So, you’re wondering if a woman can carry another woman’s egg. The answer is YES! This is a medical procedure known as gestational surrogacy. So, learn everything you need to know about surrogacy and the egg donation procedure if you’re interested in having a child through a surrogate mother. This post deeply explains what it entails and how it works.
Surrogacy and How It Works, Explained
Surrogacy is an artificial reproduction process in which a third party (the surrogate mother) carries and nurtures a child in her womb for another woman or couple unable to conceive naturally for various reasons. We also refer to this as “assisted reproduction” or “third-party reproduction.”
We call it assisted or third-party reproduction due to the unique nature of the procedure. Usually, the process involves the prospective parents (individuals or couples who cannot have children naturally) and the egg and sperm donors.
Skilled medical professionals facilitate this process. And legal agreements are typically in place between all parties to avoid any future legal issues. Also, there’s usually an agreed-upon compensation for the surrogate mother at the end of the conception period and the child’s birth.
Furthermore, doctors perform a medical diagnosis on the surrogate mother before the surrogacy process begins to identify any genetic disorders or infectious diseases that may negatively impact the unborn child’s health. As we dive deeper into the different types of surrogacy, you’ll fully understand the different types of surrogacy and what each type means for you.
Types of Surrogacy: Which Is Best for You?
When it comes to having children through surrogacy, prospective parents have two options: conventional/traditional surrogacy and gestational surrogacy.
- Traditional/Conventional Surrogacy
This method involves infusing sperm from a sperm donor into the surrogate mother’s womb to fertilize her eggs. Any male willing to donate his sperm or the prospective father could be the sperm donor.
Likewise, the surrogate mother donates her eggs and womb/uterus for fertilization. So, what does this type of surrogacy mean for you?
The implication is that the intended mother won’t be biologically related to the child since the eggs fertilized into a baby came from the surrogate mother. Even more, if both the egg and the sperm come from third parties, the intended parent won’t be the child’s biological parent.
Overall, traditional surrogacy involves a simple fertilization process. However, the child would have the donor or surrogate’s genetic qualities. Therefore, it is important to check for genetic disorders and other related diseases when selecting a surrogate (egg or sperm donor).
- Gestational Surrogacy
An IVF procedure uses in vitro fertilization to artificially fertilize an egg with sperm from a donor into an embryo in the womb or uterus of a surrogate (the woman who will carry the pregnancy). The sperm and egg donors could be the intended parents or any male and female willing to donate their eggs or sperm.
In this case, the surrogate won’t be the child’s biological mother. So, if the parents of the child being carried by the surrogate want to have a biological connection to the child, they should provide the surrogate with their sperm and eggs to fertilize.
Above all, gestational surrogacy involves a lot of complicated processes like IVF, gestation, embryo transfer, etc. Therefore, it’s best to consult a professional for this process.
Notwithstanding, gestational surrogacy has proven to be the most viable option for intending parents or individuals looking to raise a family through surrogacy.
Why Gestational Surrogacy May Be the Best Option for Surrogacy
1. It Affords People With Biological or Health Complications the Ability to Raise Children Naturally
This is one of the main perks of gestational surrogacy. Some individuals, couples, or aspiring parents may be unable to birth a child naturally for one reason or another.
Some of these people could include:
- Individuals who have decided not to have a sexual partner but want to have children.
- People who lack the ability to carry a baby biologically (e.g., women who don’t have a uterus)
- Lesbian couples
- Transgender family
- Gay male couples
- People who have exceeded the natural/biological age of giving birth naturally
- People living with medical conditions such as cancer, kidney disease, diabetes, fibroids, heart failure, etc.
However, thanks to gestational surrogacy, people in this category can have children by donating their gametes (sperm or egg cells) to a surrogate to have a child.
2. It Allows You to Have a Baby That’s Genetically Related to the Parent
Unlike traditional surrogates, gestational surrogacy allows an intended parent to get a baby that’s genetically related to them by allowing them to use their sperm and/or eggs for the artificial reproduction procedure.
3. Gestational Surrogacy Reassures Intended Parents of the Genetic/Biological Makeup of the Baby
One of the major concerns prospective parents have about surrogacy is having a baby that shares genes with a stranger. If this is you, you need not worry about this because gestational surrogacy makes it possible to have a surrogate baby that shares all of your genetic properties.
However, the intended parents would need to be the sole donors of the gametes for this to happen.
