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What is International Surrogacy? What are the Risks?

April 12th, 2019
ConceiveAbilities - What is International Surrogacy? What are the Risks?

There are many ways to build a family. Narrowing down which is the right path to parenthood can be both overwhelming and very personal. Once you have decided that surrogacy is the best fit, the decision making is far from over. The next step is figuring out which surrogacy program you’ll want to enter. Will it be an international surrogacy program or will you feel that a domestic surrogacy program is better suited for your situation? It’s a big decision. Whatever you decide, it is important to take a closer look at the pros and cons that could be involved. Including choosing an international surrogacy program. Let’s dive into what an international surrogacy looks like and unpack some of the possible risks that could take place.

What is international surrogacy?

The obvious difference is the logistics of geography. Simply put, the surrogacy arrangement involves a gestational carrier who lives overseas apart from the intended parents. In most international surrogacies, there may be an expectation for the intended parents to travel to the gestational carrier's country. Increasingly, intended parents are coming from abroad to work with American gestational carriers. However, some American intended parents still choose international surrogacy over domestic surrogacy.

Domestic vs International Surrogacy

An international surrogacy program is starkly different from a domestic surrogacy program. In the past, international surrogacy used to be more of a common practice. Now, surrogacy has since evolved, especially in America, making it less complicated to pursue domestic surrogacy versus an international surrogacy program. Surrogacy laws, standards, and guidelines can vary extensively from country to country. Whereas in the U.S., if a particular state’s surrogacy laws and guidelines are determined “unfriendly,” it is much easier to cross over state lines than over country borders. Overall, surrogacy laws are a bit more well-regulated than what you will find overseas.

Is there a difference in cost?

One of the attractive reasons for American intended parents using surrogacy abroad is to be cost prohibitive. It’s no secret that surrogacy can be an expensive process no matter if you are pursuing domestic or international surrogacy. However, the saying “cheaper is not always better” stands true when it comes to the surrogacy process.

Saving costs abroad also means that you will likely be paying a lesser surrogacy fee to your gestational carrier. In any compensation agreement, you always want to pay someone what they fully deserve. This is not a place to cut corners on, especially for someone that will be carrying your child for 9 months.

The same mindset can be said in using an international surrogacy program outside of the U.S. for the reproductive treatment process that comes along with a gestational surrogacy. Outside of the U.S., medical requirements can be less strict, including medications that are involved. This could be a potential risk to your gestational carrier and baby. You’ll want to make sure, whether you choose domestic or international surrogacy, that the overseeing clinic has guidelines and policies in place for their surrogacy program.

What are some of the hidden costs in an international surrogacy?

Much of this depends on what country and international surrogacy program you decide on. Pregnancy in general can produce many outliers that can impact cost. If you decide to pursue surrogacy outside of the U.S., here are some of the areas where hidden costs may arise:

Travel costs

Even if you are an allstar travel planner, visiting a country abroad that you may be unfamiliar with can possibly bring forth the possibility of understated spending and travel expenses.

Hotel expenses

Due dates are not an exact science. So the amount of time and money you will spend on lodging is a relatively grey area. This includes the time spent on when you can legally leave the country with the approved paperwork.

Medical expenses

There are many variables that can happen in a pregnancy gestation. Although we’d like to think that every pregnancy and birth is without complications, they can and do exist. This is yet another area where hidden costs can surface.

What are some pros and cons of international surrogacy?

With so many factors involved, choosing which surrogacy program to choose can be a daunting one. Some of the things to consider can be both weighed out equally as a pro and a con. For example:

Cost

Pro: Although mentioned above, international surrogacy offers intended parents an affordable option.

Con: It can also lead to short cuts, lack of regulations, and transparency of the process.

Travel

Pro: If you are traveling to the U.S. to pursue an agreement with a U.S. gestational carrier, depending on if it is a post birth or pre birth state, the process for obtaining the birth certificate and exiting the country can be much easier.

Con: No matter where you are traveling abroad for your surrogacy, you will likely have to miss a fair amount of work, and navigate the logistics and laws of a foreign country.

What are the risks of international surrogacy?

With all major decisions, weighing the risk factors involved may help tip the scale one way or another. In an international surrogacy, there are 3 major risks to take into consideration: Legal, psychological, and financial.

Legal risks

Laws and guidelines vary country to country and in the U.S. state to state. Some countries have banned intended parents from overseas and some (very few) U.S. states have a ban on compensated surrogacy. You want to make sure to reduce your liability by using a reputable agency accompanied with a knowledgeable attorney. Although rare, you want to reduce your legal risk by making sure the country you decide to pursue a surrogacy agreement in is not at risk of a ban mid-way through the process.

Psychological risks

The psychological screening process in an international surrogacy is not enforced as it is in the U.S and domestically. While international agencies may complete medical screening, they may not complete a psychological evaluation which can be a huge risk or the intended parents.

Financial risks

The rose colored lense of international surrogacy is that it may appear to be less expensive. However, there is a reason why it is cheaper. You’ll most certainly risk quality but you may be cutting corners that can risk the well-being of your gestational carrier and most importantly, your baby.

Why is international surrogacy law important to know?

In some countries, surrogacy is banned to foreign intended parents. In other countries, the governments may not regulate surrogacy programs. Because of the lack of regulation, even if it is up to the individual states and provinces, there is a major risk of ethics and questionable practices. This is why more intended parents are coming to the U.S from abroad for surrogacy.

Is there a benefit to using American gestational carriers and egg donors?

In comparison, U.S. surrogacy is fairly regulated and less complicated than in other countries abroad. Gestational carriers and egg donors not only go through strict medical screening, but they also have to undergo psychological screening as well. Many U.S. fertility clinics will also require the gestational carrier’s partner to participate in some leveling degree of screening as well. Another benefit to using an American gestational carrier/egg donor is that they are compensated appropriately and engaged in the ultimate goal of a successful and healthy pregnancy and birth.

It is a lot to consider and there are many reasons why someone may choose international surrogacy over domestic surrogacy. It all boils down to being informed of your options and well educated in the process.

If you have questions or want to learn more about international surrogacy programs feel free to contact our team at ConceiveAbilities!