What You Need to Know
There are several reasons to consider using a surrogate to bear your child. Male same-sex couples who want to have a biological child often use a surrogate. Some women are unable to carry and bear a child due to cancer treatment, genetic conditions, having had a hysterectomy, or medical conditions that make it dangerous for them to get pregnant. Sometimes couples use a surrogate when other fertility treatments have not been successful for them or there are problems with the female partner’s uterus. You may have heard of celebrity couples who have used surrogates, such as Jimmy Fallon and his wife Nancy Juvonen, and Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick. Here are some facts you need to know before you start on your journey to a family with a surrogate.
Two Kinds of Surrogates
A surrogate is a woman who bears a child for another person or persons. In traditional surrogacy, the surrogate is inseminated with the male parent’s sperm through IUI, intrauterine insemination. She then becomes pregnant and carries the child. The traditional surrogate is the baby’s biological mother as well as the birth parent. A gestational surrogate becomes pregnant through IVF with donor eggs. The donor eggs are fertilized with the male parent’s sperm in the lab, and embryos are transferred to the gestational surrogate’s uterus. The surrogate then carries and delivers a baby. The gestational surrogate is not the biological mother of the baby, but she is the birth mother.
What’s Legal Varies by State
Using a surrogate mother is somewhat controversial, but the actual laws differ widely from state to state. Some states forbid surrogacy altogether, such as Arizona and New York. Other states are favorable to surrogacy, with laws and/or courts upholding surrogacy agreements or pre-birth orders. New Jersey is one of the states which forbids traditional surrogacy but permits gestational surrogacy. In some states, the laws are so complicated that courts decide on a case-by-case basis. If you’re considering surrogacy it’s important to consult an attorney who is experienced in reproductive law in your state, so you can make sure your child born to a surrogate is legally recognized as yours and that you have parental rights. In some states, it is necessary to file adoption papers on your own biological child!
How to Find a Surrogate
If you live in a state where surrogacy is legal, you can ask a friend or family member to be a surrogate. Sometimes a family member will volunteer to do this for compassionate reasons. It can be tricky legally and emotionally for all parties concerned. Most people use a surrogacy agency to arrange a gestational surrogate. The agency helps you find a surrogate and makes all arrangements, including collecting any fees for the surrogate and making sure you cover her medical costs. There are over 100 surrogacy agencies in the U.S. Most fertility centers have relationships with surrogacy agencies and can help you find a surrogate through an agency. If you think you may want or need to use a surrogate, make sure you choose a fertility center which is friendly toward surrogacy and has a relationship with an agency.
Any surrogate you choose should be at least 21 years old and have already had a healthy baby, so she knows what to expect from pregnancy and delivery. She should have passed a psychological screening by a mental health professional to help make sure she won’t have issues with giving up the baby after birth. And she needs to sign a legal contract about her responsibilities during the pregnancy, and that she agrees to give up the baby after it is born. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine recommends that a surrogate have a medical exam to make sure she’s healthy and be screened for STIs and other infectious diseases. She should also be tested for immunity to measles, chicken pox, and rubella (German measles).
The cost of surrogacy varies tremendously. A major factor is whether the surrogate’s health insurance will cover her pregnancy and delivery or not, in which case you have to buy a surrogacy-pregnancy policy to cover her. You should expect to cover any medical costs related to the pregnancy and delivery which are not covered by her insurance or the surrogacy-pregnancy policy. Costs generally run from $80,000 to $140,000 and upward, including the surrogacy agency’s fee, the surrogate’s fee (if permitted in your state), the cost of insurance and other expenses for the pregnancy and delivery, the cost of IVF and donor eggs if needed, travel expenses and a monthly stipend for the surrogate.
Surrogacy is not an easy choice, but it can be the road to building a family when other options don’t fit you or aren’t available.