How to Know If You Were Switched at Birth

Last updated May 27th, 2021

Babies switched at birth are a certainly rare yet terrifying occurrence in hospitals and other birth facilities. While some switches are temporary, in some cases years pass before anyone gets suspicious and decides to investigate.

And if the families do not realize the mistake, it may be up to the now adult child to get proof of identity and parentage. If they find out that they have been switched at birth, then, they will have to make difficult decisions regarding searching for and contacting their birth parents, and talking to the parents that raised them about their discovery.

So what should you do if you suspect that you were switched at birth? Keep reading to learn about your options.

How Many Babies Get Switched at Birth Every Year?

Unfortunately, there is no official data that can tell us exactly how many babies get switched at birth every year in America. That is because there is no mandate in the United States for birth facilities to report these incidents. Until the law is changed to include birth switches, statistics will not be reliable.

Mistakes in the maternity ward are, however, more uncommon than many may think. That is because popular culture has seen the public fascinated by these incidents in the past decades, and identity and paternity mishaps are at the center of several TV shows, soap operas, and books.

This may have caused the audience to feel like a newborn can be easily swapped by mistake. In fact, only 8 incidents in which babies were switched at birth in the U.S. were physically documented between 1995 and 2008.

Every year, however, almost 4 million children are born in the United States. That is a great number of opportunities for a mistake to be made.

Find Out If You Were Switched at Birth

You may be wondering whether your birth certificate is telling you the truth for several reasons. Maybe you do not look like your parents at all, born outside a hospital, or you have heard rumors about an incident occurring at your hospital right about the time when you were born.

To find out whether you have been switched at birth, the only sure method is a DNA test. You will have to collect DNA samples from yourself and your mother to establish maternity. There is a great number of private labs that will help you do this.

Learn about Your Family Tree

Should your test results be negative (meaning that you are not your parents’ birth child), you may then want to find out more about your birth family tree.

Fortunately, nowadays there are plenty of services that collect genetic information from a great pool of volunteers and will be able to tell you more about your genealogy.

Again, you will need to collect a DNA sample from yourself (usually, with a simple mouth swab which is provided as part of an in-home DNA kit) and carry it or ship it to the lab. Genealogy tests (also called ancestry tests) are a great way to learn more about your lineage. Moreover, the companies offering these tests can often help you get in touch with your relatives if they have also taken the test and their information is in the database.

Remember: you will only be able to contact people who have given their consent for their information to be shared, and you will need to do the same if you want to be contacted.

Another great place to ask for information and assistance is the hospital or birth facility where you were born. If you are not sure which one that is, you can request a copy of your birth certificate, which should include this information.

How to Prevent Babies from Being Switched at Birth

If you are growing your family, it is only normal to be worried about the safety of your newborn.

Hospitals have taken measures to prevent incidents. For example, most hospitals will issue matching bracelets for the newborn, the mother, and a supporting partner. In some facilities, the child’s identity is confirmed with fingerprints. Moreover, maternity wards and other units with babies are usually locked and can only be accessed with the permission of a staff member.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking in advance what steps your hospital will take to ensure the safety of your child.

After the birth, you may decide to be proactive in preventing an accidental baby swap. For example, you can:

  • Keep your child close as much as possible
  • Dress your newborn with distinctive clothing/accessories to be able to identify them at first glance
  • Ask your nurse to confirm that they have checked that the ID bracelets match