Surrogacy isn’t a concept that gets much public discussion. Yet, you’ll probably either know someone or know a secondary contact of someone who seeks out a surrogate mother at some point in their life. To better understand what they might be going through, or give yourself more options for the future, it pays to know the main reasons why couples choose to use surrogates.
How Surrogacy Works
First, we should clear up some misconceptions about how surrogate motherhood works. The exact legal process varies from state to state, but there are two main types of surrogacy to consider. In traditional surrogacy, a woman is artificially inseminated with the father’s sperm; she, the surrogate mother, then carries the baby to term and delivers it for the father and mother to raise. In this case, the surrogate mother is technically the biological mother of the baby.
There are also gestational surrogates. In this scenario, in vitro fertilization makes it possible to use the father’s sperm and the mother’s egg cell to form an embryo, and place that embryo in the gestational surrogate mother’s uterus. The surrogate then carries the baby to term and delivers it. She is technically the birth mother, but has no biological relation to the child.
Finding a surrogate mother is usually the most difficult part of the process. Depending on the method used, it can also be expensive. But the advantages are enormous; unlike with traditional adoption, you can still have at least one parent remain biologically related to the child, and you can stay in touch with the surrogate throughout the development process.
Why Do People Use Surrogate Mothers?
So why might a person seek out a surrogate mother to carry the child? These are just some of the main reasons:
- Uterine health issues. The uterus is a complex organ. When healthy, it provides the ideal environment for nurturing an embryo to full development, but there are many things that can go wrong with it. Uterine scarring, extensive fibroids, and other health complications can make the environment less welcoming, or interfere with the baby’s potential development process. This makes it ideal to seek out a surrogate.
- Hysterectomy status. A woman can choose to have a hysterectomy—the removal of the uterus entirely—for many reasons, or may be required to have one due to health issues. Uterine cancer may force you to have a hysterectomy, or you may choose to have one if you experience pelvic pain from fibroids and/or heavy periods. Without a uterus, it’s impossible to carry a child on your own. Instead, choosing a surrogate may be your best option.
- Pre-existing health conditions. Other pre-existing medical conditions might make it unsafe for the mother (or the unborn child) to become pregnant. For example, if you have a heart disease, carrying a baby could put undue stress on your body, putting your life in danger and/or threatening the pregnancy. It’s important for every woman to speak with their doctor before trying to get pregnant, so they understand the health risks that might be involved.
- Previous pregnancy problems. Fertility is a science we still don’t fully understand. There are many things that can interfere with the pregnancy process, and make it unsafe for both the mother and the child. For example, after trying to have a baby and miscarrying, or discovering pregnancy complications like cervical incompetence, a woman may choose a surrogate as a safer option.
- Lifestyle factors. Women may also choose to have a surrogate due to lifestyle factors. For example, if she’s part of an LGBTQ couple, there may be logistical limitations preventing a conventional pregnancy. A woman may also be motivated to seek out a surrogate mother for other personal reasons.
Deciding to use a surrogate mother is a heavy decision, and one that falls on the couple alone. Regardless of what’s motivating the couple in question, surrogacy has the potential to bring the joys of parenthood to people who might otherwise never get to experience them. It’s a wonder of modern science and an ever-developing option for couples everywhere.