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Surrogacy 101: Unlocking What Is Surrogacy and How Does It Work?

Surrogacy 101: Unlocking What Is Surrogacy and How Does It Work?

As the fragrant buds burst open, the flowers begin to bloom, and the world is filled with new life, surrogacy offers a unique and modern path for singles and couples to grow their families. But before diving into the details, let’s explore what surrogacy is and how it works.

Intended parents come from all different backgrounds — many are single fathers and mothers or same–sex couples who are eager to start a family, while others have struggled for years with infertility without positive results. Some intended parents are coming from a partial or total hysterectomy and have no uterus to carry, some cannot carry a pregnancy to term, some had multiple reproductive surgeries in the past, and some are exhausted by countless rounds of IVF. Yet, despite their diverse backgrounds and unique circumstances, all intended parents share a common desire to expand their families. For these singles and couples, surrogacy makes this dream possible.

What Is Surrogacy?

Surrogacy is a beautiful and transformative journey that brings prospective surrogate mothers and aspiring intended parents together in this collaborative process of creating and bringing new life into the world and forming bonds that will last forever. 

Gestational vs. Traditional Surrogacy: Understanding the Difference

When it comes to the genetic link between the surrogate mother and the baby she carries, there are two types of surrogacy: traditional and gestational. 

Nowadays, almost all intended parents choose gestational surrogacy or one in which the surrogate mother is not related to the baby she is carrying. Instead, an embryo is created at a fertility clinic with the intended parents’ egg and sperm (or with a donor egg fertilized by the intended father’s sperm, or with the intended mother’s egg fertilized with donor sperm, or with double gamete donation) and is then transferred into the surrogate mother’s uterus. Therefore, a surrogate mother’s lack of genetic link ensures she has no parental rights to take custody of a child after they are born.

Traditional surrogacy involves a surrogate mother who is genetically related to the child she is carrying, as her eggs are used in embryo creation. She either has her eggs harvested for the IVF process or is artificially inseminated with the intended father’s sperm via IUI, or, in some cases, the donor’s sperm is used to fertilize the surrogate mother’s eggs. When the baby is born, she will likely need to sign her consent to have her parental rights terminated, and the intended parents will need to adopt the baby. This type of surrogacy is less common today due to the potential legal and emotional complications that may arise. As the surrogate mother is genetically related to the child, there may be legal battles over custody and parental rights. Additionally, the emotional toll of carrying a child for nine months and then giving them up for adoption can be challenging for the surrogate mother.

In contrast, gestational surrogacy provides a clear separation between the surrogate mother and the intended parents, allowing for a smoother and less complicated process. Using of the intended parents’ egg and sperm or the donor’s gametes in IVF and an embryo transfer ensures that the surrogate mother has no genetic link to the child, eliminating any potential legal disputes over custody. Additionally, intended parents can be more involved in the pregnancy and childbirth process, which can be a meaningful and positive experience for everyone involved.

Why Gestational Surrogacy Is the Preferred Choice for Intended Parents?

For almost all intended parents and surrogate mothers, gestational surrogacy is a perfect choice because of the safer process to pursue, both legally and medically. Unlike traditional surrogacy, gestational surrogacy does not involve a genetic relationship between the surrogate mother and the baby she carries, reducing the potential for legal complications and emotional attachments. Traditional surrogacy is subject to adoption laws in some countries and states, which can create legal challenges for intended parents. Moreover, the surrogate mother in traditional surrogacy may become emotionally attached to the baby, leading to challenging and emotional situations.

While gestational surrogacy is the preferred option, there are a few cases where traditional surrogacy may be the best choice for starting or expanding a family, such as when the surrogate is related to the intended parents or when an egg donor cannot be found. However, in most cases, surrogacy professionals recommend gestational surrogacy for its safety and reliability.

