About 15% of couples struggle with infertility. Wanting children but being unable to conceive can bring stress and grief to a relationship. Assisted reproductive technology, adoption, and surrogacy are three different paths to experiencing parenthood. In this article, we will look into surrogacy and the opportunity it can provide for infertile couples, same-sex couples, and single people.
Pregnancy and childbirth are central to becoming a parent. Unfortunately, not everyone is capable of conceiving and giving birth naturally. Couples facing infertility can use in vitro fertilisation, intracytoplasmic sperm injection, fertility medication, adoption, or surrogacy. Same-sex couples and single parents-to-be don’t have as many options and often choose surrogacy as the only possible way of having a baby and passing their genes.
Surrogacy is a method of assisted reproduction; the intended parents agree with a third-party to carry a child for them and become the child’s parents after the surrogate gives birth. There are two types of surrogacy: gestational and traditional. Gestational surrogacy is when the intended mother or an egg donor provides an egg, and the intended father or a sperm donor provides the sperm. Using in vitro fertilisation (IVF), the egg is fertilised in a lab, and the resulting embryo is inserted into the surrogate’s uterus. The resulting child is biologically related to the parents who provided the genetic material, not to the surrogate.
Traditional surrogacy is when sperm provided by the intended father (or a donor) is used to artificially inseminate the surrogate. This procedure is called intrauterine insemination (IUI). The resulting child is biologically related to the surrogate and to the man who provided the sperm.
Infertility affects both men and women and can be very challenging for a couple hoping to become parents. After one year of actively trying to conceive and failing, the next step is to look into fertility treatments. Many people choose surrogacy as a last resort after countless unsuccessful attempts to get pregnant or find a child to adopt.
Couples who have undergone multiple unsuccessful rounds of IVF, same-sex couples who want their child to carry their genetic features, couples with underlying health problems, older parents, and single parents can all find a solution in surrogacy. Surrogacy makes it possible for the intended parents to share in both their genes and in the experience from the moment of conception.
Becoming a surrogate mother and helping people achieve their dreams can also bring a great deal of fulfilment and satisfaction. Whether voluntary or commercial surrogacy is one of the highest acts of altruism.
Choosing to become a surrogate is a significant decision as pregnancy is both mentally and physically challenging. Most surrogates have already born a child. This is preferable as it demonstrates the woman can successfully carry a baby to term. She must be physically healthy and be screened for genetic conditions, infectious diseases such as HIV or hepatitis, and other common ailments that could influence the pregnancy.
But that’s not all. Pregnancy also takes an emotional toll, and a surrogate must be prepared to carry the process through to the end. There can be challenges at any stage, and occasionally these are life-threatening. For many surrogates, the most confusing and difficult moment is separating from the child after birth. Attachment to the developing baby is crucial for both mother and child. Relinquishing that bond and facilitating a healthy transfer so that the baby can bond with its intended parents is possible but must be handled with empathy and care. In many countries, there are laws protecting the surrogate, giving her the right to keep the baby if she chooses to. This is why all parties entering into a surrogacy agreement must do so with their eyes open.
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A woman who wants to become a surrogate can join a surrogacy agency. Although the risks and challenges are significant, the high compensation for a successful pregnancy can make being a surrogate seem very tempting.
For the parents, the costs involved in surrogacy also depend on the country but tend to be high. For instance, in the UK, commercial surrogacy, including IVF treatments and legal fees, can cost up to 50 000 GPB. The high costs lead many couples to look for a voluntary surrogate from among their friends and family. It’s possible to ask someone you know and trust to carry a child for you. However, pregnancy is a life-altering experience; how comfortable would you be asking another person to undergo it on your behalf?
Commercial surrogacy is prohibited in many countries; only voluntary surrogacy is legal, and the process is treated much like adoption. Many couples look to other countries to find a surrogate if the costs or legalities are prohibitive. Even so, a lengthy legal process is usually required to ensure that all parties are in agreement. There is some concern that surrogacy exploits low-income women who have few opportunities to earn so much money so quickly, and because of the transactional nature of the process, critics warn that surrogacy commodifies women’s bodies. These ethical dilemmas keep many countries from legalising commercial surrogacy.
Regardless of the compensation, carrying another’s child within your body for nine months, and maintaining your own health and well-being for the sake of that child, requires dedication. If you are considering surrogacy, think honestly about all the ramifications and be sure it’s what you truly want. The process can be challenging for both the surrogate and the intended parents, but if everything goes well, the experience is very rewarding.
Although surrogacy may seem like a good option, it is very expensive. Not everyone can afford to pay for the services involved or is willing to deal with the risks and the emotional rollercoaster ride intended parents must endure if the surrogate changes her mind and keeps the baby or miscarries and loses the baby. Therefore, surrogacy is often the last solution after fertility treatments and/or adoption.
IVF or in vitro fertilisation is the most popular type of assisted reproductive technology. IVF helps couples conceive, despite fertility issues, so the mother can carry her own child and give birth naturally. The woman’s eggs are retrieved and fertilised with sperm in a laboratory; then the fertilised embryo is inserted into the gestational mother’s uterus. The egg and sperm can come from the intended parents or from donors. The same insertion technique is used for impregnation, regardless of whether the mother is the intended mother or a surrogate. Because fertilisation is performed in a lab and the genetic material is selected, IVF provides an answer for parents who want to avoid passing along compromised genes or an illness to their baby. The treatment is costly and has only about a 50% success rate, so many couples try IVF themselves before choosing surrogacy.
With so many unwanted children in foster care, adoption seems like an obvious choice for couples who cannot have children of their own. However, the process is long and doesn’t always end successfully. Adoption can also be more challenging for same-sex couples or single parents because applicants must undergo a thorough and lengthy screening process, and the system is often biased. Another reason an intended parent or parents might not choose adoption is that they want to pass on their own genes or have the experience of giving birth. Family health history, past traumas, and other important factors are beyond your control when you adopt; these unknowns carry risks not everyone is willing to bear.
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Although we all are different, there are many reasons for wanting children. For those who can’t achieve this naturally, surrogacy provides a golden opportunity to be involved in the process from the very beginning and to pass on their genetic material. For surrogates, helping hopeful parents fulfil their dreams and experiencing pregnancy without having to commit to raising a child can be a rewarding experience. However, before taking this significant step, the intended parent/s and the surrogate should think it through carefully and talk openly with each other so they can make an informed choice.
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