Life is often called a “miracle.” It’s easy to see why when we take into consideration the delicate timing and microscopic events which must occur in perfect order for life to be created. It’s another miracle altogether that researchers and doctors are able to aid in conception when one or more intended parents are infertile or unable to safely carry a pregnancy. Surrogacy enhances the lives of thousands of people in the United States each year. This gives people from all walks of life the opportunity to build a family of their very own, even when there are risks or other circumstances that inhibit typical family creation. Truly, surrogacy is a modern medical marvel. If you are considering surrogacy, whether as a surrogate or considering working with a surrogate, here are 5 things you should know before you embark on this life-changing journey.
What is Surrogacy?
As with anything in life, if you are to make an informed decision, you must know exactly what it is you are getting into. In the case of surrogacy, we must seek to define it. Surrogacy is the process in which a fertilized embryo is implanted into the womb of a woman who will carry the baby on behalf of the intended parents.
Whether the egg used in the pregnancy is that of the surrogate, the intended mother, or an egg donor is determined through conversations with your doctor and possibly a surrogate matching agency about what option best suits your situation. The sperm used whether that of one of the intended parents or another donor is also another detail that must be defined.
These details need to be considered and agreed upon in the legal arrangements before beginning the surrogacy. These two conditions are amongst the first to be discussed when deciding to use a surrogate. Requirements of surrogacy contracts vary by state, but in short, they define the roles of all involved parties, hold all parties liable, and details what funds or compensation will be rewarded, if any. The process of surrogacy is a long and emotional one, but in the end, it is extremely rewarding.
Reasons for Surrogacy
There are a variety of reasons people would choose to explore surrogacy. The most common reasons for people to choose alternative family creation methods include issues with fertility, the inability to safely carry a pregnancy to term, and being in a same-sex relationship. There are also single individuals who choose surrogacy as their option to build a family. Whatever the reason for choosing surrogacy, parents-to-be are able to explore every detail as they create their family. This includes everything from the donor’s education level to eye color, they can even choose what month their baby will be born.
Women who are healthy and with a history of successful pregnancies may choose to be a surrogate. Women who choose to be surrogates come from all walks of life. Usually, they know someone who was a surrogate or have a friend who needed a surrogate. There are programs that compensate the surrogate, although not all surrogates go this route. There are “altruistic surrogates” who do not receive compensation beyond their medical expenses. While not all surrogates receive financial compensation, every surrogate is helping to build new families, which is simply priceless.
Types of Surrogacy
There are a variety of types of surrogates, however, the primary types of surrogates are traditional and gestational. A traditional surrogate is a woman who has her own egg fertilized by donor sperm and carries the baby to term. This means the surrogate is genetically related to the baby. There are many reasons this type of surrogate is explored, but it is often the desired option when the fertility of one of the parents-to-be is in question. Often, a sibling who shares genetics with one of the parents provides the genetic match the parents desire. A traditional surrogate can undergo in vitro fertilization where the already fertilized egg is transferred to her womb. However, it isn’t uncommon for traditional surrogates to use artificial insemination to fertilize the egg.
A gestational surrogate, on the other hand, is not related to the baby. The surrogate undergoes in vitro fertilization with an embryo that has been created with a donor egg and chosen sperm. A gestational surrogate has become more popular, as the emotional implications of a woman carrying a baby which isn’t genetically related to her can be better managed.
There are a variety of emotional issues which need to be considered when exploring either traditional or gestational surrogacy. It is also recommended to know the laws associated with traditional and gestational surrogacy in your state, as legality can vary.
Costs of Surrogacy
The costs of surrogacy include a variety of medical costs that are not directly related to the pregnancy. Medical appointments, both physical and mental, are necessary prior to becoming pregnant. There are also a host of legal costs, which may include adoption costs, in addition to defining the legal relationship of the surrogate and parents. Plus, there is the matter of compensation to be paid to the surrogate which may vary depending on multiple births, including twins or triplets. Many surrogates are compensated only for medical costs, however many do receive an additional stipend for the time and labor involved. Working with an established family planning and surrogacy agency can help you navigate the required costs and find a solution that works for all parties.
Risks of Surrogacy
For the surrogate, the risks of surrogacy include the general risks of pregnancy. They also include risks associated with in vitro fertilization, so it is always best to explore and understand the risks of both. There’s also the chance of having multiple births, whether intended or not, so you will want to understand what it feels like to carry and give birth to more than one baby, potentially through C-section.
There are also emotional risks surrogates will encounter, beyond the typical mood swings caused by hormonal changes. It is extremely important to work with a mental health professional if you become a surrogate because you will be carrying a baby for someone else. This causes a lot of stress and pressure that can be tough to cope with alone. Once the baby is born, you may go through a grieving process, even if you are simultaneously extremely happy to be able to give a healthy baby to a family in need.
Intended parents should also be prepared for a variety of health-related risks that may impact the surrogate and the baby, including miscarriage. Not only is a miscarriage emotionally devastating for everyone involved, but it may also put pressure on the intended parents’ wallets as obtaining an additional egg may require extra funds. Plus, intended parents will have to manage the legal implications of choosing surrogacy, as well as manage the emotional, familial, and social implications of choosing to pursue surrogacy.
Don’t Go it Alone
Exploring surrogacy will require a lot of time and consideration before you can decide if pursuing surrogacy, either as a surrogate or intended parent, is right for you. There is just so much to consider. This is why you may want to consult with a surrogacy agency. Surrogacy professionals are able to help you navigate all of the details, whether that’s finding a donor egg or sperm, choosing a surrogate, finding legal assistance, as well as managing the financial terms. There’s really no reason for you to go it alone, especially with something so important. While it will undoubtedly be a whirlwind of emotions along the way, when you get to the part where you can count the fingers and toes, you will know that it was all worth it.
Guest Blogger : Aaron Smith