Gestational surrogacy is one of several options for parents who cannot have a baby in the “traditional” way. Even though it’s been an established practice in the United States for decades, there are still many misconceptions about it.
The world of surrogacy has developed over the past 30 years and has now become a viable option for many parents to grow their families. The technological advancements in fertility and the steady development of surrogacy practices can be perplexing and lead to misconceptions regarding how surrogacy works.
Let’s debunk some of the biggest myths about surrogacy.
To ensure the surrogacy and pregnancy process to run smoothly and with no significant setbacks, there are age and body mass index requirements for a surrogate. Besides that, the surrogate also must pass a physical, medical, and psychiatric assessment. There must be a history of healthy pregnancies and a stable lifestyle.
Other things that may also come into consideration are her motivations for wanting to become a surrogate, her personality and views on life, her spouse’s background, and her level of commitment to the process.
So, if you want to be a surrogate and want to find out if you qualify, you can check our requirements here.
Myth 2: The Baby Will Look Like The Surrogate
Will the baby look like the surrogate mother?
Short answer to that is NO.
Unless you choose traditional surrogacy, there is no genetic reason the baby would look like your surrogate.
Most surrogacies practiced in the United States are gestational surrogacies. That means the clinic takes genetic material, egg and sperm, joins them in a lab, and then transfers to the surrogate’s uterus. The egg and sperm can come from donors or from the intended parents, or a combination of both. The egg does not come from the surrogate.
Because the process doesn’t use a surrogate’s eggs, there’s no genetic link by any means to her. If the baby bears any resemblance, we assure you, it’s just a coincidence!
Myth 3: The Surrogate Will Pass DNA, Cells, And Blood To The Baby
When the embryo implantation into the surrogate’s uterus is done, the DNA of that embryo only comes from the genetic material of the intended parents or donors.
The surrogate’s DNA never mixes with the embryo or fetus during development. During this stage, the embryo’s blood and cells come only from the intended parents because the placenta keeps a barrier between the baby’s blood, cells, and DNA and the surrogate’s blood, cells, and DNA.
The placenta does not allow for any type of exchange of cells or blood between carrier and baby. Therefore, there is no genetic material shared between baby and surrogate. The surrogate is simply the carrier of the pregnancy. Race, ethnicity, genes, and blood type of the carrier have no effect on the development of the baby.
So, does the baby share blood and DNA with the surrogate mother? No, as the genetic materials are from the intended parents or donors.
Myth 4: Surrogacy Is Costly And Is An Option For The Wealthy And Famous Only
Let’s not sugarcoat it. Becoming a parent via surrogacy isn’t cheap. But it isn’t just for the ultra-wealthy, either.
With celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Cameron Diaz using surrogates, the concept has permeated pop culture in recent years. But don’t let this fool you–surrogacy and egg donation aren’t just for the elite. There are everyday people who find modern family building to be beneficial and fitting for their lifestyle.
Although surrogacy can be pricey, we can do it at varying costs.
Some parents choose to use a friend or family member to save on the costs of securing a surrogate. Other parents may look to match with a surrogate without the use of an agency or friend or family member. This can save the cost of agency fees, but often takes much longer (even years) to find a suitable surrogate.
The costs of health insurance policies vary and parents who can find a surrogate with health insurance that does not exclude surrogacy can save them thousands for the medical bills, labor, and delivery fees.
Many parents save over several years, work extra jobs, take out loans, fundraise, and apply for surrogacy grants to help them afford the costs of surrogacy.
While the cost can deter many people, there are financial options that you can put in place to help cover the expenses of creating your own family. We’ve seen parents from many economic backgrounds stretch to make surrogacy attainable.
To see how you can save your money as intended parents, you can check this comprehensive guide to save money and see which options are available for you.
Myth 5: The Surrogate Has The Right To Keep The Baby
You may have heard of some sensational legal cases surrounding surrogacy, or watched the newest Hulu series “Little Fires Everywhere” which features a surrogate who ran off with the baby she was carrying. The fact is, a surrogate has no legal right to the child.
From the very beginning, the carrier is aware and agrees that she will not parent or have legal parental rights to the child. There are multiple legal processes in place that cement the legal parentage and negate any parental rights of the carrier. Plus, not to be insensitive, she could just have her own children. She’s already proven that she could.
Another myth in surrogacy is that the gestational carrier would have parental rights. She carried and gave birth to the baby–it’s partially hers, right?
Provided the child is born in a surrogate-friendly state, the gestational carrier who volunteers to help the family through this process will not receive any parental rights. Even in cases of traditional surrogacy, in which the surrogate is the biological mother of the child she carries, the surrogate will not have parental rights to the baby.
