It’s not unusual for couples who decide to start a lifelong relationship to take things a step further and start a family. For many, this next step involves the traditional path of the woman in the relationship, allowing herself to become pregnant, and nine months later, a baby is born, and a new life together can begin.
Unfortunately, for some couples, the conventional route presents major challenges or even impossible obstacles. Medical issues, such as a heart condition, for example, can put both a woman and baby at risk, so pregnancy is not advised. Others may have undergone surgery to save their lives, such as a hysterectomy to fight cancer, which involves the removal of the reproductive organs so there is no uterus in which a baby can develop.
Fortunately, in this day and age, that doesn’t mean that couples have no choice but to remain childless. There are other alternatives to consider, one of which is known as surrogate motherhood or surrogacy, but what makes this option food for some and not for others?
Adoption Vs. Surrogacy
Adoption is one of the oldest alternatives to childbirth and is well understood and implemented at this point. It is simply becoming the legal guardian—and new parent—of an infant or child who has no parents. There’s a lot to be said about this method, as many children in the world deserve the chance to grow up as part of a loving family, and adoption is one way for these children to get a second chance at that.
Surrogacy, on the other hand, is when another woman who is medically capable of still bearing a child agrees to a pregnancy on behalf of another couple. Once the baby is born, that infant is then united with the couple so they can start their life as a family.
The differences between the two methods are dramatic. Adoption is about taking an existing baby or child from a pool of children, potentially from all over the world. Surrogacy is about the hopeful family prioritizing having a newborn baby specifically for their own family needs. In other words, adoption is about choosing a child available from an “existing pool,” while surrogacy is about having a baby “made to order.”
Your Baby Dreams
There are two types of couples that benefit the most from going the route of surrogacy, though both of them have the same root motivation: wanting a newborn of their very own.
The first type of couple has a strong preference for newborns. This is understandable, as traditional pregnancies mean that a family enjoys the earliest days of raising a baby right from the moment of birth. Adoption means having certain choices taken away as couples adapt their needs to the children who are currently without parents. This can mean an age range of babies just a few months old to toddlers to young children that already have names, personalities, and even language preferences. Some hopeful couples prefer a complete, “fresh start” with a baby that is born just for them.
The second group wants the same thing as the first group but takes it a step further. Even if a couple may not be advised or able to have a traditional pregnancy, they still want a baby that is a direct genetic descendant of themselves, as would be the case in conventional childbirth. The only way to achieve this if the woman in the partnership can’t conceive is to undergo a type of surrogacy known as in vitro fertilization.
With this technique, the man donates sperm, while the woman donates an egg—or these samples are retrieved from cryogenic storage if a “fresh” donation is no longer possible—and then the samples are fertilized under lab supervision. Once confirmed and potentially screened for congenital diseases, the egg is then implanted in the surrogate mother. Once the baby is born, as with traditional pregnancy, it is 50% of the DNA of the hopeful father and 50% of the mother, exactly as with natural childbirth. In vitro fertilization is the only way couples that want a direct genetic descendant can still do so without a traditional pregnancy.
Probably one of the biggest determining factors for whether surrogacy is the right choice for a couple is the financial burden. There’s a significant financial investment involved in this venture. This is especially true if the couple wants a compensated surrogacy that will also include the IVF procedure. Some of this cost may be mitigated to a degree by choosing to have the surrogacy take place in another country, but even then, the savings incurred are still somewhat offset by the travel commitments now required.
Surrogacy involves a major commitment of time, organization, finances, and even travel. It is not for everyone, but for those with very specific family goals and a willingness to invest in the considerable costs, it can be a good solution to otherwise challenging problems.