Gestational surrogacy is one of several options for parents who are unable to have a baby 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 evolved tremendously over the past 30 years and has now become a viable option for many parents to grow their families. The technological advancements in the field of 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.
Myth #1: Anyone can become a surrogate
A woman who wants to pursue surrogacy must meet a lengthy list of criteria developed by the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM). There are age and body mass index requirements and the surrogate 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 is her reason for wanting to become a surrogate, her personality and views on life, spouse’s background, and level of commitment to the process.
Myth #2: The baby will look like the surrogate
Unless you choose a traditional surrogacy, there’s no genetic reason why the baby would look like your surrogate. Most surrogacies in the United States are gestational surrogacies. That means genetic material – egg and sperm – is taken, joined together in a lab, and then transferred 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 surrogate’s eggs are not used, there’s no genetic link whatsoever to her. If the baby bears any resemblance, it’s just a coincidence!
Myth #3: The surrogate passes DNA, cells and blood to the baby
When the embryo is implanted into the surrogate’s uterus, 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. The embryo’s blood and cells come only from the intended parents as it develops. 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.
Myth #4: Surrogacy is only an option for the wealthy or rich and famous
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 be fooled – surrogacy and egg donation isn’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, it can be done at varying costs. Some parents chose 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/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 varies greatly and parents who are able to find a surrogate with health insurance that does not exclude surrogacy can save them thousands when it comes to the medical bills and 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 a lot of people, there are financial options that can be put in place to help cover the expenses of creating your own family. We’ve seen parents from all sorts of economic backgrounds stretch to make surrogacy attainable.
Intended parents have several options when it comes to financing a surrogacy journey: loans, grants, fundraising, and strategic financial planning can make surrogacy a reality for you. Check out 12 Ways to Save Money on Surrogacy for more ideas.
Myth #5: The surrogate can 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 of 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? Wrong! Provided the child is born in a surrogate friendly state, no parental rights are given to the gestational carrier who volunteers to help the family through this process. 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 absolutely essential to get expert legal representation from the beginning of your surrogacy journey. Intended parents and surrogates are protected by a Gestational Surrogacy Agreement (GSA) that 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 the surrogate’s own eggs were used, 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
Many parents 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 one medications to induce lactation so that they are able to build their bond through breastfeeding. Many fathers also report that immediate bond as soon they hold their baby in their arms. Although the surrogate has cared for and carried the baby for 9 months, most surrogates feel a sense of great joy, happiness and relief that the journey has been completed.
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”), your fallopian tubes are permanently cut, sealed, or clamped 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 is still able to be a healthy environment for an embryo to develop.
Myth #8: Only women under 30 should 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 American Society for Reproductive Medicine 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 Fertility Cafe podcast. According to this top reproductive endocrinologist, the uterus doesn’t age in the same way that a woman’s egg do. Pregnancy rates and risks of miscarriage are tied to the age of the egg in an embryo, 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 adoption. Parental rights are established with pre-birth orders, meaning the intended parents will be listed 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. Before moving forward, though, be sure to consult with an attorney who specializes in reproductive law.
Looking for more resources about the surrogacy process?
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