What You Need to Know about Modern Surrogacy

Be a surrogate

By Nazca Fontes, CEO of ConceiveAbilities

Four different families with a surrogate and the newborn

As a modern family advocate, I am troubled by recent media coverage of surrogacy arrangements “gone bad”. The arrangements highlighted in these cases are heart breaking, yet so fundamentally flawed they could not have possibly succeeded.

Recently, People Magazine profiled a couple that independently created a surrogacy arrangement with a woman with whom they met on their own. The plan was to quickly draft a contract, compensate her and use the intended father as the sperm donor. Unfortunately, the arrangement discussed between the parents and the surrogate did not go as planned. The surrogate broke off communication during the pregnancy and kept the baby. The parents were left in a terrible position with little protection.

Sadly, this example guaranteed risk from every angle. A lawyer who specializes in assisted reproduction was not consulted to draft the contract. An egg donor was not used, meaning the surrogate would use her own eggs, biologically tying her to the child -- an antiquated approach to surrogacy. The surrogate had no prior pregnancies or a family of her own, and would not have been cleared by a fertility physician or a psychological expert.

The couple and their legal counsel did not understand the building blocks of a solid surrogacy engagement. The end result was not a happy family and satisfied surrogate, but a family in distress, a child’s well being was compromised, and a loss of valuable resources occurred.

In actuality, well-planned surrogacy engagements help create thousands of families every year. There are assisted reproduction experts on everything from legal, financial and psychological matters to surrogate selection that help make this routinely achievable.

If I could offer advice to any intending parents hoping to create their family and seeking third-party assistance, I would urge them to understand that surrogacy is not simple. However, when the right experts are on your team, starting with a top-notch surrogacy and egg donor experts all found in a qualified agency, it is a highly effective and beautiful means to a building your family.

The truth is, these poorly arranged surrogacy engagements are not illustrative of modern surrogacy journeys handled by industry experts. As founder and CEO of ConceiveAbilities for the past 20 years, I can attest that properly executed, modern surrogacy engagements require an experienced team of professionals – from the fertility, legal, financial, psychological and family-building fields – working together to create a seamless and successful arrangement. These individuals advocate and guide families, from surrogate selection to bringing their baby or babies home.

Here are three insights that will help intended parents build a successful surrogacy:

  • Obtain experienced legal counsel: Surrogacy and parentage laws vary from state-to-state. The best assisted reproduction attorneys focus only on surrogacy arrangements. These attorneys know the potential legal pitfalls and will draft contracts and create arrangements that can help manage foreseeable risks.
  • The surrogate and intended parent “match” is critically important: Experienced agencies should pre-screen surrogates to ensure they meet the right psychological and physical health criteria to pass clinical tests. Then intended parents are only matched with women who are well-qualified for surrogacy. Matches between these women and intended parents should be highly personal and based on additional criteria such as communication styles, values and location. Your agency will also be able to help with donor selection if desired.
  • Work with a trusted and proven clinic: Not all fertility clinics are the same. Research a clinic that has a long track record of successful surrogacies. Talk with several clinics about their approach and experience. Speak with parent references as well.

Like any other arrangement, cutting corners leads to risks—poor financial management, bad communication and less security. These risks compromise an intended parent’s security and happily ever after. Entering into the unknown—an ever-changing patchwork of state laws, clinical roadblocks and emotional ups and downs— will create difficulties and potential disasters if you do not have the right guidance and experts on your team.

If you are at all curious about what modern family advocacy and family creation looks like when properly managed, I urge you to hear from real families and learn more about agency experts like ConceiveAbilities.