For some people, the dream of starting a family is as simple as making the decision and then allowing a pregnancy to occur for the mother, which results in a baby nine months later. For other couples, wanting to have a child and being able actually to do so is a big hurdle. There may be medical reasons that it’s not possible, such as the age of the mother, or a disease the mother has, that puts both mother and child at risk.
In other cases, it may be medically impossible. A woman who has had her uterus surgically removed as part of life-saving surgery, or a same-sex male couple, cannot biologically become pregnant because a uterus is required for this to happen.
This doesn’t mean that these couples must now resign themselves to remaining childless, however. Adoption is always one alternative, but for people that still wish for the experience of having a newborn baby, maybe even with their own genetic characteristics, surrogacy is another option, though it requires time, commitment and investment.
The Basic Idea
While there is more than one type of surrogacy, the concept behind all surrogacy types is essentially the same. A couple that is unable to bear a child naturally find a woman that has been medically evaluated to be a good candidate. After consultations, and reaching an agreement, that woman now becomes a surrogate mother, allowing a baby to grow in her uterus. Nine months later, that baby is born and then united with the hopeful parents to start a new family.
There is, however, much variation the exact way that surrogacy is undertaken. Depending on what country, state, or province people live in, surrogacy may not be legal at all, or legal, but within certain parameters. This means that there are a few different types of surrogacy to serve different legal and financial means.
This is the oldest and most established form of surrogate motherhood and has been in practice for generations. Traditional surrogacy is where the surrogate mother is also the biological mother of the child. While the sperm used to fertilize the egg may come from a hopeful father, or some other donor, the egg used for fertilization is that of the surrogate mother herself.
This means that in traditional surrogacy, the surrogate mother is also the biological mother, donating 50% of her genetic characteristics to the child. The child will have the DNA of the hopeful father, or the selected male donor, but will not have any genetic characteristics from the hopeful mother in this type of surrogacy.
Gestational surrogacy is a more recent medical development but has grown in popularity in over the last few decades. With gestational surrogacy, a selected egg and sperm are used for fertilization. This is usually the sperm of the hopeful father, and the egg of the hopeful mother, though other donor sources can be used if desired.
The selected sperm and egg are fertilized in a laboratory, sometimes in batches through a process known as In Vitro Fertilization, or IVF. Upon confirmation of successful fertilization, there may even be additional genetic screening, especially if there’s a condition that one parent or the other is concerned about passing on, such as cystic fibrosis. If the fertilized egg or eggs are evaluated as healthy, then implantation in the surrogate mother occurs.
Of course, with this type of surrogacy, this guarantees a 100% genetic connection to both hopeful parents. In every way, the newborn will genetically be linked to his or her intended family, the only difference being that gestation and birth occurred with another woman.
This falls under the financial side of different types of surrogacy. With a compassionate/altruistic surrogacy, the surrogate mother agrees to undertake the considerable effort of surrogacy with no additional compensation for herself. This often happens when another family member or close friend of the family agrees to become a surrogate mother to allow the people she is close to make their dream come true of having a family.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that the surrogate mother pays for everything herself. In most cases, her living expenses will be taken care of, and the cost of medical support and treatment will also be covered by the hopeful family. However, the surrogate mother makes no additional money aside from this.
The other side of this equation is where it is recognized that a surrogate mother is making an enormous contribution of time, effort, and, of course, her own body. So she profits from this. Compensated surrogacy means in addition to living expenses and medical support, the surrogate mother will receive money for the role that she plays, adding a business transaction element to the proceedings.
The different types of surrogacy are addressed by different groups and organizations. Some surrogate agencies provide a full suite of services to accommodate these different needs.