Surrogate motherhood is not a fast or easy way for a hopeful family to bring a child into the world. But for some couples, this may be the only way have a child that still carries on the genetic characteristics of both a mother and a father, even when traditional childbirth methods aren’t safe, or feasible.
If you’re not sure what surrogacy is, we’ll quickly explain it now, as well as get into some of the more practical considerations surrounding this method, such as the financial commitment.
How Surrogacy Works
Surrogacy, or surrogate motherhood, is when a woman agrees to receive a fertilized egg, and let her uterus provide the necessary safe, biological environment for the embryo to grow into a baby. Nine months later, the child is born, and the surrogate mother allows the child to join with his or her parents. The surrogate mother may provide her own egg, or another—from the hopeful mother, or another donor—may be used instead.
A surrogate mother may know the couple she is helping very well, as is often the case when a close friend or family member agrees to be a surrogate mother for a couple. In other cases, the surrogate mother may not know the hopeful family at all until careful screening, interviews, and legal contracts have been established, at which point, the surrogate and the hopeful family establish a relationship that carries on through the duration of the pregnancy. In some cases, surrogacy is known as “altruistic” or “compassionate,” where there is no financial benefit for the surrogate mother. In other cases, known as “compensation surrogacy,” the surrogate mother may be paid for her role as a surrogate, in what amounts to profit for her, as a result of agreeing to become a surrogate.
In both cases, however, surrogacy is not free, though the costs involved vary a lot.
The Egg Status
One of the big, initial financial factors that can eventually total into the final costs of surrogacy is the decision about which egg to use and why. There are three choices when it comes to using an egg for surrogate motherhood purposes. The surrogate mother herself may donate an egg, some other donor may be selected for using an egg or, in the most common cases, the hopeful mother herself may use her own egg, so that the child will have the genetic characteristics from the hopeful mother, and thus, biologically, be more the hopeful mother than the surrogate mother’s.
In some instances, an egg may have to be donated from either the surrogate mother or some other source, since there is no egg available from a hopeful mother. This can happen in surrogacy situations where the family is a same-sex male couple, and therefore no egg is available. In other situations, it may be because the hopeful mother, for medical reasons, is not able to produce an egg, and/or did not have any eggs preserved before medical treatments removed the ability to create more eggs.
Fresh Or Frozen
The type of egg donation used is also going to be a factor in determining the cost for the egg being used. Some hopeful mothers, for example, may have been informed ahead of time that certain medical treatments would render them infertile in the future. To circumvent this, they may have taken the step of having some of their viable eggs collected, frozen, and stored in a “cryobank” until the time when they wanted to have a child with some of their own DNA. At that time, some eggs would be withdrawn from the cryobank and used for the in vitro fertilization process. The collection, storage, retrieval and use of frozen eggs carries with it specific costs.
On the other side, “live eggs” may be collected from a hopeful mother who may simply be at risk for carrying a child to term in her own uterus. Alternatively, the eggs may be collected from the chosen surrogate mother or some other different donor. There are associated costs with using a hopeful mother, versus additional costs that may come with using the surrogate mother’s egg, or further added costs from searching for, screening, approving and collecting eggs from an approved donor.
Going strictly by the financial needs of the medical/technology for egg donation, collecting or harvesting an egg is, by itself, an average cost of about USD$8000. Of course, that basic cost can change a lot based on the specific needs a hopeful family may have. For example, if a hopeful family is relying on a donor egg from someone else, but they have explicit wishes, such as a donor of African descent, with an athletic background, then the screening process required to find such a candidate is going to add significantly to the cost of collection.
In the same way, using a frozen egg from cryobank brings with it different associated costs. The financials, however, can usually be sorted out quickly if the hopeful family uses the services of an experienced surrogate mother organization to facilitate the process.