There are several reasons a couple—or an individual—might decide to enlist a traditional or gestational surrogate to help them start a family. Medical problems might make pregnancy difficult—or impossible. A couple may have tried to get pregnant, even using assisted reproductive technology, (ART) but without any success.
Surrogacy offers the option of producing biological children and given developments in ART over the past decades, it has become an increasingly popular option. Doing some research can help you decide if surrogacy is right for you. Here are five things you may want to consider:
- There are traditional and gestational surrogates
Both types of surrogates both carry a child to term.
A traditional surrogate is a woman whose own egg is artificially inseminated with the father’s sperm. She carries the baby to term and is the baby’s biological mother, even though she agrees to surrender the child at birth.
A gestational surrogate carries an embryo created by the fertilization of another woman’s egg.
In vitro fertilization (IVF) makes it possible for eggs to be harvested from the mother and fertilized with the father’s sperm, after which the embryo is transferred to the gestational surrogate. In this case the child is only genetically related to the parents, although the surrogate mother carries and gives birth to the child. Each year in the U.S. about 750 babies are born via gestational surrogacy.
- There are a few ways to find surrogates
Sometimes a friend or family member may be willing to serve as a surrogate. There have been cases of a mother carrying a child for her daughter or a sister carrying a child for her sibling. While this is a labor of love, it’s not a decision to take lightly, as surrogacy can change the nature of the family dynamic. It’s best to discuss the prospective arrangement with everyone involved and even ideally participate in counseling about what it will mean to your relationship.
When a family member serves as a traditional surrogate, the donor sperm should come from the other side of the baby’s family to avoid potential genetic problems.
There’s no problem, genetically speaking, if a relative on either side of the family serves as a gestational surrogate, since they are carrying an embryo created by an egg that has already been fertilized.
Most parents considering surrogacy use an agency, which finds and screens potential surrogates and deals with the legal and financial aspects of the arrangement.
- Surrogates must meet certain qualifications
Some women become surrogates because they enjoy being pregnant and they want to help other families become parents, while some do so as a way to help their own families financially. While there are no laws in the U.S. governing who can become a surrogate parent, there are some qualities that you should look for.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions about a perspective surrogate. If a family member or friend volunteers to serve as a surrogate you may already know the answers to the important questions. A surrogacy agency can also help you find candidates that meet the essential requirements and screen out unsuitable ones.
A surrogate should be a healthy adult who has already given birth. She should:
- Be over 21
- Previously have had an uncomplicated delivery
- Have completed a mental health exam
- Get a medical exam to rule out infectious diseases, be sure she is physically able to carry a child to term and ensure she is up to date on her immunizations.
- Be in a relationship where her partner is supportive
- Surrogacy is an expensive proposition
To start with, surrogate mothers can be paid anywhere from $15,000 to $30,000. It’s more expensive if you need to get donor eggs. Legal bills can add up, as can medical expenses and agency fees. Surrogacy can easily cost over $100,000, so do your research and be prepared for the cost.
- It’s important to have a contract
There are many emotional, legal and financial aspects to enlisting a surrogate that necessitate a contract. Surrogacy laws vary from state to state and it makes sense to hire an attorney well versed in your state’s laws. Some states have more restrictions than others, while a few states don’t even allow paid surrogacy. The contract is needed to protect your rights and it’s important that your surrogate signs the contract.
There are also other considerations:
- Does the surrogate have medical insurance? Do you need to get her insurance?
- How can you be sure your surrogate is getting regular prenatal care? How often will she update you as to her condition.
- What happens if the surrogate is having twins or triplets or if there are complications during pregnancy.
Once the contract is signed and the initial qualifications are met, it’s time to plan your family.
Surrogates usually update expectant parents on their prenatal care and pregnancy developments. Prospective parents also sometimes attend the birth.
Although surrogacy stories sometimes make the headlines for all the wrong reasons, most arrangements proceed without problems and offer an alternative way to realize the dream of starting a family. Doing your homework in advance can help prevent most problems.