Surrogacy is becoming a popular option for people who wish to have children or start a family. Since the first successful surrogacy in the 1980s, so much has changed regarding the surrogacy process. Technological and medical advancements have made surrogacy safer and more efficient. Moreover, laws concerning the practice have become less ambiguous in many places.
There are no federal laws concerning surrogacy in the US; however, some states have laws to guide surrogacy. Thus, surrogacy is legal in some states and regulated or outrightly banned in other states. If you are considering taking the surrogacy route in your fertility journey, it is vital that you know the options available to you.
There are basically two types of surrogacy, depending on the fertilization method or the child’s biological relations. However, there are a few other types of surrogacy based on factors like compensation and surrogate acquisition.
Gestational and Traditional Surrogacy
There are two categories of surrogacy – gestational and traditional. These refer to the formation of the embryo and its biological relations to the surrogate mother.
What Is Traditional Surrogacy?
Traditional surrogacy involves fertilizing the surrogate’s eggs with sperm from a sperm donor or intending father. In this type of surrogacy, the surrogate mother is also the child’s biological mother. Her eggs are fertilized by sperm from the intending father or donor.
This kind of surrogacy is often called straight surrogacy, as the surrogate is also the “egg donor”. In the case of traditional surrogacy, a surrogate woman agrees to be artificially inseminated with semen from a sperm donor or the intending father of the child. The traditional surrogate then carries the conceived child full term till she delivers and signs off her parental rights to the intending parents of the child.
In a traditional surrogacy arrangement, the surrogate is the child’s biological parent, and the intending parents might not be biologically related to the child (if they use a sperm donor). Because the surrogate is a biological parent of the child, the intending parents might have to undergo an adoption process before claiming the parenthood of the child. Also, this biological relation could cause unforeseen issues like an emotional attachment forming between mother and child and the mother refusing to sign off her parental rights.
Although traditional surrogacy was the only available option in the earlier years of the practice, medical advancements and legal and emotional complications have caused this surrogacy type to be almost extinct. Due to modern innovations and the possibility of fewer legal complications, gestational surrogacy has become a more viable alternative.
What Is Gestational Surrogacy?
This type of surrogacy involves a gestational surrogate carrying a child to which she has no biological relations. This kind of surrogacy simply involves the surrogate carrying a child on behalf of the intending parents without her own eggs involved.
In gestational surrogacy, there are several options as to who the child’s biological parents can be. For example, the gestational carrier can carry an embryo formed by the sperm of the intending father and the egg from the intending mother. This can be done through in-vitro fertilization, where the embryo is transferred to the surrogate’s uterus. Also, the embryo can result from intending mother’s egg and a sperm donor or an intending father’s semen and an egg donor.
In this case, the surrogate mother, also known as the surrogate carrier, is called the birth mother. It is now the most widely practiced form of surrogacy in the US.
Compensated and Altruistic Surrogacy
Surrogacy can also be categorized based on whether or not compensation is made to the surrogate mother.
An altruistic surrogacy refers to a situation where intending parents do not compensate their surrogate financially for carrying their child. In an altruistic surrogacy, the intending parents typically cover the cost of living and the medical care of their child’s surrogate. There’s no extra payment for their surrogate services.
This type of surrogacy is usually a case of identified surrogacy. Most times, a member of the intending parent’s family becomes the surrogate. A close relative or friend of a couple can decide to offer their body to carry a child for their loved ones who cannot conceive or carry a child to term.
An altruistic surrogacy can be traditional or gestational. However, to avoid issues such as inbreeding complications, it’s best to go for gestational surrogacy so the birth mother has no genetic ties to the child. This is the only legal kind of surrogacy in some countries like Australia.
As the name suggests, this surrogacy arrangement involves compensating the surrogate mother, usually financially. This is the more common type of surrogacy in the US, but it is outlawed in some states.
Surrogacy professionals would often suggest commercial surrogacy for intending parents regardless of whether they know the surrogate. The financial compensation might help keep the surrogate from developing feelings of regret during the pregnancy. It also helps the intending parents from feeling indebted to the surrogate.
Agency and Independent Surrogacy
The surrogacy process entails a lot of legal and medical aspects. Therefore, intending parents must decide whether or not to use a professional surrogacy agency.
In states where surrogacy is legal, you can find surrogacy services or agencies to help facilitate your surrogacy journey. These agencies take care of all the parts of the surrogacy journey, from initial screening to compensation arrangements.
This type of surrogacy is common with people who do not wish to stress about the details of their surrogacy process or have not found a surrogate yet. In this case, all the involved parties need are a surrogacy lawyer and a fertility clinic to finalize the surrogacy.
In the case of independent surrogacy, the intended parents usually already have a surrogate in mind. In this case, they might not need the services of a professional agency for mediation, compensation planning, etc. Thus, the parties involved only need their legal counsel and a fertility clinic to facilitate the surrogacy process. Due to the absence of a professional agency, the parties in an independent surrogacy will likely take up more responsibility but will save costs overall.
Some Surrogacy Terms and Definitions
In-Vitro Fertilization: This refers to the process of fertilizing an egg with semen outside of the hosts’ bodies. After IVF, the surrogate mother receives the embryo by insemination and carries the child till birth.
Sperm Donor: If a couple has fertility problems stemming from the man’s unviable semen, the surrogacy process might require semen from a sperm donor. Also, if the intended mother cannot offer eggs for fertilization, they can seek egg donors.
Surrogate: This term simply refers to the woman who carries the child of intending parents.
Egg Retrieval: Unlike sperm, eggs take longer and require a surgical process to retrieve.
Many couples, families, and even single individuals utilize surrogacy to fulfill their desire to have biological children. More LGBTQ couples are also exploring surrogacy options to have children in modern times.
Knowing the types of surrogacy available is essential before beginning the process. You will make a better-informed choice more tailored to you (and your partner). The laws regarding surrogacy are evolving and, in many places, are murky at best. Thus, speaking to a surrogacy professional is essential to better understand your region’s surrogacy laws as an intended parent.