What do you think of when you hear “surrogacy” or “surrogate mother”? In the past, it meant that couples would use the services of another person to not only birth their child but also supply the eggs. That meant the baby would be genetically related to the birth mother and not the intended one. This form of surrogacy is referred to as Traditional Surrogacy.
Today, however, using Assisted Reproductive Treatments, hopeful parents have the option to have fully biological children, even if the person who carries the baby is not the biological mother. This form of surrogacy is referred to as Gestational Surrogacy.
Below we explore some key differences between these treatments. And then, you’ll learn vital things to consider when pursuing this life-changing procedure and how to get started.
Important Terms to Understand
Before diving too deep into the differences between these two procedures, we need first to clarify some terms. “Surrogate mother” refers to traditional surrogacy in which a couple works with a woman who is willing to be inseminated and then carry and birth their baby.
This term is sometimes mistakenly used in place of “gestational carrier,” which refers to a woman who is compensated to have the couple’s already-fertilized embryo transferred to her uterus and then carry and give birth to that baby.
The main difference is that the surrogate mother is related to the baby, while the gestational carrier is not. And although this distinction may sound simple, there are several important differences that parents need to understand.
Procedures Involved – Gestational surrogacy involves In-Vitro Fertilization or IVF, where a couple’s sperm and egg are combined in a lab before being transferred into the gestational carrier’s uterus. Traditional surrogacy usually involves Intra-Uterine Insemination or IUI, in which the father’s sperm is placed in the surrogate mother’s uterus with hopes of successfully fertilizing one of her eggs.
Legalities of the Procedure – In gestational surrogacy, the person carrying the pregnancy is not biologically related to the baby. In traditional surrogacy, they are biologically related, and therefore, the birth mother may decide not to give up the baby despite previously agreeing to relinquish the child to the intended parents as stated by the contract she signed. Although traditional surrogacy is permitted in California, several other states do not allow it. Because of the potential legal issues, most fertility practices, including Dreams Fertility, will only offer gestational surrogacy treatment.
Time Involved – Because of the potential legal issues of traditional surrogacy, the wait time to find this type of carrier is longer. More mothers are ready to help with gestational surrogacy because they know they won’t have any biological ties to the baby.
Questions to Help You Decide Regarding Surrogacy
By now, you know which surrogacy procedure is right for you and your partner. Still, any decision involving your family and your health shouldn’t be taken lightly. To further help you decide, as yourself, the following:
Can you use your eggs or do you need an egg donor?
If your own eggs can be used to mix with a partner or donor sperm, then IVF will have to be used to create the embryo to transfer to the gestational carrier. If donor eggs are indicated for the fertility treatment, the decision to use a fresh donor or frozen eggs will need to be made before undergoing the IVF cycle. Typically, frozen eggs are less expensive and more convenient to use than a fresh donor. With traditional surrogacy, a donor mother’s eggs are used instead of yours, making the baby (as mentioned) biologically related to her. As a couple, you must decide whether or not this is acceptable.
Which procedure fits your budget?
Because gestational surrogacy can involve multiple rounds of IVF, it can cost more than traditional because IVF, on average, is more expensive than IUI. However, the additional legal considerations of traditional surrogacy may outweigh these savings.
Are you comfortable with your baby being carried by its biological mother and not you?
With both types of surrogacy, couples must adjust to having their baby carried by a third party. However, that separation can feel magnified when they know the baby is not biologically related to its intended mother.
Will you have a relationship with the surrogate after birth?
Parents who use a surrogate may feel obligated to allow the child and the surrogate mother to continue to have a relationship after birth. This is a decision that is very personal and must be written into the contract with the gestational surrogate. There is no wrong answer and parents need to feel comfortable with whatever arrangement is mutually agreed upon.
Common Reasons to Choose Gestational Surrogacy
If by now you think gestational surrogacy may be the right path on your fertility journey, it’s time to consider what makes couples good candidates for the procedure.
Some common circumstances that lend themselves to gestational surrogacy are:
IVF Failure – If you and your partner have been unsuccessful with IVF in the past, you may want to consider using a gestational surrogate, provided both sperm and egg quality are adequate.
Missing Uterus – Some women are born without a uterus or have had it removed ( hysterectomy) due to diseases such as fibroids, adenomyosis, or cancer.
Uterine Malformation – Mothers who experience problems like fibroids may choose gestational surrogacy as a route to a safer pregnancy.
Gay Couples – Today, gay men are using the services of gestational surrogates to carry and birth babies. They also need to use an egg donor.
Single Men – Single men who desire to be fathers can also opt to use gestational surrogates.
Health Complications – Mothers who have diabetes, heart disease, or morbid obesity may not be able to carry a child safely. Gestational surrogacy provides them with a safer alternative.
Ideal Qualities in a Gestational Carrier
Most gestational carriers are found with the assistance of a surrogacy agency that works with your fertility specialist. And although the process may sound simple, candidates are rigorously screened on several criteria.
The following are attributes that agencies are screening for and you should look for in a gestational surrogate:
Good Overall Health – This includes being free of any severe health problems.
At Least One Prior Healthy Pregnancy – If a gestational carrier has experienced at least one healthy pregnancy, she is more likely to do so again.
Not Giving a Child Up to Adoption in the Past – Women who’ve given a child up for adoption in the past can be more likely to be attached to a new child and not want to give it up.
Age – Ideally, the gestational carrier’s birth age is between 21 and 35. Although many couples have healthy babies younger or older, these are the ideal birthing years.
Health Insurance – Some insurance plans will pay for a gestational carrier’s prenatal care and labor and delivery costs. Others will not, meaning you and your partner may have to pay.
Willingness to Attend Appointments – Because gestational surrogacy involves IVF, gestational carriers need to be willing to attend several doctor’s appointments throughout the pregnancy. At least some of these appointments will include vaginal ultrasounds and embryo transfer, as well as delivery of the baby.
Willingness to Undergo Psychological and Legal Counselling – In addition to monitoring and caring for their physical health, gestational surrogates must be willing to receive psychological screening and legal counseling before and during surrogacy.
Willingness to be Vaccinated – Gestational surrogates need to be willing to have COVID-19 and other traditional vaccinations.
Learning More About Gestational Surrogacy
So at this point, you may be asking yourself, “How do I find out more about gestational surrogacy near me?”
In Riverside County, look no further than Dreams Fertility. Located in the Coachella Valley, Dreams offers many fertility care options, from gestational surrogacy to traditional IVF to Intrauterine Insemination (IUI), fertility financing, LGBTQ care, and more. Contact us today to schedule your free in-person or telemedicine consultation and see where dreams are born!
Dr. Luis Murrain joined Dreams Fertility in 2021, providing specialty services in Fertility and Reproductive Genetics. With a shared vision that everyone deserves to have the family of their dreams, we are dedicated to helping all of our patients. We believe that families come in all shapes and sizes, and all of them are beautiful. We are proud to have a long history of providing services to all, including gay, lesbian, and transgender individuals and couples on their road to parenthood.