What is traditional surrogacy?
Surrogacy is one form of third party reproduction involving a woman carrying and giving birth to another woman or couple’s baby. Typically it is used by a woman or couples who wish to have a child genetically linked to one partner, but the woman either has no eggs or her eggs are unhealthy.
A surrogate woman becomes pregnant with an embryo that is conceived with her own egg and the sperm of a man who wishes to have a baby with his partner. As a result, the baby will be biologically linked to the surrogate. Surrogacy can be accomplished with fertility treatments such as intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF). Donor sperm can also be used in this procedure. After the birth of the baby, the surrogate agrees to give-up the baby to the legally contracted parents. Usually, other methods of ART are unsuccessfully attempted before surrogacy is considered.
What is Gestational Surrogacy?
Gestational surrogacy accounts for the majority of surrogates today. With this method, the surrogate, called a gestational carrier, gives birth to a baby that was conceived with an egg and sperm of a couple or a donor egg or sperm.
In vitro fertilization is used to retrieve and fertilize the eggs from the intended mother in a laboratory. If the fertilization is successful, a doctor transfers some or all of the embryos into the uterus of the gestational carrier. If the pregnancy is carried to term, the gestational carrier delivers the baby and immediately releases him or her to the parent(s).
Who are candidates to use surrogacy?
Candidates for surrogacy include:
- Women who have had trouble conceiving or carrying a pregnancy to term
- Gay male couples who want a child with a genetic connection to one partner
- Single women or couples with an abnormality in their uterine lining
- Women who have undergone a hysterectomy
- Women over 45 years of age and are unable to achieve pregnancy
- Women with cardiovascular disease or renal disease which may cause complications in pregnancy
- Those with unexplained causes for infertility
What is the process in using a gestational carrier?
If using a gestational carrier, the prospective couple must first choose a surrogate and approve before any legal agreements can begin. The surrogate may be anonymous or known by the intended parents. The surrogate may be chosen by the couple themselves, through an agency, or from an in-house surrogacy program within the practitioner’s office.
Screening of both the donors and the surrogate must take place, similar to the screenings for IVF. If using an egg from the woman, fertility drugs will be prescribed to increase the number of eggs available for retrieval. Once the eggs have been retrieved from the woman and fertilized, the embryo will be transferred directly to the surrogate. Couples can also choose to use donor eggs, donor sperm, or a donor embryo to be used for the implantation into the gestational carrier.
The embryos are monitored to ensure their viability prior to implantation. One or two embryos, dependent on the age of the donor, will be transferred to the gestational carrier. Embryos are usually transferred in the blastocyst stage of development. If only a few embryos have developed, embryos may be transferred at day 3. The gestational carrier is monitored throughout pregnancy prior to delivery of the intended parents’ baby.
What are Legal Concerns?
It’s very important that a legal contract is in place before the process begins to protect the rights and responsibilities of the parents, surrogate, and intended child. A contract is signed by the surrogate or gestational carrier prior to the procedure. Using a gestational carrier carries less risk for intended parents of the legal contract being broken due to the fact that the child is not biologically linked to the surrogate. In traditional surrogacy, there is a larger risk that the surrogate may change their mind and bond during pregnancy to the child. Both the third party and intended parents should have separate legal counsel to ensure that each party’s rights are protected.
How much does surrogacy cost?
The cost of using a surrogate can range from $20,000 to $120,000, or even higher. The surrogate is typically paid an agreed upon fee by the potential parents for carrying the child. Costs also include preparation, screening tests, necessities for the surrogate, the possible use of donor eggs or sperm, agency fees, and delivery fees.
How do I find a surrogate?
Most people locate gestational carriers and surrogates through fertility clinics, websites, lawyers, and private agencies. Surrogates are required by most agencies to have already had children of their own. They must also be a minimum of 21 years of age. The surrogate must also be in good medical condition and emotionally stable. The carrier will be screened for infectious diseases, blood type, lifestyle history, and obstetric history. Agencies also make the effort to determine that the surrogate is not motivated solely by financially incentives.
What is the success rate for using a surrogate?
The success rate for surrogacy can range depending on the source of the egg used in the procedure. If using a gestational carrier, the success rate is the same as the success rate for in vitro fertilization. The age of the carrier and age of the egg donor must also be considered. Success rates range from 50-60% dependent on the source of the egg.