Surrogacy: An Intended Parents Guide for What to Expect
Planning for Parenthood
Planning for parenthood can be one of the most exciting times of your life. However, when you’re dealing with infertility, or aren’t able to conceive in the traditional sense, it's easy to think that the dream of becoming a parent is ending right in front of you. This in fact, is not the case. Conceiving naturally is not the only way to become a parent. There are many options available to you, some of which still offer a genetic connection. Let’s talk through the option of becoming a parent through surrogacy.
There are numerous ways to achieve the dream of becoming parents. Whether the intended parents are same sex couples, single people, those dealing with a long history of fertility heartache or physical health decline, or certain medications causing infertility, there are numerous instances that can be the reason which brings someone to a surrogacy journey.
What is Surrogacy: A concise definition
The official definition of surrogacy, according to the Collins Dictionary, is “an arrangement by which a woman gives birth to a baby on behalf of a woman who is physically unable to have babies herself, and then gives the baby to her.” Surrogate is often a misunderstood word. It’s used to refer to someone who carries a baby until birth for the intended parents. More often it should be referred to as a gestational carrier. A surrogate is usually only referred to as that, when the eggs belong to her, biologically, rather than the eggs of another, a donor or the intended mother’s.
When looking at surrogacy as an option to become parents, there are various terms, processes and options to understand. In this guide, we aim to equip you with all the information you need to understand surrogacy as a process and decide if it’s the right option for you. Let’s dive right in.
When considering surrogacy the main factors to consider are:
Financial security for the entire process, including any complication expenses that could arise
Full trust in the surrogate and agency you are with
A family lawyer for reassurance and ensuring all parties are well informed at all times
A support system of family and friends
How does surrogacy work?
Surrogacy works whereby a surrogate mother carries your baby to birth. There are two types of surrogacy, each involving different processes which we’ll go through a little later. Typically, surrogacy works with a female being impregnated by either an egg and sperm, or a fertilized embryo. The surrogate mother will carry the baby to term, and the child is then handed over to the intended parents. Surrogacy works through various processes, some of which include legal and of course, medical, expertise. It also requires strong support throughout the journey.
What is a surrogate mother?
In essence, a surrogate mother is an adult woman who enters into a surrogate motherhood agreement with the intended parents. Your carrier goes through the process of artificial insemination and holds either the intended parents egg and sperm, the donated egg and sperm, or the fertilized embryo and carries the baby through pregnancy and into birth. The term surrogate is used more when referring to someone who carries the baby using her own eggs for fertilisation.
Surrogacy insemination explained:
The process of surrogate insemination involves the medical insertion of the male sperm into the reproductive organs of a female for the sole purpose of creating a zygote, which then grows into a baby, who is handed over to the intended parents after birth. This can be done in two ways. Either, by placing the fertilized egg inside the womb, or placing the intended parents egg and sperm directly inside the womb.
The process of surrogate insemination includes the extraction of the eggs and the transfer of the sperm along with the fertilization of the egg. Therefore, either artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization and embryo implantation occurs.
If you’d like to hear more about the surrogacy process, feel to reach out and contact us.
Types of Surrogacy
Surrogacy is not a one size fits all process. For this purpose, we are going to be discussing the two types of surrogacy when it comes to the genetic relationship. This is a complicated medical process that has two options. The difference between the two types is the genetic relationship between the intended parents and the baby. The different types of surrogacy are available so you can find one that best suits your individual needs. Let’s explore the two types of surrogacy, and how it will affect the child's’ genetics.
