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Should I take a DNA test?

Gail Evans AlphaBiolabs

By Gail Evans, Technical Trainer at AlphaBiolabs
Last reviewed: 12/10/2023

In this article, we discuss whether you should take a DNA test, the reasons people need DNA tests, and the implications of taking a test.

What is DNA testing?

DNA testing provides a simple, accurate way of verifying biological relationships between individuals.

DNA relationship tests – the type of DNA tests we offer at AlphaBiolabs – work by analysing and comparing DNA samples to identify matching DNA markers. However, the type of test you might order depends entirely on your reasons for wanting a DNA test.

For example, if you simply want a DNA test for your own information, you can order a peace of mind DNA test.

Peace of mind DNA tests require you to collect your own samples at home before returning them to the laboratory for analysis. The results can be used to answer any questions you might have but cannot be used for legal matters.

If you require a DNA test for official matters, such as changing the name on a birth certificate, for child maintenance or custody disputes, or for wills and probate, you will need to order a legal DNA test.

For a legal DNA test, samples must be collected under strict chain of custody conditions by a trained sample collector, ensuring samples are collected in the correct way, from the right people.

This ensures that the DNA results will be accepted by a variety of organisations for legal matters including Family Court, solicitors, social workers, specialist immigration solicitors and the Irish Immigration Service.

Why do people need DNA testing?

When we talk about DNA testing, many people will automatically think about paternity testing – one of our most popular DNA tests, used to verify the biological relationship between an alleged father and a child.

However, there are many other reasons why you might need a DNA test, including:

For a sense of identity

If you have questions about your family tree, finding out the truth about your biological relationships can help to establish or reinforce a sense of identity.

This can include anything from confirming who your biological parents are, to establishing whether siblings are full or half-siblings, or whether siblings from multiple births are identical or non-identical.

An insight into health

If you are thinking about starting a family, or are curious about your own health, understanding your family tree can provide peace of mind, or enable you to seek testing, diagnoses and treatment for hereditary illnesses.

If you have questions about your parentage or biological relationships, you may be missing out on this valuable information. In these circumstances, DNA testing can be hugely helpful.

Twin DNA (zygosity) testing can also be useful for this purpose. Because identical siblings share the same DNA profile (barring some minor variations), it is possible for these siblings to be born with the same health conditions.

If one sibling from a multiple birth has been impacted by illness, it can be helpful to know whether siblings are genetically identical, especially for parents who might want to get multiple siblings tested for the same condition.

Immigration and visa applications and appeals

DNA testing is a powerful tool for verifying biological relationships between family members for immigration and naturalisation purposes.

While documents such as birth or marriage certificates will usually be enough to prove a relationship, there may be occasions where you do not have access to these documents for a variety of reasons.

In these cases, a DNA test can provide vital evidence to support an application or appeal.

Learn more about immigration DNA testing here

Child welfare, custody, and maintenance disputes

Paternity testing is the DNA test that is most commonly used in support of child maintenance and custody disputes, where it is not clear who a child’s biological father is.

Knowing the answer to this question is important for enabling parents, family law professionals and, in some instances, local authorities, to make important decisions about a child’s welfare.

Prenatal paternity testing – performed while the mother is still pregnant – can ensure that decisions are made about a child’s care before the baby is born.

This is especially important for child welfare and protection cases, as safeguarding plans can be put in place in advance of the birth.

Inheritance, wills and probate

Where a family member has passed away and a surviving relative wishes to make a claim to their estate, a DNA test can be used to confirm a biological relationship.

This is most commonly seen in cases where a father has passed away, and there is uncertainty surrounding the true paternity of any surviving children to whom inheritance may be left.

In circumstances where a sample donor is deceased, and it is not possible to obtain a cheek swab sample for DNA testing, a DNA viability test using an alternative sample (nail clippings, tissue, or blood) is usually required.

DNA testing after fertility treatments

With increasing numbers of babies being born as a result of fertility treatments like in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and sperm donation, DNA testing can provide peace of mind as to the biological identity of a child’s parents.

Because the fertilisation process or implantation process takes place in a clinic or hospital, there is a small risk of mistakes happening, and the wrong sperm sample or embryo being used during the procedure.

For this reason, individuals or couples who conceive using fertility treatments may decide to perform a prenatal DNA test while the mother is still pregnant, or a paternity test or maternity test after the baby has been born for added reassurance that the procedure has been performed correctly.

Whatever your reasons for needing a DNA test, we would always recommend that you think carefully about your reasons for wanting a test before ordering.

It is also worth considering the potential impact of the results, both on your own personal wellbeing and on your interpersonal relationships.

How long does a DNA test take?

