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Are you considering becoming a surrogate mother? Carrying a baby for someone else can be a rewarding and unforgettable experience, but surrogacy is not a simple endeavor. You have complex emotional, medical, legal and financial issues to consider before making your decision.
One article cannot answer all your questions, and this one isn't meant to. We are here to kick-start your soul searching process, so that you are better prepared if you decide that being a surrogate mother is something you would like to take on. We'll briefly explore the various aspects of surrogacy you will need to consider.
Why do women become surrogate mothers? A 2003 study from the UK, where commercial surrogacy is banned but appropriate compensation may be given to cover surrogate mothers' expenses during pregnancy, indicated that the most common reasons to become a surrogate were "wanting to help a childless couple", enjoying pregnancy, and self-fulfillment. Of all the interviewed surrogates, only one indicated that financial gain was one of the motivations for becoming a surrogate mother.
Even in jurisdictions where commercial surrogacy is allowed, as in some states in the US, it is hard to see financial gain as the only reason to become a surrogate mother. Surrogates, whether gestational or traditional, take on a job quite unlike any other. In growing a baby for someone else, you enter into very intimate aspects of others' lives, are likely to form a close attachment to the baby in your tummy, and change your own life in ways that you may not be able to predict at the start of your surrogacy journey.
There are legal and medical aspects, which we will look at in a while, but there is an emotional aspect as well. By gestating a baby for someone else, you give away a very personal part of yourself, for 40-odd weeks at least, but perhaps also beyond. Whether you're considering being a surrogate mother for a friend or relative, or for someone you didn't previously know, it is important to consider tricky questions such as:
- What if we don't agree about the right way to proceed in difficult situations, such as finding out the baby has a birth defect? Yes, these are absolutely things you have to discuss and put on paper in your surrogacy contract, but dealing with a situation theoretically is quite different to actually finding yourself there.
- How will bonding with this baby affect you? Your children and spouse, if you have them? How would you cope with giving a baby you have gestated to its intended parents at the end of the surrogacy journey? If you will not see the baby again afterwards, what toll will that take? If you will see the baby, because you are a surrogate for a friend for instance, what will your relationship with the baby be like?
- If you are considering being a surrogate for a loved-one, are you prepared for the possibility that this will change your relationship — perhaps positively, but perhaps also negatively?
The study mentioned above, which can also be found in the links box at the end of this article, found that surrogacy ended up being a positive experience for the majority of participants, while a few experienced emotional difficulties afterwards. A psychological evaluation should always be conducted before someone becomes a surrogate, and some surrogate mothers will benefit from counseling during their pregnancies. Many surrogate mothers have no trouble seeing the baby they carry as the baby of the intended parents, but whether that could include you is something you should explore in detail before you decide to become a surrogate.
Pregnancy is never risk-free, and that is something you should always consider, even if you have enjoyed uneventful low-risk pregnancies in the past. Being a gestational surrogate means you have to take fertility drugs, just as the person offering the egg. These medications can have side effects. Pregnancy and childbirth can become complicated, and surrogates who nearly died giving birth to their surrogate babies have been in the news. In the case of multiple embryo transfers, you may end up carrying twins or beyond. Are you willing to take these risks on?
The intended parents should, of course, cover all your medical bills and also set up life insurance for the duration of your pregnancy, in case something does happen to you.