Pregnant women in Michigan can now use a simple blood test to identify the father of their unborn child.
Three labs across the state now offer the noninvasive prenatal paternity test. The Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo and Lansing sites are part of the ArcPoint Franchise Group.
With only a blood sample from the mother and a cheek swab from the potential father, paternity can be determined as early as five weeks after conception.
At that time, the pregnant woman's blood starts carrying fragments of the fetus' DNA.
The labs send the mother's blood samples and potential father's cheek swab to a different lab in Columbia, Md., where technicians compare genetic markers to determine paternity.
Rick Van Laan runs the ArcPoint in Kalamazoo.
He says the new lab work costs about $1,200-- three times more than a standard paternity test.
"It's not cheap," he said, "but from the families I've talked to, they're willing to pay the price to find out early."
Van Laan says the test can offer pregnant victims of rape more information.
"The woman wants to definitively know who is the father of the baby," he said. "Is it her partner, or is it the rapist?"
He says the new technology could also have implications for prenatal child support.
ArcPoint's labs in Michigan have conducted two of these tests so far, and Van Laan says there is interest for more.
-Elaine Ezekiel, Michigan Radio Newsroom