Surrogacy isn’t new. For thousands of years, women have been called on to carry children for others. It’s easy to think that surrogacy is a fairly new process, especially given all the medical technology involved. And to a certain extent you are right – surrogacy as we know it today, utilizing IVF and embryo transfers, has only been around since 1980. Clearly, times have changed.
So what exactly is surrogacy? The formal definition of surrogacy is a method in which a woman agrees to carry a pregnancy for someone else who will be the child’s parent or parents after birth. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, often referred to as ASRM, “a gestational carrier should only be used when a true medical condition precludes the intended parent or parents from carrying a pregnancy or would post a significant risk of death or harm to the woman or fetus.” Doctors consider surrogacy to be a medical necessity when a woman is faced with medical conditions that can have an impact on her ability to carry a child to term, while at the same time maintaining her own health.
In the early ‘80’s, the first gestational surrogacy took place – where an embryo was implanted in a woman’s uterus, with no genetic ties between the pregnant woman and the baby she carried. Fast forward three decades and surrogacy is now a significantly advanced and evolved method of having a child. The combination of rapidly advancing technology and medical techniques make it easier than ever for intended parents to complete their family and for gestational surrogates to change a family’s legacy forever.
In all cases of surrogacy up until about 30 years ago when IVF and other Assisted Reproductive Technology was introduced on the medical front, the surrogate would use her own egg, and be inseminated by the sperm of the intended father. This is called traditional surrogacy, and was the only way intended parents could create a child through surrogacy for years. A traditional surrogacy can be a less expensive route typically saving the intended parents about $20,000-30,000, but it is also comes with a lot of hurdles. Since a traditional surrogacy involves using the surrogate’s genetic material, the egg, and the sperm of the intended father, there is no genetic link to the intended mother. Due to this lack of genetic tie, obtaining parentage orders can be tricky as the surrogate mother will be named on the birth certificate, as she is, in fact, the biological mother of the child. Parentage orders also differ from state-to-state. Many health professionals will not work with traditional surrogacies and many states do not allow it. Some consider traditional surrogacy baby selling and women who serve as a surrogate in this fashion may be shunned, shamed, and looked down upon.
Gestational surrogacy is the most popular form of surrogacy. It occurs when the intended parents use their own genetic material or the genetic material of one parent and a donor (or a donor embryo if needed) to create genetically linked embryos. The gestational surrogate is not in any way genetically linked to the embryo and serves simply as the carrier for the child. This route to surrogacy can also potentially be less emotional for the surrogate in the end, knowing she is not related to the child and is giving the child over to the rightful parents who have struggled with infertility. Gestational surrogacy is legal in almost every state and parentage orders are much easier to grant because the surrogate has no genetic link. With the rapidly growing rate of gestational surrogacy, many providers, both doctors and hospitals, in these states are becoming more familiar with surrogacy pregnancies and can provide great quality of care. Gestational surrogacies can be very different from a traditional pregnancy and are considered high risk. Several medications are needed to prepare the surrogate for pregnancy and IVF is required for embryo transfer. This can increase costs significantly as well as using an agency to assist with the journey. However, the benefits can outweigh the costs. With gestational surrogacy and agency use, the intended parents often match quickly with a fully vetted gestational surrogate and have the support of experienced staff who can guide both themselves and their surrogate through the entire process.
Compassionate Surrogacy vs. Compensated Surrogacy
Whether you choose to go the route of traditional surrogacy or gestational surrogacy, you’ll hae onemore choice to make – will the surrogacy be compensated or compassionate? Compassionate or altruistic surrogacy refers to surrogacy that occurs with no financial gain. The surrogate does not receive any type of income for carrying the child. This type of surrogacy may be sought when a family member or close family friend serves as the surrogate. The intended parents still cover the cost of all fees, medications, procedures, doctor appointments, maternity clothes, childcare (for things like appointments or bed rest), travel, attorney’s fees, counseling and case management costs, etc. but the surrogate receives no monetary benefit. Obviously, this is also a less expensive route to surrogacy but is not encouraged unless intended parents and the surrogate know one another very well.
Thinking about becoming a surrogate? Take our quiz to find out if you’re ready: Are Your Ready to Become a Surrogate?
Are you an intended parent looking to have a baby via surrogate? Learn more about the surrogacy process with Family Inceptions: How Do I Find a Surrogate?