How long a DNA test takes depends on several factors including:

  • The type of DNA test you require
  • Whether you need a DNA test for peace of mind or legal/official matters

Apart from our Prenatal Paternity Tests and Baby Gender Tests, both of which require blood samples, all of AlphaBiolabs’ peace of mind home DNA testing kits have been designed to enable you to collect your own samples quickly and easily at home without the need for a third party to assist you with the collection.

For most of our peace of mind DNA tests, the results are available in 2-3 working days as standard (included in the cost of your test), after the samples are received at the laboratory.

A DNA test performed for official matters, including for legal reasons, requires the DNA samples to be collected under strict chain of custody conditions by a trained sample collector, to guarantee the integrity of the samples.

This means that appointments need to be arranged to collect the DNA samples from all parties taking part in the testing.

This process ensures that the results of the test will be accepted by a variety of organisations and public bodies including the Family Court, solicitors, social workers and the Irish Immigration Service.

Our legal DNA test results are available the next working day after the samples are received at the laboratory, as standard.

Is there an age limit for DNA testing?

There is no age limit or minimum age at which a child can take a DNA test.

In the majority of cases, a DNA test simply requires cheek swabs to be rubbed painlessly on the inside of the cheek to collect cheek cell DNA.

This pain-free method of sample collection means that DNA testing can be performed on a person of any age, from new-born babies to grown up children and adults.

Although there is no age limit for DNA testing, it is important to think about why you want or need a DNA test, and what the outcome of the test could mean for you and your family.

What are the different types of DNA test?

There are many types of DNA test available, to meet a range of needs. The types of DNA test offered at AlphaBiolabs include:

  • Paternity DNA Testing – used to verify a biological relationship between a child and an alleged father
  • Maternity DNA Testing – used to verify a biological relationship between a child and an alleged mother
  • Prenatal Paternity Testing – used to verify a biological relationship between an alleged father and a child, while the mother is still pregnant
  • Baby Gender Testing – used to determine the gender of an unborn baby while the mother is still pregnant
  • Twin DNA (Zygosity) Testingv – used to determine whether children from multiple births are identical or non-identical (fraternal)
  • Sibling DNA Testing – used to determine whether two or more individuals are full siblings or half siblings
  • Grandparent DNA Testing – used to establish a biological relationship between a child and one or more of their biological grandparents, which in turn can help verify a biological relationship between a child and their father or mother
  • Aunt and Uncle DNA Testing – also known as avuncular tests. These tests are used to establish a biological relationship between a child and their potential aunt or uncle, which in turn will help verify a biological relationship between a child and their father or mother
  • Single Genetic Profile Testing – a type of DNA test that allows an individual to obtain a record of their DNA profile
  • Y Chromosome (Y-DNA) Testing – used to verify a relationship between potential male relatives by identifying matching Y chromosomes
  • Viability DNA Testing – also referred to as a viability study, viability DNA testing involves extracting a DNA profile from an alternative source (such as a toothbrush or nail clippings), where collecting a cheek swab DNA sample is not possible or could lead to awkward questions

Should I take a DNA test?

Thanks to advances in medical science, and continued innovation from testing laboratories like AlphaBiolabs, it has never been easier to order a DNA test for peace of mind or for official matters.

We offer a wide range of DNA tests to suit your personal circumstances including paternity, non-invasive prenatal paternity (NIPP), maternity, sibling, twin, grandparent, and aunt/uncle tests.

Before ordering a DNA test, it is important to think about your reasons for ordering a test and the potential impact of the test results.

DNA testing can be an emotive subject, so we would always recommend discussing your thoughts and concerns with loved ones before ordering a test.

Still have questions? Call our friendly and discreet Customer Services team on 01 402 9466 or email info@alphabiolabs.ie for more information.

Accredited DNA testing

Learn more about our DNA testing services, including DNA testing for peace of mind and official matters.

Gail Evans AlphaBiolabs

Gail Evans

Technical Trainer at AlphaBiolabs

A professionally-trained forensic scientist, Gail joined AlphaBiolabs in 2012 and holds the role of Technical Trainer.

Her day-to-day responsibilities include delivering in-depth training sessions both internally and externally, covering DNA, drug, and alcohol testing.

Throughout her career at AlphaBiolabs, Gail has held a variety of roles, including within the Legal and Workplace sectors of the business.

Before joining the company, Gail was a practicing forensic scientist with 25 years’ experience working for the Forensic Science Service, attending scenes of crime, and analysing physical and biological material with potential evidential value.

Gail also holds qualifications in chemistry and is a Lead Auditor for the ISO 9001 standard, the international standard for quality management.

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