There comes a time in many people’s lives where they meet someone special and decide to spend the rest of their lives together. A natural next step after this is the desire to start a family, but this is not always a straightforward proposition for every couple. While many couples will simply allow the wife to become pregnant, and give birth to a baby nine months later, for other couples, some real challenges make this far from easy.
Some women, for example, may put either themselves or a growing baby—or both—at serious health risk if they attempt to have a baby. This could be due to numerous medical factors, such as age, or specific ailments, like having a heart condition, where a pregnancy would make demands on the body that the woman’s current state of health cannot safely cope with. In other instances, pregnancy might not be possible, because a woman has had surgery previously—such as uterus removal to prevent cancer—or because it is a same-sex male couple, and so neither partner is biologically incapable of pregnancy.
In situations where traditional pregnancy presents severe obstacles, surrogacy, or surrogate motherhood, is the alternative that some couples turn to, especially if they want a newborn child of their own, possibly with genetic ties to them, and they don’t wish to adopt. But how exactly does surrogacy work? We’ll go over the basics.
The Genetic Question
For some hopeful families, the strongest wish is to have a child with traditional genetic ties to both parents, if it is at all possible. For others, however, a “close enough” scenario is acceptable, where some genetic connection exists, but it doesn’t have to be a direct line.
This is where the first phase of surrogacy begins, deciding what type of surrogacy to have. The traditional surrogacy route means that the surrogate mother’s egg will be used, but the sperm comes from a donor, who may be the hopeful father or some other source. The sperm is then artificially inseminated, and fertilization occurs naturally, leading to a birth nine months later, where the newborn is genetically connected to the surrogate mother.
With gestational surrogacy, both the sperm and egg are selected from donors, usually the hopeful parents themselves, and then supervised fertilization takes place in a lab setting. Once the fertilization has been confirmed, the egg is then implanted in a surrogate mother. With this method, the child will have a complete genetic profile that matches the hopeful parents.
The Selection Process
Once a hopeful family knows what type of surrogacy process they want, the next step is finding a suitable surrogate for that process. Sometimes, as with traditional surrogacy, there may still be a wish to have close family genetics involved for the mother’s line, so a surrogate may be someone within the family that agrees to take on the surrogate role. In other instances, if no family member or friend is suitable, the hopeful family will have to search for a surrogate candidate.
The search, while possible to do on one’s own, is highly inadvisable. By going with an agency or clinic, all the available candidates will have already undergone a screening process. This is important, because by rigorously screening candidates, women with inappropriate lifestyles, such as consuming drugs and alcohol, even while pregnant, or who have medical conditions that make them a risk, are automatically eliminated; you don’t have to do the screening yourself.
Selecting a surrogate involves screenings, interviews, and, in many cases, establishing and validating a contract, so that everyone knows and agrees to what is going on. Financial issues, such as establishing living and medical expenses, or even compensation may also be determined at this point.
Once the surrogate agreement has been established, the surrogate mother is either artificially inseminated, or implanted with an IVR (In Vitro Fertilization) egg, and undergoes pregnancy. She is expected to live a safe, healthy life at this point, getting medical checkups and medical support when necessary.
When the time comes, the surrogate mother undergoes a safe, medically supervised birth, and at that time, the newborn is now united with the hopeful parents to start a family.
If a hopeful family has chosen to travel to another country for the surrogate motherhood process, there are some final steps to consider. A couple that decides to go to a clinic in a country like Georgia does not have to worry about the legal status of custody; Georgia always recognizes the rights of the hopeful family as legal parents. However, different countries will have different regulations regarding the child’s citizenship status.
Depending on the country of origin, a final stage will be to consult with legal services, to set the wheels in motion for a newborn’s citizenship status in the country of origin. Not taking this final step may, depending on the legal situation, render a child “stateless.”