Getting pregnant and carrying their baby is a wonderful experience many women look forward to at least once in their lifetime. But what if you desperately want to build a family but your hectic schedule doesn’t allow you to go through the cumbersome process of pregnancy and child birth? Or let’s say, you are an actress or a model, and getting pregnant would jeopardize your career due to disfigurement of your body and other likely complications. Thanks to social surrogacy, women now have an option to let someone else (a surrogate) carry and give birth to their baby, and yet remain biological parent of the child with full legal rights.
Surrogacy is not a new concept, but conventionally, it has been used mostly in cases where a woman is not able to conceive herself due to medical reasons. What social surrogacy refers to is the rising trend of women turning to surrogacy as a matter of choice or due to non-medical reasons like career and physical appearance.
While many countries across the globe have started to open up their legal framework to make it surrogacy-friendly, note that it may still be illegal in many other countries. For instance, while the U.S. state of California allows almost all types of surrogacy (including married, unmarried, single parent, etc.), commercial surrogacy is illegal in most parts of Canada, Brazil, United Kingdom and Australia. So, be sure check out your local laws before you decide to go ahead.
What Are Different Types of Surrogacy?
There are basically two types of surrogacy:
Traditional Surrogacy: In traditional surrogacy, the surrogate acts as a biological mother and carrier of the baby. The pregnancy is usually created through intrauterine insemination (IUI) using her own egg rather than that of the intended mother or a third-party egg donor. The sperm can be from the intended father or some other male donor.
Gestational Surrogacy: In gestational surrogacy, the intended mother either uses her own egg or that from a donor. In other words, the surrogate only carries a pregnancy, which is developed without using her own egg. Such pregnancy is usually created through in-vitro fertilization (IVF). A gestational surrogate does not have any genetic connection with the baby, making her less emotionally attached to the child. This helps minimize emotional issues and legal complexities, making it a more popular option among intended parents when compared to traditional surrogacy.
In terms of monetary compensation offered to a surrogate, a surrogacy can either be altruistic or commercial.
Altruistic Surrogacy: An altruistic surrogacy is one that does not offer any additional monetary benefits to the surrogate other than reimbursing her for her medical bills and related expenses. Usually, a friend or a relative acts as a surrogate in such cases. It’s more widely accepted than commercial surrogacy, legally as well as socially. Even in countries where commercial surrogacy is banned, altruistic surrogacy is often allowed and practiced openly.
Commercial Surrogacy: As the name implies, a commercial surrogacy compensates the surrogate in monetary terms for her time and efforts used in carrying a pregnancy. The fees and financial benefits offered go much beyond the normal reimbursement of her medical expenses.
What to Look for in an Ideal Surrogate
Once you decide to build a family through social surrogacy, the next important step involves finding someone who is willing to carry the pregnancy on your behalf. If the surrogate is not one from your friends or family, you may want to take help from a surrogacy agency to find a suitable surrogate for you. Agencies often have several professional surrogates in their contact, who have undergone through their screening process and meet the prescribed criteria. These surrogates are cross-matched with your specific requirements and family situation.
Selection criteria may vary from agency to agency or on case-to-case basis, but following are some of the common qualities you should look for in an ideal surrogate:
- Must be from an age group between 21 to 39 years.
- Must have carried and delivered at least one child without any complications.
- Must not have more than five normal deliveries or two cesarean sections.
- Must have a supportive home environment.
- Must not be a heavy smoker nor have a history of drug or alcohol abuse.
- Must not have any disease or condition that may affect the health of the baby.
- Must have a sound mental health.
- Must be emotionally stable.
- Must have a sound financial background.
- Must not have any criminal history.
- Must have proper height and weight, matching with the body mass index (BMI).
What’s Expected From You as an Intended Parent?
As an intended parent, you are also expected to meet certain requirements and follow the procedures of your surrogacy agency. Most of the agencies ask you to comply with the following requirements:
- Provide your complete health history to your consultant.
- Undergo physical exams to assess your suitability for in-vitro fertilization
- Get yourself tested for certain infectious diseases and genetic disorders
- Attend counseling sessions for mental health, emotions, expectations, and other psychological issues.
- Complete legal contracts and paperwork.
How Much Does It Cost?
The cost of surrogacy depends upon a lot of factors like where you live, what type of surrogacy you use, whether you need an egg donor/sperm donor, whether your surrogate is experienced or new, etc. In the United States, surrogacy costs usually start from $90,000 and go as high as $130,000.
In addition to the base fee of around $50,000-$60,000 to be paid to the surrogate, you would be responsible for the following costs, among others:
- Surrogate matching fees
- Medical screening and background check charges for the surrogate
- Medical screening and counseling fees for the intended parents
- IVF transfer fees
- Medication, insurance, maternity clothing and other expenses for the surrogate
- Legal costs, such as attorney fees, parental rights filing fees and surrogacy trust fees
Sometimes, there may be additional costs arising out of a special situation. For example, if twins are born or the case requires cesarean delivery, you may have to pay an additional sum to cover the associated expenses. Make sure you check out such details with your agency and include necessary provisions in the surrogacy agreement. It will help you minimize surprises at a time when all you are looking forward to is celebrating the arrival of your new bundle of joy!