Gestational surrogacy, often simply referred to as “surrogacy” is a modern family-building tool which allows hopeful parents to partner with a healthy, qualified woman, who agrees to carry and deliver their child. For many, gestational surrogacy is a modern miracle, an innovative solution to the challenges which have prevented their dream from coming true. But surrogacy is complex and it is not for everyone. Like all family-building options, there are pros and cons to surrogacy, for all parties, the intended parents and the surrogates. Let’s explore.
For Intended Parents
Gestational surrogacy is a tool which allows for intended parents who are unable to become or remain pregnant to have a genetic link with their children. Through the use of IVF, the intended parent’s eggs and sperm are combined (with one another’s or donor sperm or egg, as decided) to create an embryo which is then implanted into their surrogate’s uterus. A genetic link with one’s children is not important to everyone but for those who prefer it, and specifically for gay men who perhaps never imagined the possibility, gestational surrogacy is an exciting option.
Involves Little To No Surprise
An appropriately managed surrogacy arrangement should involve little to no surprises. When you work with a reputable surrogacy agency, you should be educated on their entire process. You should be introduced only to surrogate candidates who have been expertly screened, vetted and who meet the high standards of your relevant IVF clinic. Your expectations, needs, and nonnegotiables should be understood up front and integrated into the management of the journey. All parties should work with a mental health professional to assure they understand the undertaking and are mentally fit and emotionally prepared. A formal contract which outlined behaviors and financials is to be drafted, reviewed and agreed to. Although there are always a few unexpected details along any journey, professional management of a surrogacy journey should include little to no big surprises.
Has A High Success Rate
Surrogacy in the United States has a high success rate. IVF clinics in the US have an impressive surrogacy success rate of about 75%. Once the surrogate becomes pregnant, the success rate for a healthy birth is as high as 95%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s National Assisted Reproductive Technology Surveillance System. In fact, Gestational carrier cycles (cycles involving surrogates) have higher rates of success than non gestational carrier cycles. This makes sense as surrogates (referred to here as gestational carriers) are selected in large part, because of their proven ability to become pregnant and sustain a healthy pregnancy.
Gives Families Hope
With the increased rate of success, and the ability to have a genetic link to your children, it is not hard to see why surrogacy gives hope to so many who struggle to have children.
Ensures You’re Involvement
Unlike other family building options, such as adoption, with surrogacy, Intended parents are involved in the process from the very first step. As a parent through surrogacy, you have been a part of your child’ life from day 1. This empowers you to begin building your bonds with your child from birth.
The benefits of surrogacy are not limited to the intended parents. Surrogates themselves also enjoy the perks of the arrangement and benefit from this cooperative partnership.
Gestational Carriers find the experience of helping another family have a child emotionally rewarding. In fact, in her book, “Labor of Love” Gestational Surrogacy and the Work of Making Babies, Heather Jacobson PHD and Professor of Sociology establishes that many surrogates consider carrying for another family, “a calling”. And there are thousands of accounts of surrogates expressing the emotional enrichment they received from the experience. Established surrogacy agencies in the United States report that nearly 25% of their surrogate community enjoy the experience so much, that they return for subsequent journeys.
Lets You Experience Pregnancy
As required by the ASRM guidelines, gestational surrogates must have a proven pregnancy and birth record. They must already be mothers themselves. For some women, pregnancy comes easily. They enjoy the status and are excited for the opportunity to have another pregnancy without adding to their own family. For such women surrogacy is a chance to “borrow” the experience of pregnancy without any of the long term commitment of having another child.
As a surrogate, you are not only likely to become close with your intended parents but you are also invited into a new community of fellow surrogate women, who are also helping others have children. The surrogacy network is a sisterhood of encouragement and connection. Membership is lifelong and the unity earned is intimate and near immediate.
There are no federal laws governing the practice of gestational surrogacy. But that does not mean that surrogates are not protected by the law. They most certainly are. A woman’s status as a surrogate does not, in any way, diminish her fundamental rights. She is still very much protected as any other citizen. This means for example that her fundamental “right to privacy” would still protect her right to choose whether or not to have an abortion, even if she had signed a contract, committing to a contradictory intention. (This is why it is so important for surrogates and intended parents to be on the same page regarding important topics such as selective termination.)
Each US state enforces their own rules and regulations. Some states are considered “surrogacy friendly” and have laws which make the legal process of parentage and contracting, easy and secure. Other states have more complex laws, which require a keen awareness and experienced guide. Only a few remaining states have “outlawed” surrogacy or refuse to enforce contracts. Conveniently, the applicable law is that of the surrogate’s home state, where she would likely deliver the baby.
And of course, surrogates who work with reputable agencies are always represented by their own attorney during their gestational surrogate contract (GSA) negotiations. The unbiased legal guidance that surrogates receive help make certain that her rights and priorities are properly represented in the contract outlining: paternity, behaviors for all parties, financials, worst case scenarios.
