What do Joan Lunden, Angela Bassett, Kelsey Grammer, Robert DeNiro and Dennis Quaid have in common? They all built their families using the help of surrogacy.
Since 1976, there have been about 25,000 surrogate births in the USA, says Shirley Zager of the Organization of Parents Through Surrogacy, a non-profit national support group. Surrogacy has come a long way since the legal drama of Mary Beth Whitehead and intended parents are much better protected than they once were, especially now that they have the option of using an egg donor instead of the surrogate's own eggs.
Types of Surrogacy
There are three basic types of surrogacy arrangements. The American Surrogacy Center describes them this way:
An arrangement between the intended parents of the child and a woman who agrees to donate her egg(s) to be artificially inseminated with the sperm of the intended father. In most states the intended mother does a step-parent adoption after the birth in order to establish her parental rights and so that the surrogate will relinquish her rights regarding the child.
An arrangement between the intended parents of the child and a woman who agrees to carry the embryo(s) made from the egg(s) and sperm of the intended parents. The child(ren) of gestational surrogacy is/are the genetic child(ren) of the intended parents, and the surrogate carries the embryo/fetus to term in the role of "host" uterus. In this form of surrogacy, the surrogate may also be called the "gestational carrier".
Donor Egg/Gestational Surrogacy
Arrangement between the intended parents of the child and a woman who agrees to carry the embryo(s) made from the egg(s) of a third party donor (who is often anonymous) and sperm of the intended father. The surrogate carries the embryo/fetus to term as a "host" uterus since there is no biological tie between the surrogate and the embryo/fetus. In this form of surrogacy, the surrogate may also be called the "gestational carrier".
Who are they?
Surrogates can be a friend, relative or a stranger one contracts with for the service. While you will not have the same expenses with a friend or family member, you will still need an attorney and professional mental health counselor to help you navigate the legal, emotional and physical journey ahead.
How do I find a surrogate?
Find an experienced surrogate attorney or go through a surrogacy center. Many people are surprised to discover a good attorney can orchestrate everything needed for a surrogacy relationships – and can help you find a surrogate as well. Contracts usually state that 3 attempts will be made with gestational surrogacy or 6 attempts with traditional surrogacy.
Will I feel like it's my baby?
The annual conference of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology reported on the first study of its kind about how families fared when a surrogate was used. The research was clear - mothers who had relied on another women to carry their child tended to show more warmth towards their babies than mothers whose child was conceived naturally. Both the mother and father tended to have better parenting skills than parents in non-surrogate families. There haven't been long-term results yet, but initial reports look promising.
The price tag:
Breathe deeply… once more… Ready? $50,000-100,000. At least.
The costs will depend on whether you use an experienced surrogate attorney or go through a surrogacy center, which is much pricier. If birth mom has health insurance which surrogacy, the price may be lower, but minimum compensation is about $20K plus many, many expenses.
The Letter of the Law
The most important advice the Organization of Parents Through Surrogacy offers is this: make sure to obtain competent legal advice before going forward. An attorney experienced in surrogacy agreements is essential and can make sure all parties receive psychological counseling and complete medical screening (including full disease-testing) in advance.
As one successful family can attest, “Our journey has been one of hard work and perseverance. We have never wavered from our original decision that gestational surrogacy was the best route for us to take. We have had some bumps along the way but the majority of the trip has been better than we could have hoped for. We encourage everyone to pursue their dreams of having a family and to know that surrogacy is a marvelous, viable alternative for infertile couples to pursue.”