The decision to start a family is often one of the most important decisions a couple can make. Having a child is not like going on vacation or even buying a home for the first time. This is an endeavor that will go on for decades, and, at the end of it, will result in a fully-formed person ready to live their own life. For most people deciding to start a family is toughest decision, but starting the family itself is conventional and comparatively “easy” requiring only pregnancy and, nine months later, the birth of a baby.
But for some hopeful families, the pregnancy itself presents significant obstacles. There may be fertility issues with the hopeful mother, father, or both. The mother might have health issues, such as a heart condition that would endanger her life if she became pregnant. There may be uterine conditions that make the viability of a fertilized egg for the full nine months uncertain. In some cases, pregnancy may not be possible at all, such as with same-sex male couples, or a woman who has had her uterus surgically removed for medical reasons.
Surrogacy is a solution for people that are facing obstacles to traditional pregnancy. This is an old, established technique where another woman capable of safely undertaking pregnancy agrees to do so on behalf of a hopeful family. After birth, the newborn is then united with the hopeful family to start a new life together.
But what are the pros of surrogacy? And what are the cons? There’s no such thing as an all good or all bad choice, so what do people thinking about this route have to consider?
Pro: Surrogacy Has Many Choices
Hopeful parents now have a spectrum of different surrogacy techniques to meet different needs. Artificial insemination is available as one method for people that don’t put a premium on using a specific egg but would like a specific donor sperm to be used. This is the more traditional method where the egg of the surrogate mother herself is used.
However, if desired, the hopeful mother and father can both donate their egg and sperm and use a technique known as In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). With this lab supervised fertilization, the child that is born is, as with traditional pregnancy is a 50% genetic mix of the hopeful mother and father, establishing a direct genetic connection. The only difference here is that the child gestated in another woman’s womb, but genetically has no connection to the surrogate mother, only the hopeful family.
Con: Can Be Financially Demanding
There is no cheap way to undertake a safe, successful surrogacy. Hopeful families that choose this route must be prepared for a significant financial investment that can get very high depending on the type of surrogacy. At the very least, a couple must be prepared to financially support the living expenses and the medical support for the surrogate mother if an altruistic/compassionate surrogacy is chosen, where the surrogate mother receives no financial compensation.
If a hopeful family decides to travel internationally to have a child, this can also be costly. If this is combined with a compensated surrogacy, where the surrogate mother receives financial recognition for her efforts, the cost can spiral quickly.
Pro: It’s Unquestionably Your Child
While adoption always remains an alternative for starting a new family, adoption does come with many limitations. Your choice of children to adopt, for example, is, understandably, limited by the children that currently available and in need of love and acceptance with a new family. This comprises different ages, different established personalities, and in some cases, clear memories of a previous family.
A surrogate baby, on the other hand, is a newborn with no past attachments. Moreover if an IVF gestational surrogacy is what is chosen, then genetically this child will have a direct connection to the hopeful family. Even medical science would recognize the family ties.
Con: Legal Status Is Not Always Guaranteed
Surrogacy itself is a well-established technique, but that doesn’t always mean it is legal. In France and Germany, for example, surrogacy is banned, meaning that citizens of these countries who undertake surrogacy with a willing surrogate mother in these countries have no legal custody over the child born. The surrogate mother is considered the legal parent, and retains legal custody, whether she wants it or not.
To circumvent this, it’s not unusual for some hopeful families to work with a surrogate mother in another country, such as Georgia, which has full custody rights and legal protection for the hopeful family embedded right in the constitution. However, even here, while the child may be legally recognized as belonging to the hopeful parents, the child’s citizenship may be in question. Unless a hopeful family works with an experienced clinic or agency, a surrogate child returning to the intended country of residence may not be admitted because he or she is “stateless” and has no citizenship anywhere.