Written by: Cally Worden
Surrogacy is an extraordinary act of generosity whereby a woman carries a child for a couple who are unable to conceive or carry a child to term themselves. Are you thinking about surrogacy? It is a massive gift from the surrogate mother and her family, with all the attendant emotional and physical stresses it brings.
Why Do Couples Opt for Surrogacy?
The most common reasons for choosing surrogacy are medical, such as:
- recurrent miscarriage – couples will normally have explored all possible treatments for this before considering surrogacy as an option
- premature menopause – this can often be as a result of cancer treatments
- repeated IVF failure
- absence of a uterus
- abnormal womb
Since April 2010 same-sex couples in the UK have also had the right to undertake surrogacy.
Is it Legal?
Surrogacy in the UK is perfectly legal provided:
- No third party is involved at a commercial level in the process – that means that the brokering of a surrogacy relationship in return for a financial fee is forbidden
- No party advertises their services as a potential surrogate mother
- No potential parents advertise in search of a surrogate mother
- The only payment received by the surrogate mother is that designed to cover any expenses incurred in the course of her surrogate pregnancy
How does Surrogacy Work?
There are two types of surrogacy, known as Host and Straight.
In Host surrogacy the surrogate mother is implanted using IVF with an egg that has been fertilised in the laboratory. The egg may belong to the mother who is unable to conceiver herself, or be a donor egg. Likewise in respect of the semen. In this instance both the egg and semen are genetically unrelated to the surrogate mother. This can add medical complications into the process and makes it necessary for the surrogate mother’s own natural cycle of menstruation to be carefully synchronised with the process to ensure her body is physically ready to support a pregnancy. Medications may be used to artificially ensure this happens.
In Straight surrogacy the process in much simpler. Is it also known as Artificial Insemination, and involves the surrogate mother inseminating herself with semen provided by the intended father. This can be done at a clinic, or at home.
Straight surrogacy can be a more emotional experience for all concerned because of the more direct involvement of the intended father, and the fact that the surrogate mother is genetically related to the baby. Although Host surrogacy is more complicated, and perhaps more expensive if the services of a top private clinic are used, it can result in fewer emotional complications, especially in the mind of the surrogate mother carrying the baby.
Can Anyone Be a Surrogate Mother?
Any woman who is physically and mentally healthy can in theory act as a surrogate. It is recommended that the mother has borne at least one previous child, as the risks of illness and complications are naturally higher in a first pregnancy.
How do Intended Parents and Surrogate Mothers Meet?
Organisations such as Surrogacy UK exist to help parents and potential surrogate mothers get together. There will be any number of factors that influence the decision of the surrogate mother about the intended parents she chooses to work with. These can include:
- The preferred type of surrogacy for all involved
- The couple’s age
- Where they live (from a practical point of view)
- Whether they already have children
- Their interests and outlook on life
- The feelings of your own family members about them
Is it For Me?
Being a surrogate mother is an amazing gift. Not all couples have the opportunity to experience naturally the wonder of becoming parents, and to be willing and able to offer that is a very special thing. But the emotional and physical aspects of surrogacy should not be entered into lightly. How you will cope during the pregnancy, what will happen if there are complications with you or the baby, and, crucially, how you will feel and react at the reality of surrendering the child at birth are issues that all potential surrogate mothers must consider very carefully.
There are many successful, happy surrogacy’s that take place every year in the UK – if you think it may be for you then do your homework and get in touch with a reputable organisation for advice and more information. Your thoughts could be start of something magical for a childless couple.