The first formal surrogacy contract was written in 1976. Since then, radical changes have swept the United States and the rest of the world. We’ve learned a great deal about medical science and fertility, so it’s time to revisit longstanding taboos many may have about surrogacy.
Surrogacy has not always experienced the general level of acceptance it has now. It has often generated controversy and was seen as experimental, but has since proven to be a legitimate alternative to family building.
Even though surrogacy remains controversial, the debate is far more nuanced and varied, with opinions ranging from highly supportive to complete confusion. In this post, we’ll visit some of the commonly held views of surrogacy.
Ask a surrogate why she chose to become one, and the answers have a unifying theme: to share the feeling of parenthood with another family. Most surrogates understand the potential risks and sacrifices involved with becoming a surrogate, but choose to do so anyway because of their sense of compassion and altruism. ConceiveAbilities’ surrogates are always examined for their motivations and personality, whereas other agencies recruit surrogates only concerned about financial gain, spoiling an otherwise positive experience.
Here’s what our surrogate, Leslie, said about her decision:
“I think the best part of it was the end, seeing the parents with their babies. Seeing how happy they were and how excited and how thankful they were- it made it all worth it.”
Surrogacy is about supporting someone else so they may start their own family. Few acts are as selfless as carrying another family’s child.
In the most recent study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), roughly 7.5 million women aged 15-44 are affected by infertility in the United States alone.
For many couples around the world, surrogacy isn’t just a way to get pregnant, it represents a second chance at starting a family. Actress Elizabeth Banks opened up about her decision to use surrogacy back in 2012, where she stood in solidarity with people affected by infertility and advocated for alternative means to starting a family:
“Surrogacy is a very private thing (…) It was frankly the only way for my husband and I, who have been together for nearly 20 years, could have a child that was half him and half me. So, for us, it was absolutely the way to go (…) It’s a difficult decision and my heart goes out to every woman out there who’s dealing with any infertility issues and wants to have a baby and can’t figure out how to do it. But I like to say there’s lots of ways to being a mother ... There are many paths to having a family.”
For the women and families affected by infertility, surrogacy gives hope where many thought none existed.
Some women view surrogacy as being a financially rewarding way to use their time. Many gestational carriers already work as educators, office administrators, social service workers, family business owners, and nonprofit employees in addition to being a full-time mother.
But surrogacy also allows women to earn additional income. At ConceiveAbilities, each surrogate is paid between $39,450 to $52,450. This figure can vary depending on the surrogate’s previous experience. Surrogates receive a monthly allowance, and are also compensated for bed rest, maternity clothing, travel expenses, and more, depending on the match.
Some people may not have had the chance to adequately research the surrogacy industry, and may be left with a collection of myths and misunderstandings. This is especially problematic for surrogacy, as there is a lot of conflicting or inaccurate information available online. Learn more about surrogacy misconceptions with our podcast "Busting Surrogacy Myths with Dr. Heather Carlson."
One way to illustrate this is with the distinction between traditional surrogacy and gestational surrogacy. Depending on who you talk to, surrogacy may be perceived as a noble act in helping another family, or a controversial one with certain legal risks. In reality, they are likely talking about two different types of surrogacy. Traditional Surrogacy is where the surrogate is the genetic mother of the baby. Gestational Surrogacy is where the egg and sperm are provided by the intended parents (or from a donor) and gestated in-vitro, meaning the surrogate has no genetic link to the child. The latter is the more modern version of surrogacy, and helps prevent emotional and legal complications during or after the pregnancy.
To make matters even more confusing, the legal protections of surrogacy can vary from state to state, or country to country. For example, while gestational surrogacy is legal in Illinois, it’s illegal in Michigan. Altruistic surrogacy is banned in Japan, but accepted in India. In Australia, depending on which area you’re in, surrogacy may be banned or unregulated.
People can be afraid of what they don’t understand. The surrogacy process is complex, and not being fully informed about the physical demands may leave you anxious or unclear.
Surrogacy comes with much of the same physical symptoms and challenges as a traditional pregnancy. Women may experience fatigue, nausea, bloating, sensitivity, and other typical symptoms. Every medical procedure comes with an inherent risk, and the best way to minimize it is to check the requirements and ensure you are fit and healthy to become a surrogate.
Some parents are concerned about whether their surrogate may change her mind and take their baby. At ConceiveAbilities and other reputable surrogacy agencies, we conduct psychological evaluations and home visits to check the mental health, intentions, and personality of each surrogate. We will only work with surrogates who pass these rigorous evaluations. Additionally, in many states, pre-birth orders are signed, allowing the intended parents full rights and responsibilities to the baby before birth.
The best way to address ignorance or bias is with extensive research, so make sure you research as much as possible to be fully educated on the matter. No matter your views on surrogacy, there is no denying how far we’ve come for a woman carry another family’s child. As society grows and learns, , surrogacy will continue to become more accepted.
There’s a lot of hearsay and unconfirmed stories that tend to float around the world of surrogacy. Read our post on 5 popular surrogacy myths, and the truth behind them.
To hear it straight from a surrogate herself, read our interview with a two-time surrogate, Leslie Mattern.
Are you a woman who enjoyed a healthy and successful pregnancy? Do you have friends or family who have suffered from infertility or need assistance from someone else to build their family? Have you ever considered the role you could play in helping someone else build their family - as a surrogate? Talk to us to learn more about the surrogacy process to help someone else's dream come true.