12:38 10th June 2019 | surrogacy
As a woman, would you willingly have a stranger carry your child? Or vice versa? If no to the latter, would you do it for your sister or your other relatives? These are some of the many questions loads of woman all around the world struggle with. In Nigeria, however, Dozens of Nigerian couples have embraced surrogacy and are still embracing surrogates to complete their families, even though they do not talk about it as much as they ought to.
Nevertheless, surrogacy remains one of the least talked about tools in the fight against infertility. Why do surrogates do what they do? What do they get out of it? How hard is it to give a child to its parents after having it in your womb for nine months? These are among the plethora of issues that couples thinking of exploring the world of surrogacy desire to be educated and informed about.
If you are a woman that is unable to carry a child, due to problems with conception or potential problems with pregnancy, labour or delivery, then a surrogate mother can carry your child on your behalf. Surrogacy has also been used by older couples unable to conceive naturally, who want to have a child that has been conceived with one partner’s sperm and the surrogate’s own eggs, or donor eggs.
For those who want to start a family but face a variety of challenges in the process: surrogacy is a great way to achieve this goal. It is a situation in which a third party (woman) agrees to carry a pregnancy to term on behalf of an infertile couple.
A woman who cannot have children may seek a willing surrogate into whom she might have her own eggs and her partner’s sperm implanted. Essentially, a surrogate functions as an incubator.
There are two kinds of surrogates.
It is important to realize there are different definitions of the term surrogate. In traditional surrogacy, a woman is artificially inseminated with the father’s sperm (or donor sperm). She carries the baby to term and gives it to the couple, but is the biological mother of the child, as it was her egg that was fertilized.
Then there is gestational surrogacy. Through IVF, the mother’s eggs are collected and fertilized by the father’s sperm. A fertilized embryo is then placed in the gestational surrogate’s uterus and she carries the baby to birth. In this case, the surrogate is not the biological mother, as it was not her egg that was fertilized. This method has become preferred as it gives both parents genetic ties to the baby and is less complicated legally.
The Surrogacy Process at Bridge Clinic
Once eggs are retrieved, they are fertilized in a laboratory to create embryos, which grow for 3-5 days before being transferred to the surrogate or frozen for later use. Typically 1-2 embryos are then implanted into the surrogate’s uterus. Six weeks later, upon heartbeat confirmation, the gestational mother is officially considered pregnant.
Throughout her pregnancy, the intended parents, the surrogate, and their programme coordinator try to stay in touch, discussing parenting tests and any other matters that may arise. This consistent communication allows for an honest and fluid process.
It is advisable to invest in counselling before starting the surrogacy process, to prepare you for all the possible scenarios that could occur during the pregnancy and after the birth of the baby.
Criteria for Surrogacy and Surrogates:
1. It is done for medical reasons, not vanity.
Contrary to what the media may have one belief, surrogacy is never—or, at least, rarely—executed out of convenience or to spare the mother’s body. Surrogacy is mostly recommended for medical reasons. The most common indications include the absence of the uterus, a significant uterine anomaly, absolute medical contraindication to pregnancy, or biological inability to carry a child.
2. A surrogate can be a friend or complete stranger.
There are plenty of options when it comes to who will carry the baby—for some, it is a family affair and others see it as strictly business. A surrogate may be a close family friend or relative, but often times the most successful arrangements are with a carefully screened non-related individual. There are agencies, which specialize in finding gestational carriers for intended parents.
3. Surrogates have typically had a baby before.
One of the top requirements for women applying to be surrogates, gestational or traditional, is that they have had a live birth before without complications. In addition to this, the surrogate must be at least 21 years old and under the age of 38 years and no medical conditions which are contraindications to pregnancy.
4. Not every woman can be a surrogate.
There are physical and psychological standards for surrogacy that comes into play.
A certain number of c-sections, age, BMI, sexually transmitted diseases, blood screening tests or even thyroid issues can automatically disqualify a woman from becoming a surrogate. It is up to the agency and ultimately the reproductive endocrinologist performing the embryo transfer to decide if a woman is a good candidate to carry.
Agencies often require the surrogate and intended parents to undergo extensive psychological testing and counselling to ensure that no one goes off the deep end during or after the journey. That is not to say that issues do not arise. Failed embryo transfers and miscarriages are common, and the heartbreak can affect both the carrier and the parents.
Sometimes intended mothers feel jealousy or frustration they did not anticipate because of their inability to experience the pregnancy. But most surrogates are sensitive and understand as women the amount of strength and trust it takes to hand over the reins of this most precious gift. A good fertility clinic or agency will facilitate communication, and if need be, counselling for everyone involved to ensure a smooth resolution.
5. There will be contracts involved.
As one might imagine, having one woman carry another’s baby can be a complicated process if the proper regulations are not in place. The legal process can be tricky. It is important to check your clinic’s and country’s regulations for both implantation and delivery to make sure your rights are protected. A reproductive lawyer is always recommended to protect the rights of all involved parties.
Busting the Myths behind Surrogacy
There are many misconceptions and myths surrounding surrogacy and working with a surrogate/gestational carrier. If you are in the fact-finding stage, read on as we debunk common surrogacy myths and break down the facts.
Myth 1: Surrogacy is only for the wealthy or celebrities.
