How Does Surrogacy Work?

Many people find The One, realize that this is the person they want to spend the rest of their lives with, and then move onto the next logical step, which is starting a family together. But some couples, unfortunately, don’t have a clear, traditional road for this journey. Many people, of course, go the conventional route a woman becoming pregnant and giving birth nine months later.

But some men and/or women have fertility issues that make this a challenge. Others have health issues, like a heart condition, that would endanger both their lives and that of a child if they tried to meet the huge physical demands of pregnancy. Still others can’t bear a child at all, like women that have had their uterus surgically removed for health reasons or same-sex male couples.

For some, the solution to these challenges is surrogacy, where another woman agrees to bear a child on behalf of a hopeful family. But how does this work?

Surrogacy Type

The first thing that a hopeful family needs to decide when considering surrogacy is what type of surrogacy they would like to have. If genetic ties to the hopeful family aren’t that important, for example, then a traditional artificial insemination surrogacy will work. This means that the surrogate mother uses her egg, while a donor sperm is used, which may be from the hopeful father or another donor.

Gestational surrogacy uses a technique called In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) to fertilize a donor egg with donor sperm in a lab. Using this technique it’s possible for a hopeful mother and father to have a “traditional” baby in the sense that the child born will be a 50% mix of both hopeful parents, just as in natural pregnancy. The only difference is the baby grew in another woman’s womb, but genetically is a match for the hopeful parents.

Surrogate Mother Selection

The next step in surrogacy is choosing the surrogate mother herself. This is the most important step, as all other future decisions—and finances—will be affected by this decision. There may be a variety of different circumstances that open—or limit!—your options here. For example, if you live in a country where surrogacy is banned, like France or Germany, you have no choice to seek a surrogate mother outside your home country, which necessitates travel and international surrogacy experience.

On the other hand, if your country may only allow compassionate/altruistic surrogacy, which means the surrogate mother gets no payment aside from living expenses and medical support. This can sometimes limit your available choices, as well. Compensated surrogacy is where the surrogate mother gets significant financial recognition for her contribution and countries that allow this generally have more choice and availability.

However, regardless of your financial options, the one thing that remains important is the viability of the surrogate mother herself. Interviews and medical screening are important, as are past qualifications, such as already having successfully given birth at least once, so everyone knows what to expect both psychologically and medically from past experience.

Once you have found a suitable surrogate mother and everyone agrees on moving forward a legally binding contract is usually drawn to ensure that everyone is protected over the course of the surrogacy.

The Pregnancy

Once the agreement has been drawn, whether this directly with a hopeful family negotiating with a surrogate mother, or through the proxy of an agency acting on everyone’s behalf, fertilization will occur. This is normally either artificial insemination or IVF. There may be additional procedures carried out, such as genetic screening, before implantation if there are concerns of genetic disorders being passed, such as Down’s Syndrome or cystic fibrosis.

Once the fertilization is confirmed and/or implantation occurs, it’s a nine-month wait. The surrogate mother will, as agreed, take care of herself, refrain from dangerous activities like smoking or alcohol consumption, and watch her dietary intake. As and when required, her living expenses will be taken care of by the hopeful family, as will her medical support. When the time comes, the baby is born.

Legal Consequences

There are sometimes additional legal ramifications that need to be considered after a baby is born, examined for general health, and given a clean bill of health. This is usually only an issue if the hopeful family went to an international destination, like a clinic in a country like Georgia. While the country of birth for the surrogate baby will recognize the legal custody of the new hopeful parents, depending on the intended country of residence, there are citizenship considerations that must be addressed. Without proper legal preparation, a child may not be admitted into the country of residence as he or she is not considered a citizen of anywhere, and is thus “stateless.”

This is why, for hopeful families traveling abroad for surrogacy, it is important to find out what the legal circumstances are for surrogate children in the preferred country of residence, and ensure the international clinic being used is prepared to administrate this.