While most couples who want to start a family can take the conventional path of allowing the woman in the relationship to become pregnant, that’s not an easy option for everyone. Same-sex couples, for example, face some gender challenges. In contrast, other couples may have medical considerations that either put a woman at risk or make it medically impossible to conceive due to surgery.
Fortunately, other alternatives exist for people wishing to start a family, such as adoption or surrogacy, for those who want their own newborn baby. Surrogacy is when another woman agrees to become pregnant on behalf of a hopeful family. After birth occurs, the newborn is then united with the couple so they can start their new lives together.
For many couples around the world, it’s become increasingly popular to make the surrogacy journey a literal one and find a surrogate mother to partner with in another country. There are many reasons to choose this, such as more cost-efficiency or an even wider, faster range of choices, but how long will it take for couples who choose to do this outside of their home country?
Of course, one aspect of the timeline is generally fixed, and that is the pregnancy itself. Once a surrogate mother has been confirmed as pregnant, everyone knows that for a healthy baby to be born, there is now a nine-month waiting period, so this amount of time, at minimum, is added to the timeline. However, there are many other factors to consider, so it’s unreasonable to think a successful surrogacy will only take up to nine months of time. Even with the best-case scenario, the average is often about one year.
In reality, the average timeline for surrogacy abroad is based on numerous other factors, such as the time spent finding a suitable surrogate mother. Because of this, the average typically falls within the 18-36 month range. Many different factors can or subtract time from this timeline. The biggest factors tend to be:
This is, by far, the most critical time component. Depending on the type of surrogacy available in your chosen country, finding a viable surrogate mother can take weeks or even years. The United Kingdom, for example, has a stark shortage of willing surrogate mother candidates at this point in time. The type of surrogacy plays a big role in this. “Altruistic surrogacy” is where a surrogate mother volunteers her time and body. Aside from medical and living expenses to cover the pregnancy, she receives no other financial compensation. This tends to limit the pool of women willing to volunteer, with long waiting lists, until someone with extreme levels of compassion, generosity, and medical suitability becomes available.
On the other hand, Compensated, or “commercial” surrogacy, means that the surrogate mother receives significant financial recognition for her role in this task. Because the amounts involved can be substantial, this tends to attract many more potential surrogate mothers to offer their services.
So, for couples that want to minimize the time spent searching for a surrogate mother, putting aside some funds to invest in a compensated surrogacy generally means that the search will likely take only a few weeks rather than a few years.
The impregnation method can also play a major role in the timeline for surrogate pregnancies abroad, depending on the logistics involved. The most basic, artificial insemination, only requires donor sperm to be present when the surrogate mother is ovulating. The comparative simplicity of this technique means that it can be done quickly, provided donor sperm are readily available.
However, a more elaborate form of surrogacy, known as “gestational surrogacy,” uses a technique known as In Vitro Fertilization. Here, a donated egg and sperm are fertilized in a medical lab, and once fertilization has been confirmed, the egg is implanted into the surrogate mother. This technique allows hopeful parents to have a direct genetic descendant, as with a conventional pregnancy, despite the baby gestating in someone else’s womb.
Because this is an extremely complex procedure, a lot of preparation is involved. Various aspects of the procedure can add more time. For example, suppose the woman in the couple has had her eggs removed but preserved in cryogenic storage somewhere. In that case, additional time must be devoted to coordinating the safe transportation of the eggs. Another additive service that can be paired with IVF is Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis or PGD. This is usually important for couples where one or both have a family history of hereditary diseases, such as cystic fibrosis or Down’s Syndrome. PGD requires multiple eggs to be fertilized and then screened for the presence of the genetic disorder. Any eggs with the disease present are flagged and not used for IVF, thus ensuring that the baby that does develop is given the best possible start in life with no inherited disease.
How much time a surrogacy will take beyond the nine months of pregnancy depends very much on the type of surrogacy a couple seeks.