Using a Surrogate Mother: What You Need to Know
There's still some controversy about using a surrogate mother to have a baby. The legal process is also tricky because it varies from state to state. Even so, whether it's because of fertility problems or other reasons, surrogacy is an option for you and your partner. Find out how it works and see if it's right for you.
What Is a Surrogate Mother?
There are two kinds:
Traditional surrogate. It's a woman who gets artificially inseminated with the father's sperm. She then carries the baby and delivers it for you and your partner to raise.
A traditional surrogate is the baby's biological mother. That's because it was her egg that was fertilized by the father's sperm. Donor sperm can also be used.
Gestational surrogates. A technique called "in vitro fertilization" (IVF) now makes it possible to gather eggs from the mother, fertilize them with sperm from the father, and place the embryo into the uterus of a gestational surrogate.
The surrogate then carries the baby until birth. She doesn't have any genetic ties to the child because it wasn't her egg that was used.
A gestational surrogate is called the "birth mother." The biological mother, though, is still the woman whose egg was fertilized.
In the U.S., gestational surrogacy is less complex legally. That's because both intended parents have genetic ties to the baby. As a result, gestational surrogacy has become more common than a traditional surrogate. About 750 babies are born each year using gestational surrogacy.
Who Uses Surrogates?
If you're a woman, you may consider a surrogate for several reasons:
- Medical problems with your uterus
- You had a hysterectomy that removed your uterus
- Conditions that make pregnancy impossible or risky for you, such as severe heart disease
You may want to think about surrogacy if you tried but couldn't get pregnant with a variety of assisted-reproduction techniques, such as IVF.
Surrogates have also made parenthood an option for people who might not be able to adopt a child, perhaps because of their age or marital status.
If gay men decide to use a traditional surrogate, one of them uses his sperm to fertilize the surrogate's egg through artificial insemination. The surrogate then carries the baby and gives birth.
A gay couple might also choose an egg donor, fertilize that donated egg, and then have the embryo implanted in a gestational surrogate to carry until birth.