Using a surrogate may be a good choice for couples struggling with infertility, members of the LBGTQ community, or men who wish to expand their family as single parents. It’s also something to consider for women with medical conditions or abnormalities that prevent them from carrying a pregnancy.
In surrogacy, a woman agrees to carry a baby to term for another person or couple. She’ll become pregnant using assisted reproductive technology procedures like in-vitro fertilization.
Surrogacy gives intended parents the opportunity to be genetically related to their child through one or both parents. It also allows them to be involved in the pregnancy and meet their baby at birth.
18,400 infants were born by surrogate between 1999 and 2013
Types of surrogacy
There are two main types of surrogacy:
- Traditional surrogacy
In this type of surrogacy, the surrogate provides her egg, and the male intended parent provides the sperm through artificial insemination. Emotional and legal issues can complicate the situation when the surrogate has a genetic connection to the child, making this type of surrogacy less common.
- Gestational surrogacy
Here, the surrogate has no genetic connection to the child. The intended parents use IVF to create an embryo that is transferred to the surrogate. The embryo may be created from the intended parents’ egg and sperm, or donor eggs, sperm, or embryos may be used.
Choosing a surrogate
An ideal surrogate is motivated to help others build a family and understands the risks involved. She should have similar goals and preferences, often called surrogacy plans, as the intended parent(s).
The American Society of Reproductive Medicine recommends surrogate carriers:
- Be at least 21 years of age and healthy
- Have a stable social environment
- Have had at least one pregnancy with no complications that resulted in the birth of a healthy child
A surrogate may be someone you know—like a family member or friend—or unknown. A surrogacy agency can help match you with a potential surrogate, as well as manage and support you through every step of the surrogacy process.
Your surrogacy professional—either a surrogacy agency or a surrogacy attorney—will recommend screenings for the carrier. These may include:
- Medical, social, and drug history for the surrogate and her family
- Birth records from previous deliveries
- Medical workup to confirm reproductive health
- Drug tests for the gestational carrier and her partner
- Background checks to ensure no prior criminal activity that could impact safety
- In-home assessment to discuss motivation, concerns, and her partner’s commitment
- Counseling and support
For more information on the screening process for specific agencies, visit surrogate.com.
In surrogacy, steps must be taken to ensure fair treatment of the gestational carrier. Before the process begins, an attorney will become involved to educate and discuss financial compensation, escrow accounts, insurance, and parentage.
The attorney will also create a legal surrogacy contract, which is usually one of two types:
- Compensated contracts
The surrogate is paid for her time in addition to all incurred expenses.
- Compassionate contracts
The surrogate, typically a family member or friend, accepts no financial compensation, but intended parents pay medical and legal bills.
You can read more about other aspects to consider for surrogacy here.
Counseling is an important part of the surrogacy process for everyone involved. Typically, you and your surrogate (along with her partner if appropriate) will meet separately with a counselor for psychological assessment. Later, a group session is conducted to discuss roles, expectations, and potential outcomes.
Before you begin, confirm surrogacy is possible in your area and determine which laws will apply to your situation.
3 facts to know about surrogacy
Fact #1: You don’t need to be wealthy to use a surrogate
The cost of surrogacy differs drastically depending on the situation. You may be able to reduce cost by using a friend or family member, having access to surrogacy healthcare coverage, and supplying the eggs and sperm for in-vitro fertilization.
FACT #2: You will create lasting bonds with your baby
Bonding doesn’t begin during pregnancy—it begins at birth, with those who love and nurture the child. Your baby will be handed to you immediately after being born, and the bonding process will begin.
FACT #3: Surrogates do not have parental rights to your child
Many people worry they could lose custody of their baby, but your surrogate will sign a contract waiving her legal parental rights before you begin. Your reproductive attorney will understand the surrogacy laws of your state and ensure compliance. A thorough psychological evaluation of your surrogate will also help avoid these issues.
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