Understanding the basics of surrogacy is crucial in becoming a parent through this method. Intended parents, surrogates, and their families need the information to begin this life-changing process. In traditional surrogacy, the carrier donates eggs and gets artificially inseminated with the intended father’s sperm. This gives the intended parents a biological link to the child.
What is Surrogacy?
In surrogacy, a woman agrees to carry a pregnancy for another person or couple. A surrogate can be a friend or relative, but most surrogates today are chosen through an agency.
The agency will screen potential surrogates, provide candidate profiles and mediate initial conversations. The agency will also recommend fertility clinics, mental health evaluations, and attorneys specializing in surrogacy.
Now, how does surrogacy work? In traditional surrogacy, the surrogate uses her egg and sperm to conceive an embryo using in vitro fertilization. The source is implanted in the surrogate’s uterus, which carries the baby to full term.
In gestational surrogacy, the sperm of the intended father (or an egg donor) and the biological mother’s eggs are used to conceive an embryo implanted in the uterus. The source is not genetically linked to the surrogate, so she does not share a bond with the baby. In some jurisdictions, this makes it easier for the Intended Parents to gain legal parenthood after the child’s birth without going through adoption or abandonment.
How Does Surrogacy Vary from One Part of the Country to Another?
Various countries around the world have different laws regarding surrogacy. Some ban the practice altogether, while others allow it, albeit with restrictions. The differences are usually related to whether a surrogate is traditional or gestational.
Traditional surrogacy involves a woman who becomes the legal mother of a child she carries, regardless of how the pregnancy was conceived (through sexual intercourse or intrauterine insemination). In this arrangement, the Intended Father will also be recognized as the biological father and will acquire parental rights upon the child’s birth.
Gestational surrogacy, on the other hand, involves a woman who does not have a genetic relation to the child. It is a standard option for people with medical issues such as uterine scarring or previous surgeries, unexplained infertility, and single men or couples seeking to grow their families.
Some states consider surrogacy contracts illegal and punish anyone involved in one with a misdemeanor fine and jail time. Other states define it as a legal parent-child relationship and prohibit commercial surrogacy while allowing altruistic gestational surrogacy.
Why Does Someone Become a Surrogate?
Surrogates help couples, individuals struggling with infertility or medical conditions that prevent them from carrying their child, and members of the LGBTQ+ community build their families. Whether for financial or personal reasons, women become surrogates to help people realize their dream of becoming parents.
Surrogacy can be risky, but most gestational carriers complete their journeys with minimal complications. In traditional surrogacy, the surrogate’s egg is artificially inseminated with the intended father’s sperm (or donor sperm). This makes the surrogate the biological mother of the baby. In gestational surrogacy, the embryo is created using donor sperm and an egg from the intended parent(s) or another source.
Most women who choose to be surrogates do so because they want to help others have a family. Surrogates are what you might call rockstars of the family-building process!
How Do Surrogates Find Intended Parents?
Once you’re approved, your surrogacy specialist will connect you with intended parents who share your goals for the pregnancy. This is an integral part of the process because it’s critical for a healthy, positive surrogacy experience.
Surrogates can find intended parents independently or work with a surrogacy agency. The latter often facilitates the legal aspects of the arrangement and provides psychological and medical screening to ensure a safe gestation and delivery. Agencies also offer several resources, like counseling, to help you understand the complex issues involved in the arrangement and prepare for your journey.
When you’re matched with an intended parent, you’ll schedule a phone call or in-person meeting to discuss their goals for the pregnancy and any other specifics that are important to you. For example, some intended parents may request that the surrogate adheres to a specific diet or routine during the pregnancy.
You can negotiate these requests in your contract, and your surrogacy specialist will help you draft a legally binding agreement. Some agreements include HIPPA medical releases, which enable the intended parents to talk with their doctors and medical team during the pregnancy.
How Do Surrogates Prepare for a Successful Surrogacy Journey?
Surrogates will typically undergo medical and psychological screenings to ensure they are healthy enough to carry a fetus to term. They will also meet with their attorney to ensure their rights are protected throughout the process.
Once the surrogate is approved, she will begin taking medications to prepare her body for embryo transfer. This is when the embryo created with sperm from the intended father and egg from the mother is transferred into the surrogate’s uterus.
The surrogate will then attend appointments with her OB/Midwife and the intended parents to discuss prenatal care. Intended parents may also participate in many works, particularly the 20-week ultrasound appointment that gives them a first glimpse at their baby with an anatomy scan.
If the surrogate has agreed to have the intended parents in the delivery room, a legal process will occur to establish parentage before or shortly after the birth. As the pregnancy progresses, the surrogate and the intended parents will work together to determine whether or not the surrogate wants to pump breast milk for the child and, if so, who will receive the benefits of this additional compensation.