Plenty of couples around the world eventually decide that they want to take the next step and have a baby. For most, this is a simple process of the hopeful mother becoming pregnant, taking care of herself and the growing baby for nine months, and, when the time is right, giving birth.
But for some couples, this next step, natural childbirth, may be difficult, or in some cases impossible. Older mothers, or women with certain illnesses, such as diabetes, put both themselves and the baby at risk by attempting a pregnancy. In other cases, the surgical removal of the uterus, or the fact that a same-sex couple is male, means that there is no uterus for a baby to grow in.
One of the traditional solutions to this is adoption. However, for people that wish to have a child that is theirs through childbirth, and even shares some of their genetic characteristics, surrogacy is the answer. Here’s how the process works.
Deciding On A Type
Today, there are two types of surrogacy that most couples will choose from. One is called altruistic, or compassionate, surrogacy, while the other is known as compensated surrogacy. Altruistic/compassionate surrogacy means that a surrogate mother agrees to carry a baby to term, deliver that baby, and then unite that baby with the hopeful parents for no money except living and medical expenses. Compensated surrogacy means that the surrogate mother makes a profit from the surrogacy because her contribution is financially recognized.
This part of the process determines how difficult or easy it may be to find a suitable surrogate mother candidate. If you go the compassionate/altruistic route, you may have to find someone you know, or rely on the help of agencies to find candidates, if no one you know is willing. Compensated surrogacy widens your pool of available candidates considerably, but not every country allows compensated surrogacy, so if you make this choice, you may need to travel to another country, depending on the legal status in your own.
Traditional Or Gestational
The next step in the surrogacy process is deciding whether to have a traditional surrogacy or gestational surrogacy. A traditional surrogacy means that sperm, usually from the father, though another donor can be used, is inseminated in the surrogate mother with her egg being used for fertilization. This means that the child will have the genetic characteristics of the surrogate mother.
With gestational, the sperm of the hopeful father and the egg of the hopeful mother are collected and fertilized in a lab using the In Vitro Fertilization, or IVF technique. Upon confirmation, that fertilized egg is implanted in the surrogate mother. This means that, as with natural childbirth, the child has the genetic characteristics of both parents. The only difference is the baby gestated in a surrogate mother’s uterus but is 100% the genetic child of the intended parents.
Finding A Surrogate
The next step in the process, once the type of surrogacy has been decided, is to find a surrogate mother candidate. If the couple is in a country where only altruistic surrogacies are legal, this may mean the hopeful family is limited only to someone they know or may have the option to use an agency. In regions where compensated surrogacy is legal, the couple may use a service or agency to find a much larger selection of candidates.
In either case, candidates are carefully interviewed to ensure good compatibility with the couple, and that both parties are in agreement. More importantly, however, candidates—if they haven’t already through an agency—are screened and medically evaluated to ensure that they can provide a baby with every necessity to grow safely. Once everything is in order, a contract can be drawn to ensure the legality of the agreement.
Now that everything is ready, the pregnancy can get underway. This may require sperm and egg collection from the hopeful parents, or even retrieval from cryogenic storage if previously frozen samples are to be used. There may also be a genetic screening of fertilized eggs if hopeful parents are concerned about genetic disorders, such as Down’s Syndrome, or cystic fibrosis being passed on by one of the parents.
Once pregnancy is confirmed, the surrogate mother looks after herself and the growing baby. Healthy lifestyle habits and regular medical check-ups occur during the pregnancy, with a safe, medically supervised birth once the time comes.
A New Family
Once the baby is born and evaluated for good health, the hopeful parents are then united with their new child. At this point, if the parents went another country to have the surrogacy carried out, there may need to be additional legal actions taken to ensure the citizenship of the child is properly accounted for in the family’s country of residence.
In some cases, all of these different considerations can be handled in-house by an experienced surrogate mother agency. It depends on what you’re looking for.