All in all, surrogates are legally protected when they work with reputable professional staff.
And of course, surrogates are paid. They are compensated for their efforts. Approved expenses are covered and they receive base payment, in installments, often commencing upon the second confirmation of fetal heartbeat. The compensation is not the primary reason most women become surrogates but it certainly is a nice perk. Many surrogates pay down their mortgages or student loans, make improvements to their homes, take a big family vacation, boast their families savings and or finance higher education for their own children with their surrogacy payments.
As a surrogate with Family Inceptions, you can make between $45,000 and $65,000 as base compensation, plus allowances for monthly expenses, maternity clothes, and travel. Compensation varies according to circumstances and is determined prior to any commitments are made. (Link)
Surrogacy is not for everyone. There are disadvantages which should be seriously considered and entirely understood by both those who are considering surrogacy and those considering becoming a surrogate.
For Intended Parents
The disadvantages or challenges, specific to Intended parents considering surrogacy may not be what you expect.
Finding a qualified, committed surrogate is one of the most challenging aspects of surrogacy. A reputable agency takes care of this important step for Intended Parents. IPs who wish to pursue an independent surrogacy journey, a journey without the guidance of an agency, are likely to experience complications when attempting to recruit surrogate candidates. Often, women who seek to become a surrogate, specifically for an independent match, are often doing so in part because they do not meet agency standards. The disqualifying attributes of such candidates are hard for IPs, working on their own, to discover and are likely to present challenges for their IPs at some point during the journey.
Although the success rates of surrogates who undergo an embryo transfer are an impressive 75% and the delivery rate of those who become pregnant are also very high, no pregnancy is certain. Misscarraige and medical complications are a possibility for every pregnancy. Even with the most qualified of surrogates and highest quality of embryo, false starts and disappointments are a possibility. There are many beautiful families who have been built by subsequent gestational carrier embryo transfers.
Improper handling of the legal aspects of the journey can have dramatic implications. Working with an agency and liciended attorney will assure that your contract and parentage paperwork are appropriately managed.
Requires A Degree Of Trust
Surrogacy is a partnership. While intended parents are involved in the process from the very start, they must be able to extend trust and graciousness to their surrogate. They must be able to relinquish a certain amount of control and believe that their thoroughly vetted, psychologically screened, medically approved, surrogate can be relied upon to do what she has committed to do. If an IP can not do this, they risk straining the relationship with their surrogate, stressing her out and creating unnecessary complication.
Can Be Costly
And of course, surrogacy can be costly. The estimated cost for surrogacy ranges from $75,000 to $130,000, depending on the individual arrangements, embryo creation and insurance situations. The price is a barrier for many in the middle class. Financing, grants and loans specifically for fertility and family building are available but the step price tag absolutely scares off many otherwise interested parties.
Anyone who has ever been pregnant can tell you that it is not always a walk in the park. Pregnancy can be physically challenging, emotionally draining and the realities of carrying a child for another family can be complex.
Demanding and Challenging
Surrogacy pregnancy comes with all the classic symptoms of good-old-fashioned, naturally-achieved pregnancy: the swollen feet, the nauaisa, vomiting, the sensitive sense of smell, disturbed sleep, weight gain and back pain. Not to mention the pain of labor, delivery and recovery.
(Emotionally Strenuous) Surrogacy can also be emotionally draining, especially if the surrogate does not have the full support of their partner or spouse, help from her network, or if her relationship with her IPs becomes strained for any reason.
Surrogacy is not for sissies. It requires true commitment. A surrogate must be not only qualified but also:
- okay with needles,
- good at following medical directions,
- alright with lots of doctor’s appointments,
- opening to answering personal questions,
- undergo an embryo transfer,
- wonderful at taking care of herself and her pregnancy,
- good at maintaining a consistent line of communication with her IPs.
(Travel and time) Surrogates are often expected to take at least two trips to her IP’s fertility clinic, which is often out of state. She may have to take time off of work to attend meetings or appointments and is often expected to limit her personal travel by her third trimester as well as abide by the behaviors outlined in her gestational surrogate agreement (GSA).
Building A Family Through Surrogacy
Surrogacy is perfect for some and simply not right for others. It provides intended parents the ability to have a generic link with their children even if they are not able to become pregnant. If properly managed it is a relatively controlled endeavour and as such, provides hope for many who perhaps worried that having a family may not be possible. It can be cost probative and hard for those who are unable to let go and trust their surrogate.
Becoming a surrogate is a calling and only a small percentage of those who feel called actually qualify. Those who are ideal for the role often report that their journey is one of their proudest accomplishments. They gain comradery and sisterhood and of course, earn compensation. It is not an easy endeavor and really only right for women who have the support of their partner and family.
If you are interested in becoming a surrogate, or learning more about surrogacy, let’s connect!