Although the most traditional way in which to have a child is though “natural” conception, not all couples are lucky enough to be able to have a child in this manner. While infertility treatment has come a very long way, a viable option in many cases is surrogacy. Surrogacy is a way for a woman to have a child without actually carrying it in their own womb. Surrogate pregnancies are becoming very commonplace and can be the miracle solution for people who have longed to be parents.
Some History of Surrogacy
Surrogacy is not a new concept. Historically speaking, it goes all the way back to famous books such as the Bible where Abraham’s wife Sara was unable to become pregnant. Since she was barren, her handmaid carried a child for them that was to be raised by both Abraham and Sara as the parents. Although surrogacy was recorded in books, the first legally recorded surrogacy was in Michigan back in 1976. This first case paved the way for other families to use surrogacy as an option and resulted in the opening of the first surrogacy agency, Surrogate Family Services Inc.
Types of Surrogacy
There are two basic kinds of surrogate pregnancies.
The first is traditional surrogacy and the second is gestational surrogacy. A traditional surrogate pregnancy occurs when a woman donates her own egg and the “father’s” sperm is the fertilizing factor in this case. Traditional surrogates are related to the child biologically because it is their egg that is used and not the intended mother’s. If the intended father’s sperm is used then the child is biologically his. In some cases, however, a sperm donor is necessary and neither intended parent is biologically related to the child.
Gestational surrogate pregnancies are very different. When this type of surrogacy opts for it is generally because the woman is unable to carry a baby herself but her eggs are viable. In most cases, the mother’s egg is matched with the father’s sperm, but it may happen that the fathers have seminal issues and a sperm donor is used in his place. A gestational surrogate allows the intended mother’s egg and the intended father’s sperm into her uterus and carries the baby to term for them. The surrogate is in no way biologically related to the child. This is the preferred way to do surrogacy since most parents wish to be biologically related to their children.
However, both ways are common as every couple has specific needs and issues to deal with when it comes to conception.
Many people wonder why a woman would offer the use of her body for another person’s child. It is a valid curiosity since many people could not imagine carrying a child and then giving it up after birth; even if it is not their biological baby. There are two basic arrangements for surrogate pregnancies; altruistic and commercial. Which arrangement the intended parents go with is their choice totally.
Some people prefer an altruistic surrogate arrangement. Altruism is the act of doing kindness with no hope, need, or want to gain, financial or otherwise. Altruistic surrogates offer their services out of the kindness of their heart. Some simply enjoy being pregnant and others not only enjoy it but love helping people live their dream of raising a family. In cases like this, the intended parents will typically seek out a friend or family member to become their surrogate. However, when someone they know cannot be found for surrogacy purposes there are other ways to find an altruistic surrogate. There are people who place ads for surrogacy or go through special agencies. Keep in mind that no matter how a surrogacy situation is decided upon, it is always best to involve an attorney to ensure that things go properly for everyone involved. This is true even if the surrogate is a family member or friend. Remember the old saying; it is better to be safe than sorry, especially when it involves something as important as another life.
On the other side of things is the commercial surrogate. Commercial surrogates are compensated for their time and effort, even if they are still doing it because they want to give people the gift of having a child. These types of surrogate mothers are paid for carrying the child. All expenses related to the pregnancy are covered, as is medical care, travel cost, etc. Other perks may be included (maternity clothing, etc.) if all parties agree on it beforehand. Before making any concrete arrangements, the intended parents should study their insurance policy to see if they can have the surrogate mother covered on their plan, keeping in mind that all of the medical expenses related to the pregnancy must be taken care of for her. These medical necessities may include illnesses not pregnancy-related simply because it could end up affecting the baby somehow or another. In general, commercial surrogates and intended parents do not know each other before the search for a surrogate mother has begun. This makes it less personal and is sometimes what people prefer.
Before making the choice of which type of surrogate to use, consider the feelings of all people involved. While many friends and family members are happy to do this wonderful thing for someone they love and care about, everyone must think about the possible feelings of the intended parents and the surrogate. For instance, if a sister carries a child for her brother and his wife, she must be prepared for how she may feel giving up the child she carried for them knowing that she will be part of its life forever. This may be very difficult for some people so it must be deeply considered beforehand.
Who are Surrogates?
Surrogate mothers come from all walks of life and ages, although they are typically between the age of twenty-one and forty. The majority of them have graduated from high school at the very least and have already had their own children. It is rarer for a woman to choose to offer her body for surrogacy if she has never before had a child. In addition, the majority of surrogate mothers are married and work full-time jobs. As stated above, some women do this tremendous act to earn money while others do it for nothing but the gratification that the act of giving life brings them.
How Much Does Surrogacy Cost?
If you are using an altruistic surrogate you may not have to worry about the cost. While this type of surrogate does not require payment, the intended parents can choose to pay for certain things. However, if a commercial surrogate is being used then costs must be calculated. The costs will vary in different situations. However, according to the statistics on the national averages for surrogate costs, the typical compensation is between twenty and twenty-seven thousand dollars. Keep in mind that if an egg or sperm is also needed to make surrogacy possible than the cost can rise up by the thousands.
