When considering gestational surrogacy, people often focus on the physical commitment – the medical testing and exams, undergoing IVF and, of course, the toll of pregnancy and birth.
But, as most gestational surrogates can attest, the psychological commitment is just as important. In some ways, it is actually even more necessary in order to ensure a favorable experience for everyone involved.
Surrogacy is a deeply personal journey, and the surrogate mother’s feelings and intentions must be taken into account every step of the way.
Just as a gestational carrier undergoes medical testing to ensure that she is physically well to undergo IVF and has the best chances of carrying a healthy pregnancy, she should also complete a series of psychosocial components.
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) recommends that gestational carriers receive a psychological evaluation and counseling. A responsible agency will facilitate a full mental health evaluation, including MMPI and PAI psychological testing. Ideally, a surrogate will also take part in monthly psychological support groups led by licensed mental health professionals for the duration of her involvement in the process.
These evaluations help determine if a surrogate mother meets the general requirements to carry, but just as important, they help her begin to grasp the full scope of the commitment. The fact is that not all women are suitable candidates for gestational surrogacy. Discussing the surrogacy process with a professional not only gives her a better understanding of what the journey entails, but it also gives her the opportunity to explore any questions or concerns about potential negative effects of surrogacy that she – or her partner – may have. It is essential that a gestational carrier has her partner’s support going into the process.
Being a surrogate is both a physically and psychologically demanding role. She will need her spouse or partner to encourage her during more difficult moments – and celebrate all the positive times too. It’s important to consider the effects of surrogacy on the family. The commitment extends to her partner and children, and their questions and concerns must be addressed as well to ensure a more seamless surrogacy journey.
Ongoing psychological support from the agency and fellow surrogates can help her navigate some of the complicated emotions. She will understand that the intended parents are the genetic, legal and psychosocial parents of the child, but it’s common for a gestational carrier to develop some attachments and connections throughout the process – to both the intended parents and the baby.
While this emotional attachment is expected, a responsible agency should provide access to full informed consent, psychological and emotional support, independent legal counsel and fair compensation to help guide her and make a transition smoother for all once the baby is born.