Surrogacy is an often overlooked option for those who are trying to get pregnant. Besides the stigma surrounding surrogacy (which has thankfully lessened over the years), many wanting to conceive don’t consider it simply due to the financial and legal morass associated with a third party involved in their pregnancy.
But surrogacy can be a viable and fulfilling path to pregnancy for all involved, so it’s worth unpacking exactly what surrogacy is, its benefits and challenges, and the step-by-step process by which it is accomplished.
1. What is surrogacy?
Surrogacy is a process where a woman (called a surrogate) agrees to carry and give birth to a child for another person or couple (called the intended parents). The surrogate may or may not be genetically related to the child, depending on the type of surrogacy arrangement. There are two main types of surrogacy: gestational and traditional.
Gestational surrogacy is when the surrogate is not genetically related to the child. The intended parents provide their eggs and sperm, or use donor eggs and sperm, to create an embryo that is transferred to the gestational surrogate’s uterus. The surrogate then carries the pregnancy to term and delivers the child to the intended parents.
Traditional surrogacy is when the surrogate is genetically related to the child. The surrogate provides her eggs, which are fertilized by the intended father’s sperm or donor sperm through artificial insemination. The surrogate then carries the pregnancy to term and delivers the child to the intended parents.
Most often, surrogacy is used when a couple is struggling with infertility. Many factors can affect a person’s fertility, such as age, health, lifestyle, genetics, and environmental factors. Some people may face difficulties in conceiving or carrying a pregnancy due to various reasons, such as medical conditions, genetic disorders, or personal choices. For these people, surrogacy may be an option to fulfill their desire to have a family.
Surrogacy can offer many benefits for both the intended parents and the surrogate. For the intended parents, surrogacy can allow them to have a biological or genetic connection with their child, or to have a child that matches their ethnic background. Finding a surrogate can also help them avoid the complications of pregnancy and childbirth, such as miscarriage, preterm labor, preeclampsia, or cesarean section. For the surrogate, surrogacy can provide a sense of empowerment and fulfillment by helping another person or couple achieves their dream of parenthood. It can also offer financial compensation for the surrogate’s time and expenses.
2. The benefits of the surrogacy journey
Surrogacy has many benefits for both the intended parents and the gestational carrier. Some of the benefits are:
- It allows infertile couples, single people, and members of the LGBTQ+ community to become parents when they may not be able to have children otherwise.
- Surrogacy gives intended parents the opportunity to be biologically related to their child, to raise a child from birth, and to be involved throughout the pregnancy experience.
- It could give intended parents more control and peace of mind throughout the pregnancy than they might have with fertility treatments or adoption.
- It gives gestational carriers a sense of purpose, pride, and satisfaction knowing they have changed a family’s life and helped them achieve their dreams.
- As previously mentioned, gestational carriers often receive financial compensation for their time and the tremendous efforts involved in pregnancy.
- It creates a special bond between the intended parents and the gestational carrier and often leads to lifelong friendships.
3. The legal, emotional, and financial challenges of surrogacy
However, surrogacy also involves many challenges for both parties. Matching with a surrogate requires a lot of physical, emotional, legal, and financial commitment from both sides. Surrogacy can also raise ethical, social, and psychological issues that need to be addressed before, during, and after the process. Some of these issues include:
- The legal status and rights of the surrogate, the intended parents, and the child in different countries and jurisdictions.
- The screening and selection of the surrogate and the intended parents, including their medical history, psychological evaluation, background check, and compatibility.
- The contractual agreement between the surrogate and the intended parents, covering aspects such as compensation, expenses, medical care, termination of pregnancy, parental rights, contact arrangements, confidentiality, and dispute resolution.
- The medical procedures involved in surrogacy, such as hormone therapy, embryo transfer, prenatal testing, multiple births, premature delivery, birth defects, or maternal mortality.
- The emotional bond and attachment that may develop between the surrogate and the child, and how it may affect their relationship with the intended parents and their own families.
- The social stigma and discrimination that may be faced by the surrogate and the intended parents from their family members.
4. Surrogacy: the step-by-step process
Here are the main steps of the surrogacy process:
1. Find a surrogate: You can look for a surrogate through an agency, a website, a friend, or a relative. You should make sure that the surrogate meets the legal and medical requirements for surrogacy in your state or country. Meeting with a fertility specialist is a great way to understand your options for a surrogate.
2. Screen and match: Once you find a potential surrogate, you will need to screen her for health, psychological, and legal issues. You will also need to match with her on essential aspects such as expectations, communication, and compensation.
3. Sign a contract: After you and the surrogate agree on the terms of the surrogacy arrangement, you will need to sign a legal contract that outlines the rights and responsibilities of both parties. You should consult a lawyer who specializes in surrogacy law to draft and review the contract.
4. Create and transfer embryos: The next step is to create embryos using your own or donated eggs and sperm. This is done through a fertility specialist conducting in vitro fertilization (IVF), a procedure that involves fertilizing the eggs with the sperm in a laboratory and then freezing them for later use. When the surrogate is ready, one or more embryos are transferred to her uterus using a thin catheter.
5. Support the surrogate: During the pregnancy, you will need to support the surrogate emotionally and financially. You may also want to stay in touch with her and attend prenatal appointments and ultrasounds. You should respect her privacy and autonomy as well as her health and well-being.
6. Welcome your baby: The final step is to welcome your baby into the world. Depending on the laws of your state or country, you may need to complete some legal steps to establish your parental rights over the child. You should also decide how you want to maintain contact with the surrogate after the birth.
Surrogacy can be a complex and emotional process, but it can also be a rewarding and fulfilling way of creating a family. Whether gestational or traditional, surrogacy provides hope to those who up until this point were unable to have a child.
Wondering about the next steps toward surrogacy or your fertility journey? It’s important to consult a fertility specialist who can assess your circumstances and needs to better prepare and guide you through the process. Don’t suffer in silence. Reach out and discover your options today.