Why surrogacy is on the rise

Surrogacy requests have shown a steady increase over the past near-decade. Experts discuss the rising trend and how it compares to traditional infertility treatments, as well as the chances of success.

Woman with her surrogate

Infertility is a common reason couples turn to surrogacy, but that’s not all there is to the story — and experts have noted that requests for surrogacy overall have increased in recent years. It’s a big decision for a parent-to-be to make — and one that is never taken lightly. What is behind this recent increase, and how does it compare to other types of infertility treatment?

Defining surrogacy

You may be a little familiar with the term “surrogate,” but aren’t totally sure what it entails. We were able to talk with Brandon J. Bankowski, M.D., MPH, partner, Oregon Reproductive Medicine. He told us that there are two types of surrogacy. “‘Gestational carrier’ refers to a surrogate that is only carrying an embryo/baby that is not genetically related to her,” he explained. “‘Traditional surrogacy’ is accomplished by using the surrogate’s eggs and uterus, and sperm from a man that is not her partner. In this situation, all rights to the child are given up at birth.”

Traditional surrogacy was the original form of surrogacy, but in modern times, gestational carriers are far more common. They tend to be less complicated emotionally for all parties involved, and with the legal complexity that has accompanied traditional surrogacy in the past, Dr. Bankowski said that most fertility clinics only participate in gestational surrogacy.

Surrogacy on the rise

Dr. Bankowski said that there are several reasons there has been an uptick in requests for gestational carriers — and advances in state-of-the-art reproductive technology top the list. “The significant increase in the success of in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments, the increase in awareness of gestational surrogacy as a viable option to help patients in need create their families, and the increasing acceptance of alternative family units — especially those involving same-sex male couples — around the world are all certainly involved,” he shared.

Fertility treatments across the board are generally safe if performed by trained professionals in respectable clinical centers. While the idea of surrogacy may sound invasive and intimidating, he reassuringly said this is not so. “The actual treatment with a gestational surrogate is extremely safe since the medications received are commonly used standard forms of estrogen and progesterone, and the only ‘procedure’ is an embryo transfer procedure which does not require anesthesia and involves no pain or physical risk,” he explained. The greatest risk comes from the pregnancy itself, with women experiencing complications no matter what the method of conception. Gestational surrogates also have a greater risk of a multiple pregnancy because they often have two embryos transferred to increase the success rate of the procedure, which comes with its own unique set of risks.

Success rates

If you’re going to explore surrogacy as an option, you’re going to want to make sure that you have the best chance of success that you can. Gestational carriers have already had at least one successful pregnancy, and this helps boost chances of success. Another factor is the age of the eggs that are being used, which Dr. Bankowski pointed out. “At Oregon Reproductive Medicine, our success rates have been the highest in our patients who have done treatment cycles with donor eggs and a gestational carrier, with live birth rates over 80 percent per attempt,” he explained. “Gestational surrogacy is a wonderful gift and a very successful procedure which has helped thousands of intended parents have their families all over the world.”

More on infertility

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Can your marriage survive infertility?
The secret language of infertility