Understanding Gestational Surrogacy: Definition and Benefits

Gestational surrogacy, also known as “host surrogacy” or “full surrogacy”, is a type of surrogacy where the surrogate mother, referred to as a “gestational carrier”, is not biologically related to the child. Instead, an embryo is created through in vitro fertilization (IVF) using the intended parents’ or donors’ eggs and sperm in the IVF lab, and then transferred to the surrogate mother’s uterus. This type of surrogacy is less legally complicated than traditional surrogacy because adoption is typically not required after the baby is born.

Gestational surrogacy may be considered by singles or couples who have medical conditions that prevent them from carrying a pregnancy, have struggled with infertility, are aspiring single parents or same–sex couples, do not want a genetic link between the surrogate mother and their child, or are unable to carry a pregnancy to term safely.

How Does Gestational Surrogacy Work?

Gestational surrogacy is a complex process that typically involves three main stages: finding a gestational carrier, completing legal contracts, and transferring the embryo to the surrogate mother. Intended parents may choose to pursue independent surrogacy with an attorney specializing in assisted reproductive law or work with a full–service surrogacy agency to help them find a gestational carrier. Once a match has been identified, both parties will work with attorneys to discuss legal risks and responsibilities, as well as compensation for the surrogate mother. A fertility clinic will handle the IVF and embryo transfer process, using the intended parents’ or donors’ eggs and sperm to create an embryo. The surrogate mother will carry the baby to term, and the intended parents will have full legal custody when the child is born. It’s important to note that the process may vary based on country or state laws and individual circumstances. 

Laws and Legal Considerations in Gestational Surrogacy

Surrogacy is a relatively new option, and the laws surrounding it are complex and currently undergoing changes. Some countries have recently introduced their own laws regarding surrogacy, while others have established laws for some time and are analyzing their effectiveness. In some countries where surrogacy was once legal, it has since become prohibited. Additionally, some countries have always banned surrogacy and have not changed their laws. That is why it is highly recommended that intended parents and surrogate mothers each have their own legal counsel to guide them through the process and protect their rights.

While surrogacy law can be complicated, the legal process for gestational surrogacy is often simpler than for traditional surrogacy. In gestational surrogacy, one or both parents are usually biologically related to the child, simplifying custody issues.

Each country or state determines surrogacy laws, and certain countries or states do not allow surrogacy at all. Therefore, before embarking on a surrogacy journey, intended parents are strongly advised to consult with a surrogacy professional or attorney who can explain the gestational surrogacy laws and assist with completing the surrogacy process, regardless of where the intended parents live.

How Much Is Gestational Surrogacy?

Gestational surrogacy costs depend on many factors. Surrogacy can be a long and demanding process that involves many types of professionals, advanced medical technology and a yearlong commitment from a woman who is willing to carry a baby for another family.

In general, the total cost of gestational surrogacy can range from $50,000–$250,000. This total cost accounts for all necessary medical expenses, attorney fees, counseling costs, agency fees, and surrogate living expenses and compensation. Many of these expenses are variable; for example, the surrogate mother’s monthly allowance may vary based on where she lives, and attorney fees may differ depending on state laws and legal processes.

In addition, insurance may not cover the medical expenses for intended parents and their surrogates, and there are fewer financing options available to intended parents than to adoptive families. Therefore, intended parents should work closely with their surrogacy professional to determine a more accurate figure of the cost of their surrogacy and budget accordingly.

Factors That Affect the Total Cost of Gestational Surrogacy

The cost of gestational surrogacy is influenced by various factors, including the involvement of multiple professionals, advanced medical technology, and a 9–month commitment from a surrogate mother.

Generally, the total cost of gestational surrogacy ranges from $50,000 to $250,000. This fee covers all medical expenses, attorney fees, counseling costs, agency fees, and the surrogate mother’s living expenses and compensation. The cost of some of these expenses can vary, such as the IVF add–ons (as some rounds may include double ovarian stimulation and multiple egg retrievals, traveling egg donor expenses or shipping the donor’s eggs from abroad, generation of several embryonic cohorts, preimplantation genetic testing and vitrification, freezing the intended mother’s eggs while waiting for sperm donor shipping, rescheduling the next round of stimulation for intended mother if no viable oocytes were retrieved (and she wishes to try again), and many other things), surrogate mother’s monthly allowance, which may depend on her location, and attorney fees, which may vary depending on country/state laws and legal processes.

