Every person’s journey to parenthood looks different.
There is no one right way to create a family, and modern medicine has paved the way to make even more options accessible to hopeful parents.
One option that’s not often discussed is surrogacy.
So let’s dispel some myths. Talk about what the surrogacy process looks like, and who may choose to go this route.
What is Surrogacy?
Gestational surrogacy or gestational carrier is someone who carries and delivers a baby for another person or partners, aka the intended parent(s).
Surrogacy is different from adoption in that the surrogate is impregnated with the intention that they are merely the carrier, but the child is not theirs.
As you might imagine, there’s a lot of different routes this process can take.
Traditionally, surrogates would use their own eggs, with the sperm of the intended parent. People would typically use intrauterine insemination, IUI, to do this.
With the incredible advancements of IVF, or in vitro fertilization, more and more the baby is not genetically related to the surrogate. This is done by stimulating eggs from the intended parent through hormones, extracting multiple eggs, inseminating them with the other parent’s sperm or from a donor, then implanting them in the surrogate. Like in other cases of IVF, this costly procedure can sometimes take multiple rounds.
Who Might Use a Surrogate?
There are all different kinds of people who may choose to use a surrogate.
One of the first things that may come to mind are people who have had difficulty conceiving or carrying a baby to term, or people with other health complications that may keep them from being able to carry a baby.
It’s also an option for queer people who are biologically unable to carry a baby.
While this can be controversial, other people opt for surrogacy as a personal choice, because they feel it is the right choice for them and their family.
Because of potential costs from paying the surrogate, to medical and legal fees, surrogacy can be incredibly expensive and is not accessible for everyone.
Who is Eligible to Be a Surrogate?
People have to meet certain requirements to be able to be a surrogate. In most cases, they will have had their own children previously, and be between the ages of 25 to 40.
They’ll also need to be in good enough physical and mental health to be able to go through the process.
It’s also important for potential surrogates to have a solid support system, and to have thoroughly thought about and discussed the implications of surrogacy on their lifestyle
and their own family.
Typically people will go through an agency to find a surrogate, but sometimes they will be offered surrogacy from a family member or close friend.
Ethical Questions and The Legality of Surrogacy
Surrogacy is sensitive in nature. Because of this, there are certain legal agreements, protections, and guidelines that need to be put in place when going about the process.
Many of these were encouraged after the case of Baby M. In the U.S. in 1985, a couple paid another woman to be a surrogate because the intended mother had health issues that may interfere with a healthy pregnancy. The surrogate had a change of heart, and forgo payment in order to keep the baby – which she was able to do.
Before beginning the implantation process, there will most likely be extensive legal discussions, as well as counseling. All parties involved will need to come to a formal agreement about the nature of the pregnancy, and different possible outcomes or complications.
Some things people need to take into account when discussing a surrogate agreement are if the pregnancy becomes high risk, if there are fetal anomalies, what to do in the event of multiples, and how to proceed if the surrogate and/or baby’s lives are endangered during pregnancy or birth.
While it’s not legal in all areas, some intended parents pay their surrogate for the gift of life. Even if they don’t compensate them, they will pay for all medical, legal, and counseling bills. Surrogates may also receive a stipend for living expenses during the process.
Even though they will not be the parents of the child or children, the surrogate has full bodily autonomy and choice as to how they want to manage the pregnancy and birth.
Most experts recommend having separate physicians and legal representation to avoid conflict of interest, as well as mental health counseling for the surrogate, as well as the intended parents.
As for securing legal parental status, this will change depending on what regulations are in place in your region. Some places use pre-birth orders to determine parentage before the baby is born, while others will have to go through postpartum adoption procedures.
Surrogate laws vary by country and area, so if it’s something you’re interested in, we encourage you to do your own research and reach out to a local agency or specialist.
Natasha (she/they) is a full spectrum doula, reproductive health content creator, and sexual wellness consultant. Her work focuses on deconstructing the shame, stigma, and barriers people carry around birth, sex, and beyond, to help people navigate through their lives with more pleasure, softness, and sensuality. You can connect with Natasha on IG @spectrumoflovedoula.