Many people have heard the term “surrogate” when it comes to family planning, but few are familiar with the term “gestational carrier.” In both cases, a woman is using her uterus to carry a child for another family, but there’s a big difference between the two.
Surrogates and gestational carriers may be different, but they have two incredible things in common – a generous heart and extraordinary selflessness to grant a family facing infertility the gift of a child of their own.
Why a Family Needs a Surrogate
If a couple is unable to conceive or the woman is unable to carry a baby, a surrogate can step in to help them become parents. Prospective moms and dads may reach out to a friend or loved one to carry their child, but in most cases, they’re connected to a surrogate through an agency. All surrogacy agencies provide extensive screening of potential candidates through medical and psychological testing, and in fact, almost 98% of women who apply are rejected for various reasons.
What is a Traditional Surrogate?
The type of “surrogate” most people think of and a potentially more affordable option for parents-to-be is a traditional surrogate in which the surrogate donates her egg AND carries the pregnancy. With a traditional surrogate, pregnancy can often occur with intrauterine insemination (IUI), in which the male partner’s sperm is injected into the surrogate’s uterus.
The surrogate’s medical expenses are covered by the intended parents and, depending on the situation, she is compensated for carrying the pregnancy. While it can be less expensive, traditional surrogacy can open the intended couple up to heartbreaking legal ramifications. The surrogate is the biological mother of the child she carries, and if she decides she wants to keep the baby, the intended parents may have no legal recourse. Even if a legal contract is in place prior to conception (which we require), laws in many states may allow for the surrogate to fight for custody of the child. For this reason, we strongly advise patients to use a gestational carrier instead of a traditional surrogate.
What is a Gestational Carrier?
In a gestational carrier situation, the egg can come from the intended mother, be donated by a loved one, or acquired through an egg bank. The egg is fertilized with the male partner’s sperm or with donor sperm before it’s transferred to the carrier’s uterus through in vitro fertilization (IVF). Because the egg is another woman’s, the carrier has no genetic relation to the baby she is carrying.
More and more couples are turning to a gestational carrier to make their dream of parenthood come true. According to the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART), the number of babies born to gestational carriers grew 116 percent between 2004 and 2011.
As with traditional surrogates, the gestational carrier’s medical expenses are covered by the intended parents and the carrier is usually compensated for carrying the pregnancy.
To protect all parties involved, we require all intended parents and gestational carriers to seek legal counsel from a reproductive lawyer. A contract is drawn up with the expectations and rights of each party, as well as details on the delivery and future contact. The reproductive lawyer will also provide guidance on what states have laws regulating surrogacy and what states should be avoided due to negative or non-existent statues. It is strongly encouraged that the gestational carrier and intended parents have separate reproductive lawyers to minimize potential conflicts of interest.
Ready for Help with Fertility?
If you have questions about surrogacy or would like to discuss your options with a reproductive endocrinologist and infertility specialist, contact us today to schedule a consultation.