Traditional surrogacy is also often called partial surrogacy. This is when the surrogate mother is also the biological mother of the baby. In this type of surrogacy, the surrogate is also the egg donor, meaning she will share a genetic relationship with the baby. In this type of surrogacy, the surrogate is impregnated through the process of artificial insemination. The intended father's sperm is medically transferred into the surrogate mothers’ womb and is considered successful through the natural process of fertilization. Traditional, or partial surrogacy is often a type chosen by intended parents who are in a same-sex relationship, or a heterosexual couple whereby the females eggs are not viable for fertilization. This is a straightforward procedure where no clinics are involved and it’s done by home insemination using kits provided after extensive health and STI checks. Tracking the surrogates cycle and using home ovulation kits are the best way to ensure the inseminations take place on the correct days of the month. Usually 2 or 3 attempts are tried each month.
Gestational surrogacy, or full surrogacy, is when the surrogate has an embryo implanted in her uterus. This means the surrogate has no genetic relationship with the baby. It is with a gestational surrogacy that the process of in vitro fertilization occurs. Gestational surrogacy is where the intended parents either may have embryos created and frozen or are planning a fresh transfer, this is also available for same sex and single intended parents by using egg/sperm donors.
In vitro fertilization is when the egg and sperm are combined outside the body. The egg is then fertilized outside the body through sophisticated medical practises which then forms an embryo which is then implanted into the gestational carrier's uterus.
Gestational surrogacy allows the intended mother to have a genetic bond to the baby. It is also a good option for intended parents who have viable embryos from past IVF (in vitro fertilization) treatments. Same sex couples who already have donated eggs also opt for full, or gestational surrogacy.
This is all carried out in a clinic and there are many requirements that need to be considered. This type of surrogacy is more of a lengthy and costly process, as well as physically demanding with the medications that are used. However some people prefer this option with the peace of mind that the baby is not biologically linked to the surrogate.
When looking at surrogacy as an option for you and your partner to grow your family, it’s completely natural to feel anxious and have many questions around potentially having a baby through surrogacy. The process of surrogacy can seem overwhelming. By having an overview of what you can expect and what steps are involved, you are able to alleviate some of the stresses and make a better informed decision. Due to its complexity, the timeline of the surrogacy process can take over a year.
We have outlined the key steps in the surrogacy journey to give you well rounded, educational insight from the decision-making phase, through pregnancy, birth and thereafter. Let’s get straight into it.
Step 1:The decision-making step
This seems like quite an obvious step to include, but it is vital that you understand the journey and level of commitment needed for surrogacy. Whether you're a couple dealing with infertility, a same-sex couple or a single parent, surrogacy can be an extremely fulfilling way to pursue the dream of parenthood. It's important to weigh up the emotional, physical and financial resources needed to start your surrogate journey, before anything else.
Step 2: Preparing to start your surrogacy journey
Once you have decided surrogacy is indeed something you would like to do, you should consider the type of surrogacy you would like to pursue. Revisit our section on types of surrogacy here. Next, is considering the type of surrogacy agency you’d like to work with who will be able to assist you through the process from beginning to end. A few other factors to consider during the preparation phase are:
Will you need an egg or a sperm donor
Do you have a carrier already
Are you financially secure to proceed
Now’s the time to reach out to your chosen surrogate professional, who will begin facilitating the surrogacy process.
Step 3: Finding your carrier
As intended parents, your surrogacy agency will be able to assist you with your full surrogacy plan. If you do not have a carrier, your surrogacy agency will begin the process of finding perspectives. This is an incredibly exciting time and, of course, a highly crucial step. Once both the prospective carrier and intended parents agree, you get to know each other and move along to step four of the process.
Step 4: The legal step
Every surrogate process will involve legal requirements. This is to protect both you, as the intended parents, and the surrogate as the carrier. The legal process consists of three main points. Namely, the surrogacy agreements, pre-birth and post-birth procedures. The legal step is a crucial one on how surrogacy works it is essentially an outline of responsibilities and expectations of all involved. Once the agreements are signed, it’s time to begin the implantation process.
Step 5: The pregnancy
Once the contracts have been signed, possibly the most exciting time of them all is pregnancy! Depending on the type of surrogate procedure you opted for, the medical procedure begins. Once a pregnancy has been confirmed, and the baby’s heartbeat is heard- the next step is being a part of the pregnancy journey together with your surrogate. Before you know it, you’ll be holding your new born baby in your arms.
