Starting a family is the next logical step for many couples around the world, but it’s not always a straight forward path to follow. While many will go the traditional route of a woman becoming pregnant and delivering a child nine months later as the start of a family, for others, this is a hugely challenging proposition.
Some women have medical issues, such as a heart condition, or a transmittable disease, that would jeopardize the health of the mother, the baby, or both during pregnancy. Others cannot give birth, because they had their uterus surgically removed for cancer-related reasons, or never had one, to begin with, as is the case with same-sex male couples.
For hopeful families in this situation, there’s still hope in the form of surrogacy. This is where another woman, after entering into a contract, agrees to carry a baby on behalf of the hopeful family. When she gives birth to that baby nine months later, she introduces the child to the hopeful parents, and a new family is born. But how exactly does surrogacy work?
The Fertilization Method
The first thing a hopeful family must decide is whether to have a traditional or gestational surrogacy, which is all about how fertilization will occur. With traditional surrogacy, the surrogate mother also provides the egg that is used for fertilization. This means artificial insemination occurs, with the sperm coming from a donor, normally the hopeful father, though other sources can be used. In this scenario, the child has only half the genetic characteristics for the hopeful family, from the father.
With gestational surrogacy, a process known as In Vitro Fertilization is used. IVF takes a donated sperm and egg, usually from both hopeful parents, and fertilizes them in the lab. Once fertilized that egg is then implanted in the surrogate mother. When the child is born, nine months later, he or she will have the exact genetic parentage of the hopeful family, exactly as with traditional childbirth. The only difference here, however, is that the gestation and birth occurred in another woman.
The Surrogacy Finances
Another factor in planning a surrogacy is how the finances will work. There are two types of surrogacy, and this determines both the legality of the surrogacy in some instances, as well as the size of your pool of available candidates.
A compassionate or altruistic surrogacy means that a surrogate mother only receives financing for living expenses, as well as any medical support required during the pregnancy. She gets no additional money outside of this. A compensated surrogacy means in addition to her pregnancy-related expenses being covered; she also receives financial recognition for the crucial role she plays. While compensated surrogacy is more expensive, it also means a much larger selection. However, it is also not always legal or available in all countries, whereas compassionate surrogacy is legal in a wider number of nations.
Securing A Surrogate
Find a surrogate can be as easy as going to a surrogacy agency and interviewing candidates, or it can be as hard as searching the Internet and meeting numerous women, conducting background checks, and working with your own lawyers to ensure you’ve made the right the decision.
Whichever way you use to find a surrogate, the most important thing is going into the agreement, getting to know the surrogate and establishing a legally binding contract that is verified and on record. This protects everyone involved as the pregnancy proceeds. How quickly or easy it is to find, interview, and secure a suitable surrogate depends on how much you are willing to spend working with specialists, such as a surrogacy agency.
The Nine Months
With a plan for fertilization, finances locked down, and a contract in place with a carefully interviewed surrogate mother, it’s time for the pregnancy. Once the successful fertilization/implantation has been confirmed, it’s all up to the surrogate mother. Depending on the arrangement you have, she may live her life as normal until the pregnancy gets into advanced stages, or she may immediately live a carefully monitored life from the moment of confirmation.
As long as the surrogate mother lives a healthy life, and adheres to regularly scheduled medical check-ups to ensure her health and that of the child, things will go smoothly. Hopeful parents can visit whenever they like, or, if they are traveling from another country, come in closer to the time of delivery to meet their new baby.
With the birth of the baby, the typical medical exams are conducted to ensure the health of the child, and then it’s time to make sure that all legal considerations are taken care of. Birth certificates must be issued, and, if the birth has taken place outside the country of residence of the parents, it’s important to make sure any special considerations for citizenship are addressed.
Failing to take this into can mean, for some countries, that the child will not be recognized as a citizen, be declared “stateless,” and may not be allowed to enter the country. However, with the right surrogacy agency offering the right services, many of these considerations can be addressed under one roof.