Sometimes the journey to parenthood does not look the way you expected. Fertility issues affect an estimated one in eight couples, so you are not alone in looking for ways to create the family of your dreams. One option that may be right for some people struggling with fertility is surrogacy.
With surrogacy arrangements, the intended parent(s), or IP(s) enter into a contractual agreement with a surrogate or gestational carrier to carry the pregnancy.
There are many reasons that may lead an individual or couple to consider surrogacy, including the absence of a uterus, an impaired uterus, chronic health problems, cancer, or other conditions that make it dangerous for the intended mother to carry a pregnancy. Surrogacy is also an option for LGBTQ couples and individuals who want to have a genetic tie to the child.
Your fertility doctor can help guide you through the process, but here’s an overview of what you need to know about surrogacy:
Different Types of Surrogacy
When you’re considering surrogacy to start or add to your family, you will have to decide which type of surrogacy arrangement you will enter into. This will most likely be dictated by the types of fertility issues you or your partner are having. There are two types of surrogacy arrangements:
- Traditional Surrogacy
Traditional surrogacy is an arrangement in which the surrogate has a genetic tie to the child or children she carries for the intended parents. In this arrangement, the surrogate is artificially inseminated with the sperm of the biologically male intended parent. This means the surrogate’s egg is used. Because of this genetic tie, traditional surrogacy is not recommended as often as it was previously because it can create legal issues.
- Gestational Surrogacy
A gestational surrogate does not have a genetic tie to the child they are carrying. In fact, using the term surrogate is technically inaccurate and the term gestational carrier is correct. However, the terms are used interchangeably in many places. In this arrangement, the intended parents will provide both the egg and the sperm for the embryo, which is then transferred to the gestational carrier. Sometimes both the sperm and egg are genetically the intended parents’ and sometimes either an egg or sperm donor will be used. Sometimes even a donated embryo will be used.
There are two basic types of surrogacy agreements: compassionate and compensated. They differ mostly in financial ways. Regardless of whether you are in a compassionate or compensated surrogacy agreement, you will be responsible for medical costs relating to the surrogacy including (but not limited to): legal fees, fertility treatments, medical costs during the pregnancy, costs associated with the delivery of the baby such as the hospital stay and bills for the services of healthcare professionals like doctors or midwives. Also, you may need to pay for any lost wages of the surrogate during pregnancy and recovery.
- Compassionate Surrogacy
Compassionate surrogacy or gestational carrier agreements are surrogacy agreements in which a person offers to be a surrogate without a fee. The parent(s) of the baby pay for the expenses related to the surrogacy but there is no additional compensation for the surrogate. Usually, this type of surrogate is a family member or close friend of the parent(s).
- Compensated Surrogacy
In a compensated surrogacy or gestational carrier agreement, the surrogate is given payment for carrying the baby. This is in addition to covering medical expenses related to the pregnancy. This type of surrogate might also be a family member or friend or they might also be someone you do not know. In the case of the latter, it is strongly recommended to go through a reputable agency and not pursue this option on your own. It might seem like a way to cut costs, but an agency will help you avoid any legal complications and ensure a smooth process that can save money in the long run. And this is not really an area where cost-cutting should be top of mind.
As has been touched on before, it is critical in a surrogacy agreement to use a lawyer who specializes in the legalities of these arrangements. That includes being intimately familiar with your state’s laws regarding surrogacy. Some states are particularly surrogacy friendly while in others there are gray areas. In some states, commercial surrogacy is illegal and in others, the laws are such that the contractual agreements and terms agreed to are not enforceable. Issues can come up in relation to any financial details and can even complicate the definition of who the actual parents are. So, if you are considering surrogacy, make sure you are covered legally.
When you’re looking for a surrogate, they should meet specific requirements. This is true whether or not you know them beforehand and what kind of agreement you have. Going through an agency or fertility practice will ensure that your surrogate is medically qualified. A surrogate should meet the following requirements:
- Previously completed a successful pregnancy with full-term delivery in the past
- Excellent physical health with a BMI less than 30
- Free of infectious diseases, tobacco, alcohol, and illegal drugs
- Under the age of 38
If you are at a place in your fertility journey where you are considering surrogacy, then the team at Carolina Conceptions can help you guide you in the process with our gestational carrier program. We can help with finding a reproductive law attorney, choosing a gestational carrier, and throughout the pregnancy. To learn more, call us at (919) 782-5911 or request an appointment online.