What was previously a very private, and in some cases unspoken, way to conceive has become one of the most talked about ways to become a mother. Surrogacy has been life-changing for many women whose path to become a mother was not as simple as getting pregnant on their own. This includes several high-profile celebrities like Kim Kardashian West and Gabrielle Union, who have been open and honest about their journey to motherhood through the surrogacy process, however many still don’t seem to know exactly what having a surrogate actually means.
If you look at the comments underneath photos of celebrities who have used a surrogate to expand their families, you’ll see a host of trolls commenters who ask very insensitive, rude and downright ignorant questions about how a child can belong to a mother who did not actually carry her. Although a quick Google search could easily give you all the answers you need on the subject, but, the Internet. In an effort to educate, we’ve compiled everything you need to know about the process that has helped many women around the world fulfill their dream of becoming a mother.
First off, it’s important to know that there are two types of surrogacy, gestational and traditional. Traditional surrogacy uses natural insemination and the eggs of the surrogate mother to successfully conceive, this is the option most women choose who no longer have viable eggs to use. A traditional surrogate is the baby’s biological mother because it was her egg that was fertilized by the father’s sperm, however donor sperm can also be used. Gestational surrogacy is done through IVF (in vitro fertilization) or intrauterine insemination and the eggs and/or sperm are taken from both the intended parents, or from a donor in the cases where using the eggs and sperm of the intended parents is not a viable option.
For example, Kim Kardashian West and husband Kanye West welcomed their daughter Chicago earlier this year via gestational surrogate and they used Kim’s eggs and Kanye’s sperm to place inside their surrogate. This means that the child is 100% biologically theirs and shares no DNA with their surrogate. As a result of the actual genetic ties to the child, gestational surrogacy has become more common than traditional surrogacy. About 750 babies are born each year using gestational surrogacy and the process is less complex legally in the U.S. since both parents have genetic ties.
As the process of utilizing a surrogate grows, the numbers are increasing. According to a 2016 report, there are more than 35,000 families using surrogacy out of the 80 million people who are affected by infertility. Once you’ve decided that surrogacy is the right route for you to take to expand your family, you then need to know how to choose the surrogate. As WebMD reports, you need to make sure your surrogate meets these requirements: (1) Is at least 21 years old, (2) Has already given birth to at least one healthy baby so she understands firsthand the medical risks of pregnancy and childbirth and the emotional issues of bonding with a newborn, (3) Has passed a psychological screening by a mental health professional to uncover any issues with giving up the baby after birth and (4) Signs a contract about her role and responsibilities in the pregnancy, such as prenatal care and agreeing to give you the baby after birth.
Earlier this week, Gabrielle Union announced that she and husband Dwayne Wade welcomed a baby girl via surrogate, but many fans were puzzled about why she was seen wearing a hospital gown and lying in a hospital bed if she had given birth. Well, that process is known as “skin-to-skin” contact and it involves a newborn being placed directly on top on the intended mother for an immediate bonding experience. Since the baby was inside someone else for 9 months, it’s crucial that once born, the baby immediately forms the initial bond with the intended parents. On her long-running reality show Keeping Up With The Kardashians, Kim Kardashian West featured her surrogate in an episode and she discussed the importance of skin-to-skin contact with the whole family.
Now, it’s easy to get totally wrapped up in bringing a new bundle of joy into the world, but you also need to be aware of the legal issues and other formal procedures. Surrogacy laws related to parentage vary depending on the state. In states where surrogacy is not supported, intended parents must go through the adoption process to gain legal custody of the child once it’s born. By contrast, states where surrogacy is legal, intended parents are asked to file a pre-birth order known as a “declaration of parentage”. This document allows the intended parents to take home the child after birth and be declared on paper as the legal parents. It’s also stressed that couples have lawyers in place to review all documents, contracts and agreements, to avoid any incidents that may occur.
Finally, the cost should definitely be considered because it is not cheap. Surrogacy in the U.S. can cost anywhere between $100,000 to $250,000, depending on the history of the agency used and other unknown costs, such as high-risk pregnancies, bed rest compensation and neonatal care. These costs include fees for the surrogate, agency, laboratory, medicines and hospital bills.
The road to motherhood is different for everyone and if you opt to use surrogacy as your method then you should never let the uninformed opinions of others ruin the process of becoming a mother. If you choose to share your journey that’s fine, but you also have the right to keep things private. Here’s hoping that as more people become educated on exactly what surrogacy is, the ignorant comments will fall by the wayside.