4. It Reduces the Risks of the Surrogate Mother Laying Claims to the Baby in the Future
This is another major challenge with surrogacy. In some instances, surrogate mothers have been known to breach the terms of the surrogate contract and lay claim to the child in the future.
However, in situations where the child is genetically related to the parents (such as in gestational surrogacy), the surrogate mother cannot claim to be the child’s biological parent.
Benefits and Risks of Surrogacy in General
Undoubtedly, surrogacy has helped many aspiring parents fulfill their wish to have a baby and grow their family. In fact, a study reveals that about 750 families in the U.S., including many influential personalities, have their babies through gestational surrogacy. In addition to that, surrogacy offers the following benefits for the intended parent:
1. Helps Prospective Parents to Be Actively Involved and Monitor All Stages of the Baby’s Growth and Development
This is arguably one of the best parts of surrogacy. You get to actively participate in the fetus’ early development until birth.
Depending on the contract or agreement signed by all parties involved in the process, the intended parent and surrogate ought to meet several times throughout the whole procedure until the delivery of the baby. This can be very reassuring for the intended parents and the surrogate.
2. Higher Success Rates Than Some Fertility Treatments
There have been instances where couples trying to build a family undergo several fertility treatments only to experience miscarriage after finally conceiving. This usually leaves the couple devastated and disappointed.
However, this is less likely to happen with surrogacy because surrogates are usually women with clean medical records and a history of at least one successful pregnancy. Thus, this increases the success rate of the surrogacy procedure.
3. Freedom to Choose Who’ll Be Your Surrogate
Once you’re ready to build a family through surrogacy, you’ll need to go to the appropriate agency and fill out an application. Afterward, you’ll be given a list of pre-vetted surrogate candidates from which you can choose based on their profiles.
More so, you can meet your preferred surrogate in person to get a sense of their personality before moving forward with the process. This allows you to choose the right person to carry your baby.
But with all these benefits, surrogacy has its own unique set of challenges.
1. Surrogacy Can Be Quite Costly
One of the questions prospective parents often ask when considering surrogacy is: “How much does it cost?” Unfortunately, the surrogacy procedure costs between $350,000 and $900,000.
This could be the cost of legal fees, medical procedures, and the surrogates’ compensation. It might cost more in some regions, especially in countries where surrogacy is common, and surrogates are in high demand.
Overall, the high cost of this procedure can be a huge discouraging factor for many intended parents.
2. It Can Be Very Complicated
Surrogacy can be both medically and legally complicated. First off, surrogacy involves several rigorous medical procedures, especially gestational surrogacy. There will be several medical diagnoses to conduct and medical conditions or regulations to adhere to for the process to work.
The legal processes can also be mentally, physically, and financially exhausting. Aside from the compensation for the gestational carrier/surrogate, you’ll also need to pay some legal fees throughout the entire process.
All of this can make surrogacy an overwhelming process. Nonetheless, its benefits outweigh the challenges, as it has offered many couples and intended parents the hope to bear children and raise a family.
Surrogacy vs Adoption; Which Is Ideal for You?
The chances are that you may be contemplating adoption and surrogacy. Both processes are effective ways to fulfill your desire to become a parent. Therefore, deciding which one to go for may not be an easy decision to make.
However, by examining the key differences between both processes, you’ll be able to make an informed decision on which process is best for you.
Genetic/Biological Connection With the Child
Not being genetically connected to a child may not matter much to some intended or adoptive parents. However, some may prefer sharing some genetic or physical similarities with a child born through a third party.
Overall, genetic relations should not affect the bond between the child and the adoptive/intended parent. It should be more about individual preferences.
Can you afford the financial responsibility required to fulfill your dreams of becoming a parent? Both options will require a significant financial investment, but one is more expensive than the other.
Surrogacy will require you to compensate the surrogate mother financially. The compensation price may vary depending on the country and the surrogate’s demands.
In addition to that, you’ll need to pay the medical bills associated with the fertilization process and other pregnancy-related expenses until after delivery.
Adoption would also cost you, but not as much as surrogacy. Of course, you’ll be required to pay the pregnancy-related costs, and in some cases, the birth mother may place a special financial demand on the adoptive parent.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to think carefully about how much you can spend and make a decision that’s best for you.
It may take prospective parents one to three years to process surrogacy or adoption. This time frame usually covers the application process, matching the surrogate or donor with the intended parent, and the conception and birth of the child.
Although some variables (unexpected factors) may make the process take longer than usual, some processes may be naturally longer than others.
