Deciding to have a child through a surrogate mother is a momentous step for most hopeful families. It’s not usually the first option considered by people wanting to have a child. It is usually only arrived at if there are biological or medical reasons why natural childbirth may not be an option. But while hopeful families need to do a lot of soul-searching and discussion before coming to this decision, what’s it like on the other side? How do things work for the surrogate mother? What kind of person does a hopeful surrogate mother need to be in order to be given this responsibility?
The Search Method
One of the things that play a very significant initial role in qualifying a surrogate mother is whether the search will be conducted by the intended family itself, or through a surrogate motherhood clinic. In some cases, a couple hoping to have a family will stay “close to home,” and negotiate with someone they already know, such as a close family friend, or even another family member such as a sister, sister-in-law or cousin. This is a very different situation that dispenses with some of the usual qualifying factors since the intended couple will already know the person very well. So seeing whether a woman and her lifestyle is a “good fit” for the couple is unlikely to be a concern here since they know the prospective surrogate well, and, hopefully, already approve of her on many different fronts.
If the intended family decides to use the services of a surrogate motherhood clinic, this brings in a very comprehensive range of physical, medical and legal considerations. However, beyond the question of whether the intended family knows or doesn’t know who the surrogate mother is, there are still some important qualifying factors.
Genetics For Traditional Surrogacy
If the intended family decides to have a traditional surrogacy, then the genetic background of the surrogate mother plays a vital role. Traditional surrogacy is the term for a pregnancy where the surrogate mother’s own egg will be used for fertilization. This means the child will inherit half of the genetic characteristics of the surrogate mother herself. Therefore, her family history of genetic conditions will matter a lot. If, for example, a couple wants a family member, such as a sister to act as a surrogate, and use her egg, genetic considerations may get in the way. If the family itself has a history of genetic disorders, such as cystic fibrosis, or Down’s Syndrome, then there is a possibility the surrogate mother may pass these conditions onto the child.
If however, an intended couple decides on gestational surrogacy, things change a lot. With gestational surrogacy, both the mother and father—or selected donors—are contributing the egg and sperm. This means that the baby’s DNA will be determined entirely by “internal factors.” In this case, the genetic history of the surrogate mother is not determining variable at all and thus can be discarded as part of the qualifying process.
An important factor, regardless of the search criteria, is age. Older women run more risks for both themselves and that of the developing embryo during pregnancy. This is one of the chief reasons why older women often seek surrogacy if they still want a child.
In general, an ideal surrogacy candidate will be under the age of 35, but older than 21, which is the global standard for an adult legally recognized to be able to make their own decisions. People that fall within this age range have, on average, the best chance of successfully nurturing and delivering a baby.
One thing that might surprise intended families when they first hear about it is a preference for surrogate mothers to have already had experience with at least one childbirth. The reason for this is simple; experience is valuable. A woman who already knows what to expect from childbirth will be better prepared to deal with all the physical, medical, hormonal and emotional changes that come with pregnancy, birth, and the recovery afterward. A woman who has never given birth means introducing many variables. She won’t know what’s coming, and medically, there’s no past history to go on to see how she will handle the pregnancy and subsequent birth. While this doesn’t mean she’s unsafe, she presents far more uncertainty.
Of course, a final, very important qualification is the kind of lifestyle a surrogate mother lives. While genetics may not play an important role in gestational surrogacy, a child’s developing health is still affected by the mother. Someone who smokes cigarettes, drinks alcohol and uses drugs regularly, for example, can severely threaten a baby’s health. Someone in poor physical condition will add more risk to a child’s safe development. This is one of the reasons why surrogate mother selection at an experienced clinic can sometimes be crucial.