“They say it takes a village to raise a child. Sometimes it takes a village to have a child.”Sara Walsh
What Is Gestational Surrogacy?
Surrogacy is an arrangement where a woman agrees to carry a child for another person or couple who will then become the parents. Surrogacy is sometimes carried out by family members of the parents (i.e. a sister carrying a baby for her sister and brother-in-law) while in other situations it is a legal agreement arranged by an outside entity with a carefully selected surrogate. There are two main forms of surrogacy: traditional and gestational. A traditional surrogacy arrangement involves a woman being inseminated with male sperm using her own eggs. Gestational surrogacy involves taking eggs from the intended mother and fertilizing them with the father’s sperm to create an embryo that can be placed inside the gestational surrogate. The notable difference between the two forms of surrogacy is genetics. With traditional surrogacy, the surrogate mother provides the eggs and has a biological tie to the baby. Conversely, a gestational surrogate carries a baby with no biological tie to them at all. Though surrogacy can be a complex legal process, gestational surrogacy is often simpler as there is no genetic cross-over. According to WebMD, about 750 babies are born each year through gestational surrogacy.
Many couples choose surrogacy after struggling with infertility. Infertility is a common condition that affects a staggering number of men and women each year. Medicine has come a long way in diagnosing and treating infertility but for some individuals carrying a baby is just not a viable option.
Below is a simple overview of the gestational carrier process. Though there is much more to the process in terms of legalities, this provides a general outline of what to expect if you are considering this path to parenthood. The first step in the process is to find a surrogate, complete an embryo transfer, and (hopefully) hold your baby in your arms. For clarity, we will refer to the parents as “intended parents” and the surrogate as the “birth mother.”
Finding A Surrogate
Intended parents must first decide how they will find a birth mother to carry their future child. Some couples opt to find a surrogate on their own, i.e., an independent surrogacy, and employ a surrogacy attorney to handle all of the paperwork. However, most intended parents choose to work with a full-service surrogacy agency to help them find a gestational carrier. The agency will likely ask parents to create a surrogacy plan, outlining the goals and preferences for the surrogacy process. Then, the agency will work directly with couples to find their ideal birth mother, having strict standards for their carriers, including physical/mental health requirements and proof of a prior healthy pregnancy. A few common requirements for carrier include:
- They must be between the ages of 21 and 39 (this varies)
- They must have had at least one healthy, full-term pregnancy and delivery
- Their BMI must be between 18 and 32
- They must be financially and emotionally stable
The cost of surrogacy is anywhere between $25,000 to nearly $60,000.
Once a couple has selected a carrier, an attorney and/or agency will discuss each party’s legal risks, responsibilities, and compensation. Once everyone is in agreement and the contracts are signed, the fertility clinic can begin the embryo transfer process.
- Before embryo transfer can occur, the IVF process using the eggs and sperm of the intended parents needs to be completed.
The intended mother will be given medication to help her develop eggs and will undergo an egg retrieval procedure. The eggs are then fertilized in a lab to create the embryo that will be placed inside the birth mother’s uterus. The surrogate will undergo fertility treatments as well prior to the embryo transfer and during the pregnancy.
After the transfer, the surrogate will (fingers-crossed) become pregnant and will start receiving regular compensation and medical care until delivery day.
After the baby (or babies) are delivered, the intended parents will welcome their child and have full legal custody. Usually, intended parents are listed on the baby’s birth certificate, but make sure you are familiar with local laws. Having a reproductive law attorney and/or using a surrogacy agency can make the process much easier.
Unfortunately, many US couples struggle to conceive, and infertility rates have increased across the board. While couples may seek out alternative paths to parenthood like surrogacy, these paths are costly and simply not feasible for most couples.
At The Gift of Parenthood organization, we strive to help couples and individuals struggling with infertility achieve their dreams of becoming parents through fertility assistance grants ranging from $1,000 to $16,000, available four times a year.
Will you be our next grant recipient? Apply today.