What is Surrogacy and how is it done?

What is Surrogacy and how is it done?

Often times a couple, or individual, wishes to have a child but for whatever reason is unable to do so. When this happens, surrogacy becomes an option. Surrogacy is when a woman, also known as a surrogate, becomes pregnant, carries out the pregnancy, and gives birth to the baby all with the intention of handing the baby off to another couple or individual. Surrogacy is a very complex issue and should not be taken lightly by either the surrogate or the intended parent(s).

Reasons for Surrogacy

There are quite a few different reasons that a couple or an individual may consider surrogacy. When a couple or individual is unable to have a child for any of the following reasons, they may consider surrogacy as an option to build their family.

1. Woman Lacking Uterus or Other Parts Vital to Childbearing

In some cases, surrogacy is considered when a woman is unable to have a child due to lacking some of orall of the needed body parts. This may be from a birth defect where the woman is missing part of her uterus or possibly her ovaries or other reproductive organs. It can also be from a medically necessary hysterectomy, or removal of the woman’s uterus.

2. Infertility

Sometimes, even if a woman has all the working parts to have a baby, she or her partner may struggle with infertility. This would mean that it is extremely difficult or impossible for the woman to conceive a pregnancy. Couples that are struggling with infertility often turn to surrogacy as the best way for them to build their family.

3. Pre-existing Condition that Makes Pregnancy and Birth Dangerous

There are quite a few conditions that a woman may suffer from where becoming pregnant and giving birth would be dangerous for both mom and baby. Some conditions that make pregnancy more dangerous are polycystic ovary syndrome, diabetes, and autoimmune disease. Those are just some reasons that a couple or individual may have for considering surrogacy.

4. Same-Sex Male Couple or Single Male

Obviously, a man is incapable of having a child on their own. However, some men that are in a same-sex relationship, or even some single men may be interested in becoming fathers. Surrogacy provides these men with the chance to have a child that is still genetically related to them.

5. Reoccurring Miscarriages

Some couples may be able to get pregnant, but may not be able to carry the pregnancy successfully. Miscarriages and stillbirth are devastating. Once a woman experiences a miscarriage, she is more likely to miscarry her next child with her chance of miscarriage rising with each miscarriage that she has. Losing multiple babies can make it extremely scary and difficult to continue trying to have a baby. Surrogacy provides an option for couples suffering from multiple miscarriages to build their family still.

6. Failure of In Vitro Fertilization

When a couple is struggling with fertility, they may give in vitro fertilization a shot. In vitro fertilization, or IVF, is when an egg is fertilized with sperm outside of the body such as in a petri dish. This creates embryos that can then be inserted in the uterus with hopes that the baby will implant and grow. It’s a long and complicated process that doesn’t always work. If it’s not successful, the couple may consider surrogacy as an alternative option to grow their family.

Types of Surrogacy

There are a couple of different types of surrogacy. The type of surrogacy is determined by where the egg used in surrogacy comes from.

1. Traditional Surrogacy

With traditional surrogacy, the surrogate is inseminated using the semen either of the intended father or donated semen. It’s possible that this can be done at home using an insemination kit, but can also be performed professionally in a fertility clinic. With this type of surrogacy, the surrogate is the genetic mother of the child, which is illegal in Australia.

2. Gestational Surrogacy

When IVF (in vitro fertilization) is used with the egg and semen of either the intended parents or donors, it’s called gestational surrogacy. In this case, the surrogate is not genetically related to the baby. This type of surrogacy is the only type that is legal in Australia.

Eligibility for Surrogacy

In order to be eligible to commission a surrogate and go through the process of surrogacy, the intended parent or parents must not be able to become pregnant, or must not be able to have a successful pregnancy, or there must be a considerable risk to the mother and/or child if pregnancy is executed. Surrogacy laws also vary by area, so be sure to check the laws where you’re located.

Eligibility to Be a Surrogate

There is a lot to consider when searching for a surrogate. It’s important that surrogates meet certain requirements. These requirements include:

  • The surrogate must be at least 25 years of age.
  • The surrogate must have successfully carried out a pregnancy already.
  • The surrogate needs to go through a criminal record check.
  • The surrogate should go through counselling and receive legal advice.

Process of Surrogacy

Surrogacy is a long and complex process that involves complicated legal, financial, emotional and physical matters. There is a lot that goes into it and it can take a considerable amount of time.

1. Finding a Surrogate

It may take time to find a surrogate. It’s likely that you will be asking either a family member or friend to be your surrogate as it is illegal to advertise that you are looking for one. It’s also illegal for a surrogate to advertise her services. Give the person that you ask to surrogate for you plenty of time to consider their decision. It’s a big decision that will be making a significant impact on their life and should not be taken lightly.

2. Achieving Pregnancy

In gestational surrogacy, pregnancy is achieved through in vitro fertilization, or IVF. This is where the egg is fertilized outside of the body and then inserted into the uterus. The egg and sperm used for this can either be that of the intended parents or that of donors. The egg of the surrogate cannot be legally used, however.

3. Birth of the Baby

When the baby of a surrogacy is first born, the baby is legally the child of the birth mother even though the child is not genetically hers. The intended parents must take out a parenting order to become the legal parent(s) of the child. Some intended parents worry that their surrogate may have a tough time giving up the baby. However, research shows that this is very rare and most surrogates are very happy with the end outcome. This is likely partially in thanks to the counselling that most surrogates undergo during their pregnancy.

Financial Considerations of Surrogacy

In Australia, commercial surrogacy is illegal. Instead, altruistic surrogacy is carried out. This simply means that surrogates cannot be legally paid for being a surrogate. It is expected that the intended parents pay for the surrogate’s medical bills and other reasonable pregnancy and birth related expenses of the surrogate. The surrogate just cannot receive compensation for her surrogacy services.

Medical Considerations of Surrogacy

There are some risks involved as well as some things that should be carefully considered by all parties about the medical aspects of surrogacy. The intended mother, or the donor of the egg if it is not the egg of the intended mother, must undergo fertility treatments that help the woman to produce multiple eggs. These treatments do carry some risks such as the possibility of ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome, or OHSS. The surrogate takes on all the normal risks of pregnancy. With IVF, there is a higher chance of multiple births. Multiple births carry multiple risks as well, such as premature birth and low birth weight.

Tips for Successful Surrogacy

There are some ways to help ensure that everything in the surrogacy process goes smoothly, such as:

  • Understanding that the process can be very long
  • Everyone involved in the surrogacy being of good mental health
  • Good communication between everyone involved with the surrogacy
  • A good understanding of the entire process by everyone involved
  • Having a clear plan and agreement for how the pregnancy and birth will be handled
  • Having known and mutually agreed upon boundaries
  • Everyone involved having counselling to help manage emotional aspects involved in surrogacy

Surrogacy Benefits All Involved

Surrogacy holds some pretty obvious benefits for the intended parents of the baby. They are given the opportunity to grow their family, and get to raise the child that they so desperately wanted. However, they aren’t the only beneficiaries. The surrogate, and even the donors if there are donors, come off better from the experience of surrogacy.

We all know how good it feels to perform good deeds for others, so just imagine how wonderful it would make you feel to do something so amazing and selfless as to help someone else achieve their goals of having a family. Not to mention that many surrogates are very close to the intended parents that they surrogate for. That means you can do this amazing thing for people that you already care for, and you will likely get to be involved with and watch the child grow. Surrogacy can be a long and complicated process, but it is a precious and beautiful one as well.