Not being able to have children affects 1 in 6 American couples. One reason for infertility in women is not having a healthy uterus or they have a history of miscarriages or heart conditions which make a pregnancy risky.
In this case, some couples turn to surrogacy. The emotional, financial and legal impacts of surrogacy are complicated. Keep reading to find out what you need to know if you’re considering a surrogate.
What Is Surrogacy?
Simply put, surrogacy is a legal arrangement where a woman agrees to carry a baby for another couple who will be the intended, legal parents of the child.
There are two types of surrogates. Traditional surrogacy, which is no longer common due to emotional and legal complications, is where a woman’s own egg is inseminated to carry a child for another couple.
This has the potential to get understandably complicated, as the surrogate mother is actually the biological mother of the child.
Not only can this cause complicated emotional feelings between the surrogate and child, but it also becomes legally more difficult to transfer custody of the child to the intended parents after birth.
For these reasons, traditional surrogacy is not recommended by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, and most surrogate agencies will not do it.
The second, more common procedure is called gestational surrogacy. This is where the intended parents use their own eggs and sperm to artificially inseminate the surrogate using in vitro fertilization (IVF).
In same-sex marriages, the couple will use an egg donor and their own sperm to inseminate the surrogate.
Why Use A Surrogate?
Couples who can’t conceive children on their own have various reasons for choosing to use a surrogate. The main reason is wanting the child to share their DNA.
Couples can always choose to adopt, but if they are attached to the idea of the child sharing their DNA, adoption wouldn’t feel quite right.
It can also be very difficult to get approved for adoption, and there’s always the emotional risk of the birth mother choosing to keep the child.
On top of that, there’s the physical risk of not knowing how well the mother took care of herself and the baby during pregnancy.
In rare cases, a woman chooses to use a surrogate simply because she does not want to carry a baby. This is not the most common reason, however, as the procedure can be extremely expensive and time-consuming.
Why Be A Surrogate?
Most women choose to be a surrogate for purely altruistic reasons. They are women who enjoy being pregnant, who have children of their own and want to give the experience of parenting to people who can’t conceive.
In most cases, there is financial remuneration. Payments to surrogates range from $15,000 to $30,000 but this is not often the reason someone decides to become a surrogate.
In fact, most agencies have screening procedures in place to find out if a woman is purely motivated by money. The screening process is very selective. For example, the CSP only approves 20 of every 400 women who apply to be surrogates.
In order to get approved to be a surrogate, a woman has to go through health and emotional screenings, be financially stable and have given birth to at least one healthy child with no pregnancy complications.
In most cases, the surrogate’s partner has to undergo emotional screenings as well, to ensure they are both on board with the surrogacy and what it means for them. Learn more about becoming a surrogate.
The Surrogacy Process
Once you’ve decided you want to use a surrogate, the first step is to read up and understand the legalities of surrogacy in your state. There is no federal law surrounding surrogacy. Each state has its own rules and regulations.
Some states are more surrogacy-friendly than others. California, Illinois, Connecticut, Maine, New Jersey, Nevada, and Oregon are among the states where surrogacy is completely legal.
However, paid surrogacy is illegal in New York and Michigan. If you live in New York or Michigan and you want to use a surrogate, you will have to find one who lives and will deliver the baby in another state.
The next legal step is to hire a lawyer who specializes in surrogacy law. Some couples decide to use a friend or someone they know as their surrogate.
While this added emotional connection can be meaningful, some couples risk not getting anything in writing or hiring a lawyer because of a sense of trust for the surrogate.
In any case, it is recommended to hire a lawyer and have a clear contract between the surrogate and the intended parents. This will alleviate any risk of miscommunication and make the transfer of custody easy and pain-free.
There are many professionals involved in the surrogacy process. Lawyers, psychologists, agency workers, and doctors work together to find the right surrogate-parent match.
How Does It Work?
Once a surrogate has been chosen and approved and all the legalities are sorted out on both sides, the surrogate will have IVF treatment using the intended parents’ egg and sperm. Or in some cases, they will use an egg or sperm donor.
After the insemination is complete, it’s common for the surrogate to stay in touch with the intended parents and go to appointments and scans together.
In some cases, people treat it as a business transaction. But usually, there is a sort of emotional bond that forms between the surrogate and the intended parents, who will often be in the room for delivery.
Success rates for gestational surrogacy using IVF treatment in the United States are roughly 75%.
How Much Does It Cost?
Surrogacy is not cheap. It can cost the intended parents between $80,000 and $120,000 once factoring in legal bills, the IVF treatment, paying the carrier’s fee and the pregnancy itself.
Some states offer some forms of coverage for surrogacy procedures. It’s wise for intended parents to look into what sort of benefits and tax breaks they can get through employer coverage, private insurers, and government assistance.
Using a surrogate is not the only option. There are many other fertility methods to consider if surrogacy doesn’t sound right for you.
At the end of the day, it’s up to you to decide whether using a surrogate is right for you. It’s a lengthy and expensive process, but the results can get you a healthy child who shares your DNA.
We hope this article answered your questions. Check out our parenting blog for more information and advice on becoming a parent.