While many couples decide to start a family by simply allowing the woman to become pregnant, this is not an easy or straightforward path for others. Due to health risks, such as a heart condition, or medical procedures, like a life-saving hysterectomy that removes the womb to prevent cancer, others are not advised or cannot traditionally conceive.
For these hopeful families, adoption is one alternative, but another is surrogacy, where another woman agrees to become pregnant. Once the baby is safely carried to term and delivered, the surrogate mother then unites the newborn with its intended family, and a new life begins. However, there are different types of surrogacy, and a hopeful family will have to decide which approach is right for them.
While the techniques have changed, the concept remains the same. In traditional surrogacy, the sperm of the hopeful father is used, so the newborn will still have 50% of the DNA from the intended family members. However, the egg used is that of the surrogate mother herself.
In centuries past, the only way to achieve this was through actual intercourse, with the intended father having sex with the surrogate mother. Today, artificial insemination eliminates this emotionally conflicting need and has a higher chance of successful fertilization.
In Vitro Fertilization
More commonly known as IVF, this is for hopeful couples that want a “complete, traditional” newborn where, if the baby is subjected to genetic testing, the results will show an even 50% DNA combination of mother and father. To achieve this, sperm and egg donations are taken from the hopeful parents. The sperm fertilizes the egg under laboratory supervision. If desired, genetic screening can occur at this stage if either parent carries the risk of a hereditary disorder, such as cystic fibrosis or Down’s Syndrome. In these instances, multiple eggs and sperm can be used to ensure a greater chance that at least one will not carry the genetic disorders.
Upon confirmation of fertilization and viability, the egg is then implanted in a surrogate mother, and the pregnancy follows its natural course. As expected, an IVF procedure is a much more lab and medical-intensive form of surrogacy, requiring much more financial commitment to utilizing medical facilities and resources.
Surrogacies are not just divided by method but by financial logistics. An “altruistic surrogacy” is one of the most common and is legally permitted in most countries. With this type of surrogacy, the potential surrogate mother candidate is agreeing to this role voluntarily.
This means that while the hopeful family will support her living and medical expenses as the pregnancy progresses, she receives no other financial recognition. This tends to severely limit the pool of available surrogate mothers since this requires enormous generosity and time.
Not every country legally permits this, such as the United Kingdom, where it is illegal. Compensated surrogacy means that there is a financial incentive for surrogate mothers to agree to the use of their womb and their time to carry and deliver someone else’s baby.
In other words, with compensated surrogacy, the surrogate mother’s role is recognized with a significant financial contribution. As a result of this incentive, there tends to be a higher available pool of viable, qualified surrogate mothers willing to take on the role. For hopeful families that would like more choice, this is the preferred option.
Making The Right Choice
As always, what type of surrogacy makes sense for a couple is determined by numerous personal and financial factors. If the hopeful family isn’t prioritizing preserving some kind of genetic lineage, and they are willing to spend the time waiting for and searching for the right voluntary surrogate mother, then a traditional or altruistic surrogacy may be the best way to go, and also the least expensive. This is especially true if a surrogate can be located in the same region as the hopeful family. This may entail the hopeful family looking for a surrogate themselves, finding one nearby in the form of a close friend or other member of the family, or using an agency to expedite the process.
IVF surrogacy is the only logical choice for a hopeful family that wants the legacy of mixed genes from both intended parents. Whether the surrogate mother is undertaking the task altruistically or with compensation is a matter of time for the hopeful parents. An agency can help locate either an altruistic or compensated surrogate mother, but in areas that allow for compensated surrogacy, finding a suitable candidate is often faster now that there’s an incentive.
Hopeful families must weigh their options carefully and look at their needs. Of course, the other important factor is balancing the budget. It’s not just a matter of having the money available for the surrogacy process. Once a child is born, there’s still the investment required for decades to raise that child with a decent quality of life.