Another cost to surrogacy is the in vitro implantation if the biological mother’s egg is being used along with the biological father’s sperm. If the surrogate is using her own egg there is still the process of fertilization with the biological father’s sperm. This is separate from the commercial surrogate cost. The average cost for these types of procedures ranges between fifteen and thirty thousand dollars. Also, consider the fact that not every implantation will end in pregnancy. This means these costs may have to be incurred more than once before conception actually occurs. In the end, the entire process may cost as much as one hundred and twenty thousand dollars. For those who deeply desire a child every penny is worth the cost.
In addition, many people go into counseling before entering into a surrogate commitment at the advice of their medical professionals or by their own accord. The entire process, while a hopeful and happy time, can be very stressful, overwhelming, and emotionally trying. Having a solid support system in place is vital to making the experience a good one with a happy ending for all who are involved.
The Surrogacy Process
Becoming involved in a surrogacy situation is not as simple as just picking out a carrier and moving ahead right away. This is a process that takes both time and careful planning. To start with, the parents must go through a consultation with professionals who deal with surrogacy. This consultation will typically include a mental health screening. There will also be an initial consultation with the intended parent’s attorney as well. (The legal aspects of surrogacy will be discussed in the next section in more detail.) During this beginning process the intended parents choose the surrogacy program they would like to go with. After a program is chosen then a carrier is decided upon next.
Each surrogate candidate must go through the physical and mental examination. There is a basic physical in addition to testing for sexually transmitted diseases and psychological testing. Each candidate must be in good health, disease-free, and deemed mentally stable before being allowed to become a surrogate. Once both the intended parents and the surrogate have passed through the consultations and tests then the real process can begin. Both the surrogate and the intended parents have a profile created on them. This way each both sides have a better understanding and knowledge of one another. Both the intended parents and the surrogate must feel good about the people they will be involving in their lives. This is of the utmost importance. Both parties can look over profiles until they find possible matches. All involved are then brought together for a meeting. If all goes well a contract is drawn up and the process of impregnation can begin. This is quite a journey!
Surrogacy and the Law
Anytime you enter into a contract there are legal considerations. This is especially true when it comes to things like adoption, surrogacy and anything else to do with children. Each state views surrogacy differently. This means that each person must study the surrogacy laws in their own respective states. Surrogacy can present some very complex legal issues so it is not something to be entered into lightly.
Although many things can go wrong (or right!) legally speaking, there are two aspects of the law that are ever-present; finalizing parental rights and confirming the contractual agreement. If these two things are not gone over in an in-depth manner it can come back to bite you later. For those who are considering surrogacy, they are likely aware of at least one horror story connected to the process. For instance, there has been a case where the surrogate mother took back the child when it was 6 months old. The egg that created the child was hers biologically speaking and she took the baby back under the claim that the woman she carried the child for was mentally unstable. Because the state they lived in the law was severely skewed and the courts had to set a precedent. This is just one example of what can go wrong when dealing with surrogacy. The good news is that in most cases, any sort of legal problems can be avoided simply by doing the homework correctly and ensuring that no stone is left unturned.
When it comes to the surrogacy contract, it must first be drafted, then reviewed by all parties involved. Finally, once everything is agreed upon signing can occur and thus begins the relationship between the intended parents and the surrogate mother. Keep in mind that there are a few basic things that make for a good, solid surrogacy contract. First of all, it will have a detailed outline of the responsibilities and rights of all parties involved. It will outline the type of compensation and how much. It will contain the results of all parties’ physical and mental examinations. It will contain information on medical insurance and plans for parental rights. Finally, a solid surrogacy contract will have in it what is known as a selective reduction clause or policy. Many times when fertilization procedures are done it ends in multiple pregnancies. Sometimes carrying multiple fetuses is not an option for the surrogate mother for whatever reason and one or more of the fetuses must be aborted to ensure the safety of the others as well as the surrogate mother. This is something that must be discussed, understood, and agreed upon by all parties.
As stated above, each state has its own policies and laws dealing with surrogacy. Some states allow contractual agreements, some only allow contractual agreements if the surrogate is an unpaid party, while others do not view surrogacy contracts enforceable by law. There are all sorts of rules and regulations and this is why it is vital to know your state’s laws before proceeding. Aside from the overall contract, all parties must understand and agree to the terms when dealing with parental rights. In some states, an order of pre-birth must be signed first so that the parents who will be raising the child are able to be listed as the natural parents on the child’s birth certificate. Again, this will all depend on the state laws where the surrogacy will be taking place. Overall, this can be an extremely complex process. Covering all bases before beginning a pregnancy with a surrogate is important. If there are any loopholes make sure they are sewn up tight to avoid problems both before and after the baby or babies are born.
The Gift of Life
Becoming a surrogate parent is something that should not be entered into lightly. It is a great responsibility and can change one’s life. However, it is also the greatest gift one person can give another. The majority of surrogacy relationships go very well and have happy endings, but the entire process is still one that is full of controversy and legal issues. Do not enter into anything blindly and be prepared to take on the stresses of being pregnant. However, in the end, know that being a surrogate is a wonderful thing and can change everything for the better.