Things to Know before Choosing a Surrogate

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pregnant-womanChoosing someone to carry your child is probably one of the biggest decision you will ever make. It's not like shopping for baby furniture, which you can do on the Internet. It takes a special kind of woman to carry another couple's baby and a special type of couple who have the resources and desire to go to this length. Before you decide to go this route, there are many things you need to know.

The idea of surrogacy has been controversial since its inception in the seventies. There are many legal and ethical issues surrounding the procedure. Whereas proponents call it a "blessing", opponents call it "rent a womb" or "black market baby selling" since the surrogate often receives compensation. In fact, there is no national law on surrogacy,it is still illegal in many states and Europe.

The most bizarre case of surrogacy I have ever heard of is a 61-year-old woman who gave birth to her own grandson because her daughter was unable to have children.

However, surrogacy is often the only option for couples unable to conceive or carry a child on their own to fulfill their dream of having a baby.

What Is Surrogacy?

A surrogate mother carries or delivers a child for another individual or couplewhen these individuals are unable to conceive and/or carry a child on their own in the natural manner.

According to WebMd, there are two types of surrogate mothers:

  • Traditional surrogates. A traditional surrogate is artificially inseminated with the father's sperm. A traditional surrogate is the babies biological mother.
  • Gestational surrogate. Gestational surrogacy is accomplished through in vitro fertilization and the eggs are harvested from the mother, united with the father's sperm and then placed into the uterus of a gestational surrogate. In this instance, the surrogate is not biologically related to the child, because it was not her egg that was used. A gestational mother is often referred to as "the birth mother."

Legally, gestational surrogacy is slightly more clear cut, because the parents have biological ties to the child. Approximately 750 children are carried by gestational surrogates each year.

Why Would You Use a Surrogate?

A female or couple may decide to use a surrogate for many reasons. These include:

  • One or both partners is infertile
  • A woman may be too old
  • The woman may have had a hysterectomy
  • The woman has a medical condition which precludes carrying a child (such as heart disease)
  • The couple may be male homosexuals who want their own child but by nature of their sexual orientation have no eggs

Many times gay men will use a traditional surrogate and one of them will use his sperm to fertilize the surrogate’s egg through artificial insemination.

How Do You Choose a Surrogate?

Currently, there is no state legislation spelling out the qualifications for a surrogate mother. However, most experts agree that a surrogate mother should:

  • Be at least 21 years of age
  • Preferably had a healthy baby of her own so she knows what the physical and emotional commitments will be.
  • Have undergone a psychological screening by a qualified medical professional to make sure she is capable of giving her baby up once he/she is delivered.
  • Sign a contract clearly stating her obligations, responsibilities and outlining the financial commitments.
  • Be screened for HIV, syphilis and hepatitis

So how do you choose a surrogate? Find someone who you can trust? After all, she will be carrying your baby for nine months. And you want to make sure, particularly if she is a traditional surrogate, that she does not go back and claim the baby as her own.

  • Choose a reputable agency. There are more than 100 surrogate agencies across the United States. The agencies serve as a middle man, making sure the surrogate checks out, the couple checks out and all financial and legal arrangements are made. As with any business, there are some legitimate agencies and others that are dishonorable. Do your homework and extensively talk to their clients.A surrogate agency generally conducts a thorough screening, including medical and obstetrics histories, lifestyle (does she smoke or drink?), costs and payments, communication issues and any sensitive issues that occur.
  • Choose a friend or family member. Do you have someone in mind? A sister or friend who you trust? Make sure you get a lawyer involved, so there are fewer questions and even fewer surprises.

The relationship with you and your surrogate may be life-long. Although surrogate mothers are usually compensated, is there any way to repay her for giving you the "gift of life?"

Jeffrey A. Kasky, Esq. is a Florida adoption lawyer and Vice President of One World Adoption Services, Inc., a Florida-licensed not-for-profit child placing agency. Jeff's diverse career experiences include co-authoring the book, "99 Things You Wish You Knew Before … Choosing Adoption" with Robert A. Kasky, Florida-certified law enforcement officer, and involvement in the autism community, including a TV show focused on helping families with legal issues related to autism called "Spectrum at Law" on The Autism Channel. A practicing attorney since 1995, he has worked on more than one thousand adoption cases.

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