Surrogacy is an increasingly popular family planning option for people who are unable to conceive by themselves. With major advancements in reproductive technology and medicine, surrogacy has become more accessible to more people.
However, in the USA the laws surrounding surrogates vary from state to state and so intended parents and those interested in becoming surrogates need to make sure they are clued up about this family planning option.
Here is a guide to everything you need to know about surrogacy.
What is Surrogacy?
Surrogacy describes the situation where a person carries a child through to childbirth for another person or couple who intend to be its parent(s). There are two types of surrogacy—traditional surrogacy and gestational surrogacy:
A traditional surrogate is a person who carries a child in their uterus which has been created using their own egg and the intended parent’s sperm or the sperm of a donor. In today’s world, traditional surrogacy usually occurs through artificial insemination. As the inseminated egg belongs to the surrogate, the surrogate is the child’s biological mother.
Traditional surrogacy is unlawful in some states due to a number of reasons, including the emotional and legal complications surrounding the surrogacy process. As biological mothers to the unborn baby, traditional surrogates must relinquish her parental rights. Moreover, the intended parents need to have faith that the traditional surrogate mother will do so when the baby is born.
Gestational surrogacy is more common than traditional surrogacy and it has high success rates as a fertility treatment. This type of surrogacy involves the creation of a child using the intended parent’s egg, or a donated egg, and the intended parent’s sperm, or donated sperm.
The gestational surrogate carries this baby in their uterus until childbirth. Once they have delivered the baby, it is given to the intended parents. The child does not share DNA with the surrogate and so there are fewer legal and emotional implications attached to gestational surrogacy. Although the gestational surrogate is referred to as the birth mother, it is not the biological mother as her egg was not used in the process of creating the child. Studies show that over 15,000 children are born annually using gestational surrogacy.
Why Do Intended Parents Choose Surrogacy?
There are many reasons why intended parents choose surrogacy. Many people choose this family planning option as they are unable to conceive naturally, or they may experience negative health risks if they attempt to get pregnant independently. Women may consider surrogacy if they have medical issue with their womb or if their womb has been removed due to a hysterectomy.
For some, surrogacy could be a last ditch attempt to start a family after trying and failing to get pregnant following a variety of fertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization (IVF).
Intended parents who cannot adopt due to personal circumstances may also turn to surrogacy, as will gay men who want a child with a genetic connection.
How to Find a Surrogate
There are a few ways in which people who want children can find a surrogate mother. This can be through people they know personally or through a surrogate agency:
Friends and Family
In some cases, friends and family may wish to offer up their time and body to become a surrogate to your future baby. However, using someone you know closely to be a surrogate can be controversial for a number of reasons. The surrogacy process is lengthy and expensive. Not to mention, there are complex legal issues regarding parental rights to think about too.
Another way to find a surrogate is through a specialist agency. A reputable surrogate agency employs experienced staff who can offer sound advice about surrogacy and guide intended parents through the entire process.
A good agency should have a database of women who have been adequately vetted for surrogacy. They can also offer a matching service to ensure you are connected with a suitable surrogate, and they will act as the mediator between you and the surrogate mother. Their role as a mediator will involves making pregnancy-related arrangements, collecting fees, and paying for medical expenses.
Choosing a Surrogate Mother
The surrogacy process is an incredibly personal experience for both the surrogate mother and the intended parent. Intended parents who are choosing to go down the family and friends route (or who are looking for a surrogate without the help of an agency) need to take extra precautions. A few points you should consider include the age of the surrogate, where they live, whether or not they are a US resident or citizen, their current health status, and their medical history.
In addition, it is worth bearing in mind that many agencies choose surrogates who have given birth to a healthy baby. This gives them a good indication about how the surrogacy journey will go. If you choose to work with an agency to get a surrogate, make sure you are familiar with their vetting process.
Requirements to Become a Surrogate
There are no particular standards surrogate agencies need to adhere to that ensure the surrogacy experience is a positive one, which can make it difficult to choose a surrogate. However, surrogacy can set you back up to $120,000, and it is a good idea to create your own standards that you think potential surrogates should meet. For instance, a surrogate should be in good health. To check this, you can ask request a medical examination. You should also seek your doctor’s approval in terms of their medical history and suitability to carry a child to full-term.
Laws Related to Surrogacy
As mentioned earlier, parental rights and surrogacy can vary from state to state. There is no federal law on this family-building option. In some states, you may be required to undergo adoption proceedings to gain custody, while in other states a “declaration of parentage” before birth is enough. If you have doubts, it is a good idea to hire a specialist reproductive law attorney who is familiar with the rules in your state.