Still Debating? Surrogacy: Pros & Cons

While many couples have a very normal desire to start a new life together as a family, not everyone has the option of a traditional pregnancy to satisfy their hopes. Some people have serious medical considerations, like a heart condition that puts both mother and child at risk, so pregnancy is not advised. Others have had life-saving surgeries that allowed them to beat cancer but required the removal of the uterus, thus making pregnancy no longer possible.

One alternative to this is surrogacy. This is a technique where another woman deemed medically suitable agrees to become pregnant on behalf of a couple. Once she is impregnated, the pregnancy runs its course, and the baby born nine months later is then introduced to the new parents. Life as a family can now begin.

However, deciding to pursue the path of surrogacy is not a decision that should be taken lightly. There are both positives and negatives associated with this process, and people need to know what the surrogacy pros and cons are.

Pro: Hopeful Parents Get A Newborn

For many hopeful couples, the biggest draw of surrogacy, especially compared to adoption, is that they will start their family with a newborn baby. When done correctly, with proper contracts, negotiations, and planning, hopeful parents are often present on the day a surrogate mother gives birth and take immediate custody of the infant, usually within minutes of the birth.

This is very different from adoption, where, in most cases, couples, even if they adopt a baby, will take on a child who is a few weeks old at best, and of course, other orphans run the spectrum from being toddlers to young adults. For people who want a baby right from the day of birth, surrogacy is the only viable alternative.

Con: Surrogacy Isn’t Legal Everywhere

While surrogacy as a technique dates back to biblical times, that doesn’t mean that surrogacy is legal everywhere in the world. Depending on where you live in the world, surrogacy has severe legal limitations, or just a few. For example, in France and Germany, no surrogacy of any kind is permitted, so residents of those countries have no surrogacy options at all if they remain in their country of residency.

In other cases, certain types of surrogacy may be permitted, but others aren’t. In the United Kingdom and Canada, only altruistic surrogacy, that is, where a woman volunteers to become a surrogate mother with no expectation of payment, is permitted. In the United States, depending on the state, altruistic surrogacy is permitted, but compensated surrogacy is allowed in other states, like California. Compensated surrogacy is where the surrogate mother receives significant financial recognition for her role.

Pro: A Direct Genetic Descendant Is Possible

One of the biggest positives for surrogacy is that, unlike adoption, where it is impossible, certain medical techniques make it possible for a hopeful family to still have a direct genetic descendant that is 50%of the DNA of the mother and father exactly as would occur in a traditional pregnancy.

This is all thanks to a technique known as “in vitro fertilization,” or IVF. Here, a donor egg and sperm are fertilized by medical staff in a lab. When fertilization has been confirmed, that egg is then implanted in the surrogate mother, at which point normal pregnancy progresses until birth.

IVF even makes it possible for couples with hereditary diseases such as sickle cell anemia or cystic fibrosis to avoid these disorders in children through a process called preimplantation genetic diagnosis that can screen for these conditions. It’s even possible for people who have had eggs or sperm stored after surgery, which made normal reproduction impossible, to retrieve those stored samples and use them with IVF pregnancies.

Con: It’s A Serious Financial Investment

While surrogacy affords hopeful families a great deal of control, this control comes at considerable expense. Even the least costly surrogacy alternative, altruistic surrogacy, requires couples to provide financial support for the surrogate mother’s medical and living expenses as the pregnancy progresses since she will be unable to work or cover these costs herself. 

However, for compensated surrogacies and more demanding procedures such as IVF, costs rise dramatically. Compensated surrogacies can range in the tens of thousands of dollars, minimum. This cost may be in addition to the costs of travel if a couple lives in a country where compensated surrogacies aren’t permitted, and so they must work with a surrogate mother in another nation.

Medically, the IVF procedure itself is dramatically more costly than artificial insemination techniques, and this cost goes up with additional components, such as PGD screening or medical-grade transportation of donor egg/sperm samples. A further fee may be incurred by the legal requirements a family may need to satisfy to ensure the newborn is granted citizenship upon return to the intended country of residence.

Much of this can be simplified if a hopeful couple takes the time to work with a reputable surrogacy agency.