Busted: This myth exists because the cost of surrogacy is almost indeterminable. Surrogate fees and expenses vary substantially depending on several factors such as “Is the mother (intended parent) using her own eggs or will she need the help of an egg donor?” Are there agency fees or do they have a friend or family member willing to carry their baby? The cost of medical care is also a huge factor to consider as there are costs to the parents for any maternity, labour or delivery of their baby.
Myth 2: A woman will opt for surrogacy to save her figure or avoid pregnancy.
Busted: Surrogacy is a very emotional and expensive process for a woman to have a baby. A woman who typically chooses surrogacy after multiple failed attempts and methods to conceive and carry a baby herself. The decision to continue onto surrogacy is almost always a last resort. There is little to no truth to a woman going through surrogacy to keep her figure. Most women who want to be parents do not care about the temporary weight gain. Having a family is the most important aspect of their lives and our number one priority. Surrogacy is about one woman helping another woman enjoy parenthood, which has nothing to do with the mom to be concerned with her physical appearance.
Myth 3: The surrogate may try to take on parental custody of the child.
Busted: A good fertility clinic will request that both the intended parents and the surrogate and her partner/spouse undergo a psychological evaluation prior to entering into a surrogacy agreement. If this is not required, it is a good idea to consider it. Working with a reproductive law attorney will also be able to guide you on the state laws surrounding surrogacy and confirm if that particular state will recognize the intended parents for the child’s parentage. Although the surrogate will nurture your child throughout the pregnancy, surrogates and gestational carriers are aware from the onset that she will not parent or have legal parentage rights of the child.
Myth 4: I will have trouble bonding with my baby.
Busted: Bonding with the child after birth is something that many intended parents worry over leading up to the pregnancy. The bonding process begins after the child is born, not while in the womb. Once the child is born he/she is immediately handed over to the intended parents where that bond will begin to form. It is the ones who nurture and love on the child that secure the forever bond.
The Facts of the Matter:
Surrogates are not mothers.
Well, actually, surrogates usually are mothers. They are just not the mothers of the surrogate babies they carry. So calling a gestational carrier a surrogate mother is a bit of a misnomer. Most agencies require a carrier to have at least one keeper. That means they have given birth to their own flesh and blood child, looked at it and decided to keep it. This is mostly to ensure that they are familiar with what it takes to birth and raise a child so that the chances of entertaining thoughts to keep the surro baby are reduced to the barest minimum. So, again, surrogates are most often mothers before the surrogacy process — but, while a mother would do motherly things like picking out nursery themes or baby names, gestational surrogates do not do any of that for their surrogate bun in the oven.
Working with an agency can actually save time and money.
While it may initially seem more convenient and cost-effective to work with a surrogate independently, it is important to understand the role an agency plays in navigating potential roadblocks. You can only benefit from the experience and preparation afforded by an agency; their expertise can help you avoid pitfalls such as failed medical testing, legal problems and compatibility issues that might otherwise derail your surrogacy journey.
The Surrogate is not just in it for the money.
In fact, compensation is usually at the bottom of the priority list. Becoming a surrogate is not exactly easy – she must meet the stringent list of qualifications, both medical and emotional. She also faces potential health risks, bodily changes and the lifestyle adjustment required of pregnancy plus the medical and legal process leading up to it. All this for what amounts to an average salary for the timeframe involved. Surrogate mothers are generally compassionate, altruistic women who enjoy being pregnant and want to provide this unique gift to another family.
She does not want to keep your baby.
This goes back to the ideal surrogate already having a child of her own – she knows what it is like to have a family and wants the same thing for you. Most surrogates feel so grateful to have had relatively easy pregnancies that they want to use this to help others. She does not see the baby as hers to keep – she is simply carrying the baby for a while so you can ultimately take him or her home.
The world of surrogacy is a complex process that includes many moving pieces. While a reputable agency will ensure that you have a support team available to answer questions and quell anxieties, a more thorough grasp of the semantics will make anyone involved – intended parent or surrogate – feel more comfortable and in control of their situation. The importance of understanding surrogacy speak simply cannot be, well, overstated.
Here are terms commonly used in surrogacy treatment that you can brush up to prepare you for the process;
The woman carrying someone else’s baby, fertilized using the intended mother or a donor’s egg and the intended father’s or a donor’s sperm. Also referred to as a GC or surrogate. The surrogate is not genetically linked to the baby in any way, as the baby is conceived via in-vitro fertilization.
The legal (and often biological) parents of the infant born through a surrogacy arrangement. May also be referred to as the intended mother (IM) or intended father (IF).
The surrogate mother pay earned by a woman from the intended parents in a surrogacy arrangement. The amount can vary, but is separate from medical and legal costs and is earned for the dedicated time and effort a surrogate puts in over the course of many months.
Do intended parents need to accommodate the surrogate?
This is for you to decide. Some agencies cater and provide accommodation for the surrogate all through the 9 months, some do not. You mịght want your surrogate to give birth abroad, so you should discuss what you want exactly with the agency.
With a high success rate, surrogacy is fast becoming an attractive assisted reproductive technique all over the world.
At Bridge Clinic, we allow our clients to choose their own surrogates, we do not procure/recruit surrogates. The surrogate will undergo screening tests and health checks to ensure that they are fit to carry the pregnancy
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