Gestational Surrogacy

Struggling with infertility is daunting.  It affects many aspects of your life, such as your emotions, relationships, career, intimacy, and finances.  If you have been struggling with infertility, you have undoubtedly had to make several decisions, such as which doctor to see, to pursue various treatments such as IVF, to look into adoption and many, many more.  Deciding to use any kind of third party reproduction, such as surrogate parenting, is another big decision.  Making this decision can be a very overwhelming process.  Often couples complain that they don’t know where to begin the process of deciding when to use a surrogate mother, where to find a surrogate, and where to gain information about the legal, medical, and emotional aspects of surrogate parenting.  In this general overview, all of these topics will be discussed.  Additionally, it is always recommended that you seek individualized answers to questions from your physician, a therapist specializing in infertility, and an attorney with experience in third party reproduction issues.

If you are looking into surrogate parenting you may feel very alone.  Chances are you don’t personally know anyone who has utilized a surrogate mother.  Although various types of surrogate parenting have been around since biblical times, surrogate parenting became a more viable option for couples as the advances of in vitro fertilization progressed.  Since approximately 1985, there have been several thousand couples who have created their families via the use of a surrogate mother.  More recently, the publicity surrounding celebrities utilizing third party reproduction has generated more talk about infertility in general, as well as the idea of surrogacy. Celebrities such as Joan Lunden, James Taylor, Kelsey Grammer, and Diedre Hall have publicly discussed their struggles with infertility and choosing to utilize a surrogate to assist in building their families.

What exactly is a “surrogate mother”?

When we use the term “surrogate,” what are we really talking about? There are two kinds of surrogates: traditional surrogates and gestational carriers. There are different legal and medical ramifications for both types of surrogacy, thus you should be very clear about your particular needs, and the special circumstances associated with both types.  Due to various legal and emotional aspects of traditional surrogacy, at CCRM, we only work with gestational surrogates.  Therefore, with the exception of a brief definition, the remainder of this overview will focus primarily on gestational surrogacy.

In traditional surrogacy, the surrogate mother is inseminated with the sperm of the intended father or sperm donor.  The surrogate’s own egg is used, thus she is the genetic mother of the resulting child.  This form of surrogacy is sometimes used when the intended mother is in need of donor eggs, or when the intended couple cannot afford in vitro fertilization, and wants to utilize a less expensive option such as intra uterine inseminations.  This type of surrogacy can require the parents to legally adopt the child following birth.

In gestational surrogacy, the surrogate (or gestational carrier, or GC) carries a child conceived of the egg and sperm of two other individuals.  Specifically, the sperm of the intended father or a sperm donor, as well as the egg from the intended mom or an egg donor are fertilized and transferred, via in vitro fertilization, into the gestational carrier.  Typically, depending on the location, intended mothers are able to have their name put on their child’s birth certificate, without having to adopt their child.

When is surrogacy considered?

Achieving a pregnancy can be quite a complex process.  Technically, it takes one sperm and, one egg, and a uterus to achieve a successful pregnancy result.  However, many couples trying to conceive will have trouble with one or more of the steps of ovulation, fertilization, implantation and gestation.  When implantation or gestation is compromised, often the use of a surrogate is suggested.  This can be indicated when a woman does not have a uterus, or if her uterus is not functioning properly.  Additionally, if the woman has had several miscarriages, difficulty carrying or cannot carry a pregnancy to term, or various implantation issues, a gestational carrier may be an effective way to have a genetic child.  Talk to your physician about specifics regarding your infertility, and applicable success rates.

Should I use a gestational carrier?

Once your physician ascertains that the use of a gestational carrier is indicated, it is important for you and your partner to decide if this is a viable option for you.  There are several paths to parenthood, and what may have been a great option for your friend, a couple in your support group, or a particular celebrity, may not be a suitable option for you.  If having a genetic connection to your child is important, and you want to have the opportunity to be involved in both the pregnancy and childbirth, then surrogate parenting may be a good option for you.

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