A very important caveat: It’s an absolute essential to get expert legal representation from the beginning of your surrogacy journey. The Gestational Surrogacy Agreement (GSA) protects both the intended parents and surrogates, and establishes all the legal parameters of surrogacy and parentage.
Gestational surrogates have no genetic ties to the baby at all, so the likelihood of a court siding with her is slim to none-especially when there’s a solid GSA in place. The few cases where this has been an issue were traditional surrogacies, where they used the surrogate’s own eggs, giving her a genetic link to the baby.
Regardless of which type of surrogacy you choose, the GSA will ultimately ensure your parental rights.
Myth 6: Parents Will Have Trouble Bonding With The Baby After Birth
There are a lot of ways that parents can bond with their children and it can happen during surrogacy and when the baby arrives into the world.
There are also many parents who find their bond extremely strong as soon as their child arrives into the world.
In fact, some mothers will even see their fertility doctors and go on medications to induce lactation so that they can build their bond through breastfeeding.
Many fathers also report that immediate bond as soon as they hold their baby in their arms. Although the surrogate has cared for and carried the baby for nine months, most surrogates feel a sense of great joy, happiness, and relief that the journey has completed.
Those are some examples on how the parents can bond with their child, such as accompanying the surrogates on some occasions to feel the kicks of your baby, listening to their heartbeat, or maybe sometimes reading them bedtime stories so that they can recognize your voice.
You might also try to play with them, spend time with them just to get to know them when they are born into this world, and for them to know you as their parents.
There are a lot of ways you can build bonds between you and your child. Just check our other post about parenting. You might find some insights from it.
Myth 7: You Can’t Be A Surrogate If You’ve Had Your Tubes Tied
When you have a tubal ligation (also referred to as “getting your tubes tied”), you undergo an operation that permanently cuts, seals, or clamps your fallopian tubes shut. This prevents ovulation, meaning your eggs cannot travel via the tubes to your uterus.
You can be a surrogate after tubal ligation — in fact, many medical professionals prefer this scenario! Because gestational surrogacy uses eggs from either a donor or an intended parent, the surrogate’s eggs never enter the equation.
Tubal ligation simply prevents your eggs from being released. The rest of your reproductive cycle carries on, which means your uterus can still be a healthy environment for an embryo to develop.
Myth 8: Only Women Under 30 Can Be Surrogates
It’s important to understand that the health of a pregnancy has to do with the eggs used to create the embryo, not the age of the uterus. While the risks of pregnancy certainly increase with age, women in their 40s, 50s, and even 60s, in some extreme cases, have been successful surrogates.
Surrogates in their 50s or 60s are definitely the exception to the rule. Most fertility specialists regularly accept surrogates up to age 45.
The ASRM states that “carriers must be of legal age, and preferably between the ages of 21 and 45 years. Certain situations may dictate the use of a carrier older than 45 years of age, but all parties involved must be informed about the potential risks of pregnancy with advancing maternal age.”
Dr. Monica Best of Reproductive Biology Associates in Atlanta, GA recently discussed this topic on the Fertility Cafe podcast. According to this top reproductive endocrinologist, the uterus doesn’t age in the same way that a woman’s egg does.
The age of an egg in an embryo ties pregnancy rates and the risks of miscarriage, not the age of the uterus carrying the embryo.
If you’re interested in becoming a surrogate, the best thing to do is to talk to a surrogacy professional and your doctor to see if you meet the qualifications.
Myth 9: Parents Will Have To Adopt The Baby After Birth
Since there is no federal law regarding this, the question of adoption depends on the state where your surrogate gives birth. Surrogacy-friendly states do not require you to adopt the baby. With pre-birth orders, we can establish parental rights, meaning we list the intended parents on the birth certificate right away.
Other states require post-birth orders, in which case the parents would appear in court as a formality soon after the birth of the baby. This isn’t the same as adoption, which is a much more involved process.
A handful of states require a formal adoption process, usually when the baby is genetically unrelated to one or both of the intended parents.
Check this US Surrogacy Map to see where your state lands on the legal spectrum. But, be sure to consult with an attorney who specializes in reproductive law.
Always Check The Facts
As we have talked about in this article, there are a lot of myths and misinformation going on in our society, especially about surrogacy. But as the access to information is easier than ever now, you can always verify whether it’s true with any credible sources. Doing this will allow you to be certain of what you actually need to know.
If you are interested in becoming a surrogate and want to learn more about what it means to be one, we provide resources for things that you want and need to know about surrogacy.
Be sure to check our blogs for more information on surrogacy for surrogates and intended parents alike.