For a lot of couples struggling with infertility, surrogacy is the only option to have a biological child, even if the genetic link is present only with one of the intended parents.
Surrogacy is also a long and challenging journey with many intricacies that have to be studied properly to ensure you have the right understanding of every process ‒ medical and legal.
So, what is surrogacy?
Generally speaking, surrogacy is a process of in-vitro fertilization followed by embryo transplantation inside the surrogate mother’s womb and the birth of the child.
Every surrogacy program has many stages, both medical and legal:
Medical procedures that both surrogate and intended parents have to go through include full medical evaluation. Also, intended parents have to provide genetic material ‒ sperm and eggs (donated eggs as an alternative). From the surrogate’s point of view, there is a process of gestational preparation of the surrogate’s body followed by embryo transplantation. The surrogate also has to be under close medical supervision until the early neonatal period.
Legal procedures include surrogacy contract creation and signing, parental rights legislation, and getting the birth certificate. These are very important stages that most times require help from a surrogacy lawyer.
Gestational surrogacy vs. a traditional one
There are many ways to describe surrogacy inside that wide term, depending on the process used to produce the embryo, if the surrogate is paid or not, and so on. A few most common forms of surrogacy are described below:
- Gestational surrogacy. This choice of treatment involves a surrogate getting pregnant and giving birth to a child on behalf of a couple. When a child is conceived through gestational surrogacy, the woman (also known as a gestational carrier), who is not the child’s biological parent, carries and delivers the child.
- Traditional surrogacy. In this method of family planning, a woman who has genetic relation to the child agrees to carry the pregnancy to term for the intended parents. This also means a surrogate is recognized as a biological mother to the child.
Note that traditional surrogacy is forbidden in most countries, as well as in Ukraine that provide surrogacy services as this kind of program negatively affects the mental health of the intended parents, the surrogate, and the child that is born as a result of the program. Traditional surrogacy can also cause a lot of legal conflicts, so it is only logical that most countries legalize only the gestational one.
Compensated surrogacy vs. uncompensated
Now, this classification is easier. Compensated surrogacy means that the surrogate mother gets compensated for her services, and every spending related to the program is covered by the intended parents. These spendings include medications, maternity house stay, travel expenses to the clinic, and additional expenses.
Uncompensated surrogacy means the opposite ‒ the surrogate mother gets compensated only for medical expenses and nothing more.
Compensated surrogacy is more widespread, and it’s logical if you think of it: 9 months of carrying a child and giving birth to it are worth compensation as this period heavily affects a woman’s health.
The main points of the surrogacy journey
So, how is it all done?
The first objective is to get the surrogate pregnant after she signs the contract and agrees to provide such services.
In order to do that, intended parents have to provide genetic material ‒ eggs and sperm cells. In some cases, the woman from the couple receives ovulation stimulation medications to produce more eggs, but if the quality of eggs is considered to be poor, the couple can choose an egg donor and use donated eggs.
Then, the surrogate mother receives special treatment that prepares her womb for implantation. All the while, the egg gets fertilized and is stored at cold temperatures until the embryo is ready for implantation. After it gets implanted, the pregnancy begins.
As for what happens to the remaining embryos, the choice is up to the couple. If the pregnancy results in a birth of a healthy child, the intended parents can opt for either storing the embryos in a cryo chamber or getting rid of them.
Of course, to ensure the birth of a completely healthy child, not only intended parents have to go through a thorough medical evaluation. The surrogate mother has to complete it, too, and fit other requirements all the while:
- the surrogate has to have at least one healthy child of her own;
- she has to pass the psychological evaluation;
- she has to be under the age of 35;
- also, the surrogate has to have no genetic ties to the intended parents.
Other factors such as health conditions, bad habits, and hereditary diseases are also taken into consideration ‒ the perfect candidate for surrogacy must be in excellent health state and be physically and emotionally able to carry the child to term.