While it is often easy for a couple to decide to have a child, it may not be so easy to follow through on that and actually bring a child into the world. The traditional method of having children is, technically, “free,” in the sense that sexual intercourse and the resultant fertilization of an egg don’t cost any money. However, when there are significant medical hurdles to overcome, even the act of conception can be one that requires time and financial investment.
A woman may have medical issues to consider, such as contracting an illness like AIDS that would be passed onto a baby. Alternatively, there may be a medical condition, such as heart problems, that would jeopardize the lives of both the mother and child should a pregnancy occur the demands of that condition are more than the mother can safely bear. It may even be impossible for a couple to have a child through childbirth due to the mother having her uterus surgically removed for health reasons, or same-sex male couples that don’t have a uterus, and therefore can’t give birth to a child.
For these and other considerations, surrogacy is one possible alternative. This is a technique where another woman enters into an agreement with hopeful parents and consents to have her egg fertilized, or having an already fertilized egg implanted in her uterus. She then carries the baby to term and, nine months later, gives birth, uniting that newborn with the hopeful parents so they can start their family.
A Significant Investment
Of course, as you might imagine, going through the surrogacy route already requires a significant financial investment. The artificial insemination, or In Vitro Fertilization and subsequent implantation of the fertilized egg into a surrogate mother is costly. If there are additional considerations, such as genetic screening of the fertilized eggs, or retrieval of donor material from other sources, such as cryogenic storage, these also raise the costs. And, of course, the living and medical expenses are normally provided by hopeful parents for the surrogate mother as the pregnancy progresses.
This means that hopeful parents entering into surrogacy must be willing to make a significant commitment of finances, and it’s not something to be entered into lightly. But while the cost of surrogacy can be expensive, just how expensive must it be? Are there ways to cut corners? What if, for example, a hopeful family decides to use a cheap surrogacy agency instead of a more premium, expensive one?
What Surrogacy Agencies Do
At the absolute minimum, the primary function of surrogacy agencies is to help hopeful families to find a suitable surrogate mother. Just because someone meets the biological requirement of having a healthy uterus, capable of sustaining a baby, that doesn’t automatically qualify that woman for being a good surrogacy candidate. Ideally, a surrogate mother has already had at least one child previously, with no major issues, to be familiar with the pregnancy and birth process, as well as have a successful “track record” for safely giving birth. A surrogate mother candidate should also have the appropriate psychological and emotional attitude for giving birth and allowing the newborn to join his or her hopeful parents. There should also be an appropriate lifestyle and character for a surrogate mother; excessive consumers of alcohol or drugs, for example, are not suitable candidates.
However, in addition to this, surrogacy agencies, depending on the size and prices they command, can go well above and beyond this primary function. They may have the administration to handle travel and accommodation requirements for families coming in from other countries. They may have legal assistance in place to help families safely negotiate the legal status of a child and ensure citizenship is granted back in the country of residence. They may even have the infrastructure available to ensure the surrogate mothers are taken care of during pregnancy, and then safely delivered to a hospital for the birth.
So what can happen when a hopeful family decides to go with a lower cost surrogacy agency? Does this mean that unnecessary “frills” are eliminated? The answer to this question depends a lot on the policies and reputation of the surrogacy agency itself.
Established agencies will tend to “fall in line” with each other in terms of overall cost if the services they offer are similar. While there may be some variance of a few hundred dollars, or even a few thousand more between the low and high end of the spectrum on trusted agencies of similar quality level, it will never be a difference of tens of thousands.
However, the cheaper an agency is, the fewer services they will offer. And in the worst case scenarios, they will cut corners to keep those costs down, such as inadequate screening, or a poor selection of suitable candidates. In other words, you are making an exchange of money for time. The less you pay, the more you must do yourself to ensure a medically safe surrogacy.