Is surrogacy right for you?
Surrogacy birth rates have skyrocketed in recent years. Here's everything you need to know about surrogacy births so you can make a decision about whether it's a good fit for you.
Social worker Lindsey Miller was a little uncertain when she was asked to assist families with the legal and social dynamics of surrogate births in her former hospital. "At first I was skeptical because I didn't really understand it," she says. "But after meeting the families, hearing about their struggles with infertility and seeing them with a new baby, I came to support the practice."
Like many Americans, Miller was initially wary of surrogate births because they sounded a little too much like science fiction. But couples across the nation are finding that surrogacy is a viable option when they have difficulty conceiving or carrying a pregnancy to term, but don't want to adopt because they want a biological child. According to the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, in fact, U.S. surrogate birth rates have more than doubled in the last decade.
What is surrogacy?
By definition, surrogacy is "the practice by which a woman becomes pregnant and gives birth to a baby in order to give it to someone who cannot have children." If that sounds simple enough, it's not. There are a couple of different methods by which surrogacy can occur.
- Traditional surrogacy. In this approach, the woman who carries the child is genetically related to the child but will then hand it over to its intended parents. In other words, she is inseminated artificially (or the old-fashioned way) and her egg meets the sperm of the father or a donor to make a baby. Most courts and hospitals frown on this arrangement because it spells trouble in terms of parental rights.
- Gestational surrogacy. This approach requires the intended parents to donate egg and sperm to create an embryo. Technically, the egg and sperm can come from any source but it's typical for it to be from the parents who want a baby but cannot conceive or carry one. The embryo is then inserted into the uterus of another woman who will carry the pregnancy.
Words of caution
If you're interested in pursuing surrogacy, it's recommended that you find an agency to help you. The agency will set you up with a gestational surrogacy arrangement rather than a traditional one, and provide you with guidance for the process. According to Circle Surrogacy, you can expect to pay $80,000 to $120,000 to cover the legal, agency and medical fees for the pregnancy and birth. The protections provided by an agency are well worth the cost.
- Legal protection. The laws that govern surrogacy births and contracts, as well as parental rights, vary widely from state to state. There are no federal laws to override confusion on individual cases. Most agencies offer legal expertise and will steer you away from arrangements that won't hold up in court.
- Financial protection for both parties. Health insurance policies include fine print on surrogacy births, and individual insurance companies are constantly changing their policies in order to keep up with advancements in technology. The agency mediates the costs for all parties and ensures the financial hand-off between parents and gestational carrier run smoothly.
- Ethical mediation. Unmediated arrangements often take advantage of impoverished women who need the money so much that they feel strong-armed into carrying a child. An agency makes sure that all parties are comfortable with the legal and financial arrangements and that there isn't an ethical problem with the surrogacy.
Once you've counted the cost and made arrangements to protect yourself legally and financially, you may find that surrogacy is a good option for your family. Indeed, the practice is increasingly providing many couples with the opportunity to love and nurture a child who is genetically their own.