For instance, with surrogacy, the intended parents often have to pick from a list of pre-screened candidates. This can make matchmaking much easier and speed up the entire process.
In contrast, in adoption, the potential birth mother may take some time to decide to put her child up for adoption and choose the ideal family. Again, it all boils down to your personal preferences.
When planning for adoption or surrogacy, it’s always best to consider the possibility of the third party making future contact with the child so you can take precautionary measures.
With surrogacy, there are not many biological ties with the surrogate. This is because one or both of the intended parents may donate their sperm or egg for the process. Due to this, the surrogate can not lay claim to the baby in the future.
However, with adoption, despite legal agreements, the birth mother may change her mind and request that the adoption be revoked. Although most agencies take precautionary measures against this to safeguard their clients, scenarios like this could nonetheless lead to prolonged legal issues.
Finally, surrogacy gives you more control over who will be your gestational carrier. However, with adoption, it is vice versa: the biological mother decides whom to give her child to.
Ultimately, both surrogacy and adoption are ideal options for having a baby when you can’t have one naturally. So, the best one for you would be what your unique preferences are in relation to the factors discussed above.
Complex Terms Explained
- Egg Donor
An egg donor is a woman who has agreed to voluntarily give her eggs to help someone who can’t have a child naturally. Now, the egg donor may receive monetary compensation for this act, especially if she is a complete stranger to the prospective parents.
The egg donation usually follows a medical procedure whereby the egg donor takes certain medications to induce her body to produce multiple eggs at once (in a single cycle). These eggs are then extracted from the ovaries to be used for the artificial fertilization process.
Sometimes, the egg donor would donate her eggs and her womb/uterus for fertilization. In other instances, the eggs are fertilized in another woman’s womb (the surrogate) or outside the womb through a process called IVF.
- Donor Sperm
This is a sperm cell or semen from a healthy male individual that would be used for reproductive purposes, especially for individuals or couples having trouble with reproduction. People looking for donor sperm can use an anonymous donor or someone they know and trust.
In most cases, the second option is often preferable for the health and well-being of the unborn child.
- Gestational Carrier/Gestational Surrogate
This is simply a woman who has undergone the gestational surrogacy process and is pregnant with a child that isn’t hers. As the name implies, she carries the baby for the intended parent.
Basically, eggs and sperm from an egg donor, either anonymous donors or the intended parent, would be fertilized into an embryo in the lab through IVF. The embryo is then transferred into her uterus so she can carry the baby to full term.
In this case, the gestational carrier or gestational surrogate will have no biological connection to the child.
- Reciprocal IVF Procedure
Reciprocal IVF, also known as in vitro fertilization, is a unique reproductive process that allows female same-sex couples (lesbians) to have their own biological children. In this procedure, one woman becomes the egg donor while the other partner becomes the gestational carrier.
The eggs are fertilized artificially with donated sperm from a sperm donor. Then, the resulting embryo is infused into the gestational carrier’s (the other female partner’s) womb.
Thanks to IVF, lesbian couples can break the natural reproductive law and have children of their own.
Gametes are simply “sex” or “reproductive” sex cells. The male gametes are called sperm cells, while the female gametes are called eggs.
We use this word to describe an individual who replaces or fulfills the role of another person. In assisted reproductive technology or reproductive medicine, the term “surrogate” describes a woman who carries a pregnancy for another woman.
- Intended Parent/Prospective Parent
This describes an individual, heterosexual couple, or same-sex couple who cannot conceive biologically for one reason or another. As a result, they’ve decided to raise a family via either traditional surrogacy or a gestational carrier.
- Adoptive Parent
This could be an individual or a couple deciding to legally adopt a child due to certain restrictions on their ability to reproduce naturally. The adoption process could take two forms: the adoptive parents could legally adopt a grown child or a newborn baby.
The latter is what we’ve referred to in the surrogacy vs. adoption section above.
- Birth Mother
This describes someone who gives birth to a child. In reference to assisted reproductive technology, the birth mother isn’t necessarily the baby’s biological mother, as we have seen that a woman can carry another person’s child through in vitro fertilization (IVF).
Formerly, having children was almost a social obligation, and adoption was the only option for those who couldn’t conceive. Thanks to assisted reproductive technology’s advancement, anyone can have children biologically, regardless of medical conditions.
So, whether you’re a heterosexual couple or a same-sex couple, or someone who can’t give birth naturally without complications, surrogacy allows you to become a parent and have your own child or children.