Moreover, insurance may not cover the medical expenses of intended parents and surrogate mothers. Most insurance plans don’t cover Egg Donation or Genetic Testing. Some plans may cover one or two rounds of IVF. Some health insurance plans for surrogate mothers may cover only medical expenses related to the surrogate pregnancy. Financing options available to intended parents are fewer than those available to adoptive families. Intended parents are advised to work closely with their surrogacy professional to get a precise cost estimate and plan their budget accordingly.

Pros and Cons of Gestational Surrogacy

While gestational surrogacy is a smart option among intended parents, it comes with both advantages and disadvantages that should be considered. Here are some of the most common benefits (Pros) and challenges (Cons) of choosing gestational surrogacy:

Surrogacy Pros

  • Surrogacy breaks all kinds of infertility barriers that intended parents may face. 
  • Gestational surrogacy enables single parents and infertile couples to have children and build their families.
  • Intended parents are involved in every aspect of the surrogacy journey, starting from conception.
  • Gestational surrogacy allows intended parents to maintain a genetic link to their child.
  • Surrogacy allows intended parents to raise their child from birth, providing them with a unique and intimate experience.
  • The legal aspects of gestational surrogacy are generally less complex than traditional surrogacy, as the baby is not biologically related to the surrogate mother.
  • Compared to adoption, surrogacy may offer more flexibility, enabling intended parents who are ineligible to adopt to explore surrogacy as an option.
  • Intended parents who pursue surrogacy can establish a close bond with their surrogate mother, fostering a special connection during the surrogacy journey.
  • Surrogate mothers have previously carried successful pregnancies to term, increasing the likelihood of a successful surrogate pregnancy.
  • Surrogacy gives intended parents greater control and peace of mind throughout the pregnancy than with other fertility treatments or adoption.

Surrogacy Cons

  • Surrogacy is generally legally intricate and financially costly.
  • Surrogacy is prohibited in many countries, meaning that intended parents may have to travel abroad to start a surrogacy journey.
  • Travel costs can add up quickly, especially if the intended parents need to make multiple trips to a foreign country for medical procedures or to be present for the birth of their child.
  • Laws and regulations regarding surrogacy can vary widely from country to country, and intended parents may face legal challenges when navigating the surrogacy process abroad. There may also be difficulties with obtaining legal parentage or citizenship for the child.
  • Intended parents may face a language barrier with their surrogate mother, medical professionals, and other service providers in a foreign country.
  • Surrogacy may not be covered by insurance, making it an additional financial burden for the intended parents.
  • Surrogacy can be an emotionally challenging experience for everyone involved.
  • The process of finding and selecting a suitable surrogate can be time–consuming and stressful.
  • If the intended mother uses her own eggs in surrogacy, she will have to undergo fertility treatment and other medical procedures.
  • Limited control: intended parents may feel a lack of control over the surrogacy process when it is taking place in a foreign country, as they may not be able to be physically present for important medical appointments or to oversee the surrogate mother’s care.


Wrapping Things Up

In conclusion, gestational surrogacy can be a viable option for intended parents who are unable to conceive and carry a child on their own. It allows them to have a genetic connection to their child and be involved in the pregnancy and birth process. However, the process of surrogacy can be emotionally, physically, and financially challenging. It is crucial to consider all the pros and cons before embarking on a surrogacy journey, whether domestically or abroad. It is essential to work with experienced and reputable surrogacy professionals to navigate the legal and medical aspects of the process. With proper planning and support, gestational surrogacy can provide a path to parenthood for those who need it.

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