Surrogacy costs explained
Another part of the surrogacy process which could be overwhelming are the costs involved. There are different types of compensation when it comes to surrogacy. We’ll explore these below. Each surrogacy is unique and there are various factors which could contribute to the costs. Let’s explore.
A surrogate claims expenses that are deemed as reasonable and fair so at know point do either the surrogate or intended parents get caught up in unfair exchanges of money or items. A surrogate's expenses vary depending on whether they work full or part time, how many children they have and the lifestyle they are making adaptations for because of the journey. Travel, childcare, loss of earnings etc are all compensated as well as expenses to cover food, maternity clothes, time attending appointments and recovering from the birth etc. An agency should remain non profit and therefore keep their fees also as reasonable and provide a service that reflects the level of support they require.
Compensated surrogacy is when the carrier is compensated over and above the medical costs/reimbursements. Agreements are put in place during the legal phase agreeing on an amount to be paid to the surrogate upon the baby's birth. This is done prior to beginning their journey.
Altruistic surrogacy is when the surrogate carries the baby with no additional compensation above the medical care. In most cases this type of surrogacy occurs when the intended parents have a close friend or family member willing to be their carrier. It’s still important that they get just the same support and guidance.
How much does Surrogacy cost
As mentioned, there are various factors to keep in mind when looking at the costs of surrogacy. Depending on the type of surrogacy you’re interested in moving forward with there will be different costs attached to the process. Below are four main points that will need to be factored in:
Surrogacy agency fees
Surrogate mother compensation if applicable
Medical procedure fee- IVF cycle fee or fertility clinic fees
Legal fees for surrogacy agreements
Additional medical costs during and after pregnancy
A baseline estimate idea can be anywhere from $45 000 - $100 000 or £20,000-£40,000 in the U.K.
Surrogacy Legal factors to consider
Depending on the type of surrogacy you opt for, there will be different legal factors to consider. There are orders such as the pre-birth contract, expediting the post birth legal process- which is what legally lets the intended parents leave the hospital with the baby. Gestational law is different to traditional law. In some cases, these can be affected by state regulations. This is why having a professional in the surrogacy field is so important. To guide you through the various legal processes required throughout the surrogacy journey.
In the case of surrogacy, parental order is a court order which makes the intended parents the legal parents of the child born through surrogacy, leaving no parental or other rights to the surrogate carrier. This can be applied for once the baby is 6 weeks old and before the baby is 6 months
In some cases, the need for a post-birth adoption process should be out in place too. This would be necessary when one of the intended parents aren’t genetically linked to the child of surrogacy.
Most common surrogacy questions
There may still be some questions left to answer. We’ve included this section to cover some of the more frequently asked questions, and their answers.
Will my baby be related to the surrogate?
This is dependent on the type of surrogacy. If you choose gestational surrogacy, the answer is no. If you go with traditional surrogacy, then the carrier will also be the biological mother of the child.
What are the risks associated with surrogacy?
Just like traditional pregnancy, surrogacy also carries the same risks. Physically, there could be pregnancy complications just like there could be in a traditional sense. In the agreement all risks are explained in detail.
What is the success rate of surrogacy?
In the USA, there is about a 75% success rate of pregnancy. That statistic goes up to 95% once the carrier is pregnant.
Does insurance cover surrogacy?
Generally, medical insurance does not cover surrogacy costs.
Surrogacy is an incredible option for those wanting to grow their family, but encounter difficulties doing so traditionally. It can be extremely fulfilling for both the carrier and the intended parents to embark on such a meaningful journey together.
Although as with any fertility or conception journey it can be a rollercoaster of emotions and ups and downs however it truly is an amazing experience to watch and be a part of there is no greater gift than completing a family.