One in five couples struggles with fertility issues at some point in their lives. The journey that couples must go through to contend with these issues is often an arduous one. It’s incredibly stressful and can become incredibly overwhelming. With advancements in technology and litigation, there is a multitude of options available. This is for almost every couple and almost every problem. Finding the best solution for you and your family will start with having a discussion with your fertility care team. If surrogacy is a choice that you may be facing, you should do one thing first. Knowing what is available and familiarizing yourself with common terms can help make conversations easier and problems feel more manageable.
What is Surrogacy?
Surrogacy is the process by which a couple that cannot have a child naturally requires the help of another woman to carry their child for them. Most problems are due to medical constraints or other reasons. Surrogacy is a common solution to many fertility issues. With most of the intended mothers being unable to safely carry a child to term within their own womb.
A surrogate mother has her womb implanted with an embryo following In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). Once the embryo or sperm has been implanted, and pregnancy is confirmed, the surrogate undergoes regular health checks to ensure that the child is maturing properly. Delivery is performed similarly to any other pregnancy, and the resulting child is then given to the intended parents.
What Types of Surrogacy Are There?
You may be surprised to discover that there are actually many different types of surrogacy. From how the surrogate mother is chosen, to what type of genetic material is used, what procedures are performed to impregnate the mother, how the surrogate mother is compensated, and finally whether or not the surrogate mother will reside in your home state or country. All of these factors contribute to “what type” of surrogacy is being performed. Here, we break down the two main types of genetic surrogacy, the two main types of surrogacy payment considerations, and finally, the place of where the surrogacy will be completed. If you’d like to learn more about specific medical procedures that are involved in the surrogate process, please check out our article on what fertility treatments are available.
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Surrogacy Genetics: Traditional vs. Gestational Surrogacy
In general, there are two main types of genetic surrogacy. Gestational and Traditional. Each type of surrogacy can involve mitigating factors should gamete donation be required.
Traditional surrogacy is a trend that is slowly losing steam as medical procedures, and legal rulings, advance.
It is a process by which the surrogate mother is artificially inseminated by the intended father. This artificial insemination can be done at home or performed in a lab setting with treatments like IUI.
In traditional surrogacy, half of the genetic material for the child is supplied by the surrogate mother herself. Before advancements in IVF and other fertility treatments, this was the only method of surrogacy that was available.
Traditional surrogacy has lost much of its popularity in recent years and is found to be more complicated and difficult to legislate the child’s rightful parents when the surrogate mother’s genetic material is used.
Gestational surrogacy is when genetic material from both intended parents are combined in a lab setting and then implanted in the surrogate mother’s womb using IVF procedures. In cases where one parent cannot provide genetic material, a donated material can be used instead.
Gestational surrogacy is quickly becoming the gold standard of all surrogacy procedures. In some countries, contemporary laws generally place the child in the custody of whoever’s genetic material is supplied to the gamete itself and their names are issued in the birth certificate. In gestational surrogacy, none of the child’s genetic material is linked to the surrogate mother, so it’s much easier to litigate the child’s rightful custody.
Advancements in technology allow any genetic material that is supplied for IVF procedures to be screened for possible genetic anomalies or diseases. This is called Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD). This can help ensure the health of your future child in a way that cannot be determined when using traditional surrogacy methods.
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Gamete donation is used when genetic material from either the intended mother or father (i.e. Sperm or Egg) or both is not viable or is unavailable. This can happen for many reasons. When the genetic material from either parent cannot be suitably produced, donor material is then used. Egg and sperm donations are becoming increasingly common and have similar success rates to using genetic material from either parent. The need for donated genetic material, however, may increase the cost of the surrogacy process and usability for surrogacy will depend on the legislation of the Intended Parents country of origin.
Surrogacy Payment: Compensated vs. Altruistic
While the expenses incurred in any one surrogate program can vary widely depending on a multitude of factors, there are two main avenues that can be financially pursued with surrogacy. Depending on what laws govern your home country, only compensated or altruistic surrogacy may be allowed.
Altruistic surrogacy is a type of payment structure that some countries, like Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, only allow.
This kind of surrogacy is defined as a traditional or gestational surrogacy. Which means the surrogate mother can receive no compensation for carrying the child. The laws that govern your country will dictate any expenses that the surrogate mother can claim as reimbursable. Although she is not entitled to any compensation for her personal time or effort.
Compensated surrogacy is a type of payment structure that allows the surrogate mother to be entitled to a previously agreed upon sum, that compensates her for her time and effort spent in carrying the child. This sum of money is in excess of any medical or living expenses that may be incurred throughout the pregnancy. Compensated surrogacy is generally the preferred method in countries that allow such a thing. The surrogate mother is then compensated for her time and intended parents do not feel unnecessarily indebted to the surrogate mother.
Surrogacy Completion: International vs. Domestic
Whether you will be seeking a surrogate mother that hails from your home country/state, or abroad, will depend heavily on financial and legal constraints that are unique to you and your family.
Many countries around the world have strict laws regulating what types of surrogacy they allow. Especially on how those resultant children are relocated to their intended parents’ home country. Countries that are known for surrogacy-friendly laws, such as Ukraine, are excellent choices for any couple considering utilizing the help of an international surrogate. International surrogacy is an optimum choice for many couples. This is because surrogacy programs in other countries may prove to be much cheaper.
Ensure that any international surrogacy program complies with laws that are relevant to both the country that the surrogate mother resides in, as well as any laws that are applicable to the home countries of the intended parents.
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Domestic surrogacy is the go-to choice for many couples who are seeking traditional surrogacy methods. It´s a pregnancy that is carried out in the intended parents’ home state/country. The laws of your home state/country will dictate whether or not domestic surrogacy is a viable option for you and your intended family.
If you’re planning on arranging your own surrogate mother it´s important to know the laws that govern this practice. And this goes for either traditional or gestational, compensated or altruistic surrogacy. Pre-birth contracts generally outline any medical care, general expenses, and reparations that are provided to the surrogate by the intended parents. They also outline the expectations that the intended parents have of the surrogate mother herself. Specifically, when choosing an international surrogate, it is strongly advised that you choose a surrogacy agency or clinic to help you and your family with the process.
Surrogacy agencies will help guide you through legal, health, and supportive matters that the surrogacy process entails. Knowing the laws regarding surrogacy in your home country can sometimes be confusing, if not entirely unintelligible. Especially when it comes to the rights of the surrogate mother and child. This difficulty can be compounded if you are planning to hire a surrogate that is living outside of your home country. Passports and travel documents for children to be able to return to their intended parents’ home country/state can be a nightmare to navigate. It´s easier with the help of a qualified agency or lawyer that has experience in arranging such matters.
Any reputable surrogacy agency will provide healthcare and regular screenings for their surrogate mothers throughout the entire pregnancy. The clinic will also have strict screening procedures that dictate who can even qualify to become a surrogate mother. Most agencies also provide surrogate mothers and intended parents with the peace of mind and emotional support throughout this process.