A Californian couple resorted to DNA testing to prove that their baby had been switched during an in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedure.
Daphna and Alexander Cardinale gave birth to the baby girl in September 2019 and say the baby looked nothing like them.
DNA testing verified that they had been given the wrong embryo by a fertility clinic during IVF. The Cardinales are now suing the Los Angeles-based fertility center, the California Center for Reproductive Health (CCRH), as well as In VitroTech Labs, an embryology lab. The lawsuit alleges medical malpractice, negligence, and fraudulent concealment.
The couple sought help from the fertility clinic in the summer of 2018. Following a successful IVF procedure, Mrs Cardinale gave birth the next year to a child they thought was theirs. However, in the labor room, Mr Cardinale had expected “a fair child”, like their firstborn, but he was surprised to see the baby girl “came out with much darker skin”, according to their lawsuit.
“It was so jarring that Alexander actually took several steps away from the birthing table, backing up against the wall,” reads the legal action.
Nearly 2 months later the family decided to take an at-home DNA test, which ultimately determined they were not biologically related to the infant.
The CCRH then helped them find the couple who had carried their daughter and had given birth to another healthy girl a week apart. The couples agreed to go through the legal process of formally exchanging the babies in January 2020.
“Instead of breastfeeding my own child, I breastfed and bonded with a child I was later forced to give away”, Mrs Cardinale said at an emotional news conference.
“The horror of this situation cannot be understated,” said the lawsuit. The lawyer representing the Cardinales said the other couple in the mix-up also plans to sue, but will remain anonymous.
This is not the first alleged mix-up during an IVF procedure. In 2019, a fertility clinic used wrong sperm to conceive a child, and the same year another Californian family discovered that their child had been born in New York.
DNA testing for IVF peace of mind
During IVF, a woman’s eggs are fertilized by a man’s sperm in a laboratory, before the embryos are implanted into a woman’s uterus. Because the implantation occurs outside of the womb, there is a small risk that the wrong embryo can be implanted.
If the wrong embryo is implanted, a woman could end up carrying a child who is not biologically related to her. Although mistakes of this kind are extremely rare, parents might find it reassuring to take a DNA maternity test or DNA paternity test for their peace of mind after the child has been delivered.
A DNA maternity test can ascertain if there is a biological relationship between a child and a mother. It can therefore confirm that the correct embryo was implanted into her uterus. A DNA paternity test establishes whether there is a biological link between a father and a child.
How do IVF DNA tests work?
Maternity and paternity DNA tests can be performed in new-born babies by collecting a DNA sample immediately after birth.
This simple process involves rubbing a Q-tip on the inside of the baby’s cheek for about 20 seconds. This collects a sample of buccal cells, which can then be analyzed for the DNA back at AlphaBiolabs’ lab. This method of collecting cheek cells is very quick and painless, and should cause no distress to the baby.
Another option is a prenatal DNA test, which can be performed if the mother is certain she is carrying her own embryo, and can be used to confirm that the sperm donor is the expected father. The test can be performed from as early as 7 weeks into the pregnancy.
This risk-free, non-invasive method requires a mouth swab from the sperm donor and a blood sample from the mother (usually drawn from her arm).
Maternity and paternity tests cost $119 online and results can be received by email within 3–5 working days after our laboratory has received your samples. Prenatal paternity testing costs $975 with results in 7–8 working days.
More information on prenatal paternity testing can be read in our Learning Center article.