was related to uncertainty. Infant mortality was higher in those cases than if the father’s name was on the birth certificate.
It has already been possible to determine paternity during pregnancy using amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling, the same medical procedures used to test a fetus for Down syndrome. But those procedures are invasive and carry a small risk of inducing a miscarriage, so they are rarely used for paternity testing.
By contrast, the new tests require only blood samples from the pregnant woman and the potential father. And doctors generally do not have to be involved.
That could vastly expand testing, said Sara Katsanis of Duke University’s Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy. She is planning a study with one of the testing companies to see if prenatal paternity testing can reduce a pregnant woman’s stress.
The tests analyze fragments of DNA from the fetus that are present in the mother’s blood in tiny amounts. The same approach is now also being used to noninvasively determine the gender of the fetus or whether it has Down syndrome. And researchers recently demonstrated that they could even determine a fetus’s entire genome this way.
鉴定的方法是通过分析胎儿体内的DNA片段。同样的 DNA 片段也微量存在于母亲的血液。现在这种方式也应用于无创鉴定胎儿性别或诊断否患有唐氏综合症。最近，研究学者还通过展示证明，他们甚至可以用这种方法确定胎儿整个基因组。
Ravgen, a small company in Columbia, Md., has been offering its test on a limited basis and charges $950 to $1,650, depending on the circumstances, said Dr. Ravinder Dhallan, the chief executive.
Another test was developed by a company in Silicon Valley called Natera, and is marketed by DNA Diagnostics Center, a leading provider of conventional paternity tests. Thousands of the prenatal tests have been ordered since going on sale last August, executives say. The price is $1,775, compared with around $500 for a conventional postbirth paternity test.
此外还有一种鉴定方法，是硅谷的Natera公司研发的，由 DNA诊断中心 (DNA Diagnostics Center) 负责市场推广。该中心在传统亲子鉴定领域是一家居于领先地位的公司。公司负责人称，自去年8月份开始这项服务面世以来，他们已经接到数千个产前鉴定的订单。价格是1775美元，而传统的产后鉴定价格在500美元左右。
Neither test has received a certification for accuracy that is necessary for use in child custody cases, though Natera has applied. The certifying organization, the AABB, is seriously considering whether it should certify prenatal tests, said Eduardo Nunes, senior director for policy, standards and global development at the organization, formerly known as the American Association of Blood Banks.
这两种鉴定方法都还没有得到准确度认证。这种认证在判定子女抚养权的案件中是必须的。不过，Natera 公司已经提出了认证的申请。提供认证的机构是美国血库协会AABB（American Association of Blood Banks ）。该机构的政策标准和全球发展部主任爱德华多·努内斯（Eduardo Nunes）称，他们正在严肃考虑是否应该给产前鉴定颁发认证。
Still, some experts urge caution. Natera has not yet published any data about its test in peer-reviewed journals. Ravgen’s paper in The New England Journal of Medicine discussed just 30 samples. (The test correctly distinguished the father from a randomly chosen man in all 30 cases.)
尽管如此，还是有专家呼吁要谨慎。Natera公司尚未在有同行评审的期刊上发表过有关它的鉴定的任何数据。Ravgen公司发表在的《新英格兰医学杂志》 (The New England Journal) 上的文章只讨论了30个样本。（在所有30个案例中，该鉴定都能准确地区分父亲和随机抽选的另外一个人。）
The tests could generate controversy if they led to more abortions. However, Matthew Rabinowitz, chief executive of Natera, said that if a woman were intent on terminating a pregnancy based on paternity, she could still get an invasive test. And Dr. Dhallan of Ravgen said the test could persuade women who learned they were pregnant after a rape to keep the baby if they learned the rapist was not the father.
如果这些鉴定导致更多堕胎的发生，它们可能会引发争议。然而，Natera公司的执行官马修·拉比诺维茨(Matthew Rabinowitz)表示，如果女性因为父亲是谁的问题而决意终止妊娠，她是完全可以接受侵入性检查的。Ravgen公司的达兰(Dhallan) 博士也表示，如果被强奸后发现怀孕了的女性在鉴定后得知强奸犯并不是自己所怀孩子的父亲，这样鉴定可能会说服她们留住孩子。
Ravgen’s test has been used in a murder case. In 2008, Michael Roseboro, a funeral home director in Lancaster County, Pa., was accused of killing his wife, Jan, whose body was found in the family swimming pool.
Ravgen公司的鉴定已经在一起谋杀案的审理中得到了应用。2008年，宾夕法尼亚州兰卡斯特县 (Lancaster County)一家殡仪馆的负责人迈克尔·罗斯波罗 (Michael Roseboro) 被控杀害了他的妻子简(Jane)。简的尸体是在家中的游泳池里被发现的。
To establish a motive, prosecutors wanted to prove that Mr. Roseboro was having an affair with another woman, who was pregnant. But they did not want to wait until the baby was born.
“We became concerned that she might have an abortion, or something would happen and we’d never be able to determine whose child it was,” said Craig Stedman, the district attorney in Lancaster County.
The evidence from the prenatal test was not introduced at trial, however, because Mr. Roseboro eventually conceded that he was the father. Mr. Roseboro, who still proclaims his innocence in his wife’s death, was sentenced to life in prison.
It is possible that early testing could mean more paternal support for a pregnant woman.
One Seattle-area woman said that when she was pregnant, with two possible fathers, “Neither one really wanted to be involved and then find out the baby wasn’t theirs later.”
When the prenatal test showed that the father was her former boyfriend, he attended the delivery and supported the child. The woman spoke on the condition of anonymity, explaining, “I’m not proud of not knowing who my son’s father was.”
In some cases DNA is not destiny. Ms. Herndon’s test showed that the baby was not her ex-boyfriend’s. But they got back together and married, and he accepted the child, who is now 16 months old.
“We view our daughter as ours, mine and my husband’s,” Ms. Herndon said. The biological father sends gifts and pays child support.