The idea of using a surrogate in modern pregnancy is still a somewhat controversial practice – despite the fact there were an estimated 1400 babies born via surrogacy in the U.S. in 2011. Other than those who have actively looked into this childbirth process, most people don’t know much about it. The reality of surrogacy is both surprising and reassuring, and it is ultimately a viable alternative for those women who can’t carry a child to term.
Types of Surrogates
In basic terminology, there are two kinds of surrogates: traditional surrogates and gestational surrogates. Whenever possible, a gestational surrogate is the preferred method because the carrier has no genetic ties to the child. A traditional surrogate, on the other hand, is a woman whose egg is fertilized by the father’s sperm. She then delivers the baby to term and presents it to the parents. The key difference between a traditional surrogate and a gestational surrogate is that a traditional surrogate is the child’s biological mother, while the gestational surrogate is not related to the child in any way.
Needless to say, gestational surrogacy has become more popular in the U.S. than traditional surrogacy. Because of the genetic ties a traditional surrogate has to the offspring, the laws regarding the relationship between surrogate and child are more complex. These complexities are often compounded depending on which state the mother and surrogate live in because each state has its own laws regarding these matters. There have been occasions where the traditional surrogate has opted to keep the child, and the laws of the state have favored the surrogate, the biological mother. It’s important for anyone considering surrogacy to have a thorough understanding of these laws before embarking on this journey.
Locating a Surrogate
The two primary ways people locate surrogates are privately or through an agency. Due to the legal complexities mentioned above, those who are interested in finding a surrogate on their own are encouraged to hire a lawyer. In fact, both surrogate and mother are encouraged to hire lawyers as to ensure both parties are clear on the finer points of the surrogacy process — and that no one gets taken advantage of.
Those who live in a state that allows surrogacy likely have many options for agencies. These can range from high-end agencies that cater to the rich and famous to smaller boutique agencies with limited client lists. Regardless of the size of the agency, they will all provide two basic functions: providing the surrogate and handling the legal procedures. Agencies perform necessary background, medical and psychological screening tests on their surrogates before pairing them with the mother.
The Cost of Hiring a Surrogate
The cost of the surrogacy process falls squarely on the shoulders of the parents and not the surrogate mother. It is commonplace for the parents to pay for all medical checkups, tests, doctor’s visits, travel fees, pre-natal clothing and other pregnancy related costs of the surrogate mother. Additional fees may also arise. For example, if the surrogate is put on bed rest and cannot work it may incur a charge. After all is said and done a surrogate can cost between 25,000 and 50,000 dollars to carry a baby to term.
Benefits and Drawbacks
Hiring a surrogate to deliver a baby is one of the most expensive ways for otherwise infertile couple to conceive a biological child. The good news is that many agencies have a system in place that makes the process easy on both the surrogate and the intended parents. Many parents form close bonds with surrogates and retain friendships years after the baby has been delivered. However, there are instances where complications arise. Surrogates and parents may have different ideas of how to handle the pregnancy, and this could lead to tension and conflict. And on the rare occasions the surrogate decides to keep the child after childbirth, it can lead to protracted legal battles. That being said, many agencies have legal safeguards in place to ensure the process goes smoothly.
Overall the positives of using a surrogate far outweight any perceived risks. Most people who go the surrogate route have amazing experiences that come off without a hitch. For those women who can’t carry a child to term, surrogacy is a viable option that has proven successful for many people.
Daylan Jones researches and writes on topics related to donor sperm, artificial insemination, and donor sperm banks for Cryobank.