Wanting to start a family after meeting “the one” is one of the most natural things in the world. And of course, the path to starting a family is as old as civilization itself, or at least, that’s how it is for most people. The traditional path of a woman becoming pregnant and giving birth to a child is, while common, not always possible for everyone.
Some people have very real obstacles to starting a family through traditional childbirth. A woman may have a medical condition that endangers herself, the baby, or both, should she attempt to undertake a pregnancy. A heart condition, for example, may mean a woman is too delicate to endure the severe physical demands of pregnancy. On the other hand, if a woman has a disease, such as AIDS, the danger is that should she become pregnant, she will transmit that disease to the baby.
In other cases, natural childbirth may be physically impossible. For a woman to give birth to a child naturally, she must have a uterus in which the child can grow for nine months until it is time for delivery. Some women, again, for medical reasons, have had their uterus surgically removed to save their lives from diseases such as uterine cancer. In other cases, a same-sex male couple can’t physically give birth to a child since neither partner was born with a uterus.
Adoption is one solution to this problem for families willing to give an orphan a family to be loved and raised in. However, for others wishing to have a newborn child with some genetic traits of the hopeful family, a surrogate mother is the better alternative. But even here, sometimes there is a question of getting an egg donation as part of the process.
Surrogacy & The Egg
Surrogate motherhood is the process where a healthy woman agrees to let her uterus be used as the environment in which a baby will grow. After the usual nine months of pregnancy, she gives birth, and the child is then united with the hopeful family that was unable to have a baby through more traditional means.
One of the most popular methods of surrogate motherhood today, despite its relatively recent introduction, is the gestational pregnancy, which involves a process known as In Vitro Fertilization, or IVF. In this process, a surrogate mother plays only the role of “host” in that her physical health and fitness are required to provide a safe, nurturing environment for the baby. The embryo itself consists of an egg and sperm that are fertilized in a lab, and, upon confirmation of successful IVF, is then implanted in the surrogate mother so that pregnancy can take place.
In this type of surrogacy, the most popular configuration is that the man donates his sperm, and the woman donates her egg, so that the child can, genetically, be a “true” child of the hopeful family. He or she will be born with 50% of the genetic characteristics of both parents, exactly as if natural childbirth in the hopeful mother had occurred. Sometimes, however, this is not the case, and a different egg donor is required.
There are a few reasons why a couple would not use an egg from the couple itself for a surrogate pregnancy. In some cases, eggs from the woman in the hopeful family may no longer be available. Some women, similar to having the uterus removed for medical reasons, may have had ovaries removed for similar reasons. If they did not exercise the option to have eggs harvested and preserved in cryogenic storage for future use, another egg from another woman would be required.
In some cases, there is no woman in the hopeful family to harvest an egg from. This is the case with same-sex male couples since neither partner has a uterus or ovaries. So while one or both can donate sperm, the egg must come from an outside donor.
Choosing A Donor
In some instances, an egg donor will use the old fashioned of letting the surrogate mother provide her egg for the pregnancy. This is the way surrogate motherhood normally occurred until gestational surrogacy became more popular.
However, there are instances where the hopeful family will choose a donor egg from another woman for various reasons. The family may prefer genetic characteristics from another woman based on her ability or health. Sometimes, a different egg is donated for reasons of ethnicity, such as an Asian family wishing to have an egg from an Asian donor, because the surrogate mother is European
A hopeful family will have many different alternatives—and destinations—for undertaking a surrogate pregnancy. It’s important for hopeful families considering this route to look at surrogacy clinics that offer a full suite of services. Take the time to find out what your options are, and see which clinics are in the best position to give you the kind of surrogacy experience you want.