Using a Surrogate Mother: What You Need to Know
Choosing a Surrogate
Currently, there are no regulations that state who is qualified to be a surrogate.But experts agree on a few criteria for selecting a surrogate mother. You should choose a surrogate who:
- Is at least 21 years old.
- Has already given birth to at least one healthy baby so she understands first-hand the medical risks of pregnancy and childbirth and the emotional issues of bonding with a newborn.
- Has passed a psychological screening by a mental health professional to uncover any issues with giving up the baby after birth.
- Willingly signs a contract agreeing to her role and responsibilities in the pregnancy, such as steps she'll take to ensure prenatal care and to relinquish the baby after birth.
Using a Surrogate
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine advises that a surrogate have a complete medical evaluation and pregnancy history to assess the likelihood of a healthy, full-term pregnancy. The organization recommends screening for infectious diseases such as syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, HIV, cytomegalovirus, and hepatitis B and C.
Surrogates also need screening for immunity to measles, rubella (German measles), and chickenpox. A medical procedure to visually "map" the normal structures of the uterus is also advised. This is to evaluate the potential to carry a pregnancy. A surrogate mother should have her own doctor during pregnancy rather than use the same doctor as the intended mother.
The cost of surrogacy for hopeful parents can range from $80,000 to $120,000. A wide range of factors determine costs. Those factors include whether the surrogate has her own medical insurance or whether the parents have to buy a surrogacy-pregnancy policy for her.
Legal Issues With Surrogates
Parental rights are not guaranteed after a surrogate pregnancy. Reproductive law continues to change as reproductive technology and the very definition of a "parent" changes.
State laws vary on surrogacy in the U.S. and no federal laws exist. After a surrogate pregnancy in some states, parents still have to pass adoption proceedings to gain legal custody of the child. In other states, a "declaration of parentage" before birth overrides the need for adoption proceedings.
To protect your rights as parents-to-be -- and the rights of the child you're hoping to have -- hire an attorney well-versed in reproductive rights in your state. The attorney can write a surrogacy contract. The contract should clearly state the obligations of the surrogate mother and the parents-to-be. Such a legal contract may help if legal issues arise after birth. Along with any financial arrangements, a surrogate contract outlines agreements about all possible outcomes of the pregnancy, For instance, what will happen if a multiple pregnancy, such as the birth of triplets, occurs.