Using a surrogate mother to carry a child to term has been a successful choice for many infertile couples. However, the process is not without controversy and has ended in regret for some couples.

Surrogate Carriers
Surrogacy can easily be defined as the process whereby another woman carries their child to term. Upon birth, the child will be handed over to the couple, with the gestational carrier giving up any legal rights she may have to the child. There are a variety of reasons why a couple may choose to use a surrogate carrier. Women who cannot carry a pregnancy to term or who have a misshapen or completely absent uterus often decide to use a surrogate.

Using in vitro fertilization (IVF), the child is conceived using the intended parents’ egg and sperm to inseminate the surrogate. However, if either intended parent is unable to provide the necessary biological connection, a donor egg, sperm or embryo may also be used to inseminate the surrogate. In some cases, the surrogate herself may provide the egg used to conceive the child.

Finding a Surrogate
Where you live can make all the difference when you are looking for a surrogate. In states and countries that allow surrogacy, you can find a surrogate through an agency. The agency performs the necessary medical and psychological screening tests on all potential surrogates before agreeing to take a woman on as a client. The agency will also deal with the legal aspects of the situation, although it is a good idea for you to have a lawyer as well to look over all contracts before you sign them.

However, not all couples choose to work with an agency, preferring instead to find a surrogate on their own. In some cases, a couple may live in a state or country that has banned the practice of commercial surrogacy and therefore there are no agencies in place to help a couple locate a surrogate. In either instance, a couple acts independently to find a woman willing to carry a child for them. Often, a couple will ask another family member or a close friend to act as a surrogate. However, many couples have also found their surrogate through the internet.

Once a surrogate has been found, both parties need to come to an agreement as to what the terms of the pregnancy will be. Because of all the legal aspects associated with surrogacy, it is strongly recommended that both the surrogate and the intended parents hire a lawyer to ensure all parties are protected. Additionally, it is a good idea for both potential surrogates and potential parents to seek psychological counseling before insemination takes place. There are countless issues that arise from using a surrogate. All of these concerns should be addressed and dealt with before a couple becomes too involved in the process.

Pros and Cons of Surrogacy
One of the most obvious advantages of using a surrogate is the chance for a couple to have a biological child. This can happen when the carrier is inseminated with an embryo made up of the intended parents’ egg and sperm. Many couples are also able to form a close relationship with their surrogate and can take an active role in the pregnancy. Unfortunately, though, there are many potential downsides to surrogacy, some of which may end in heartbreak for the intended parents.

Aside from the anxiety a couple will likely feel during IVF treatment and throughout the pregnancy, surrogacy is one of the most expensive solutions to infertility and is an option that not every couple can afford. Additionally, a surrogate and the intended parents may find themselves in conflict if there is a disagreement as to just how the pregnancy should be managed. Some intended parents like to be able to control the entire pregnancy, while a surrogate may have her own ideas about how to handle her pregnancy.

Intended parents may also be concerned that a surrogate will change her mind about giving up the baby when she gives birth. If the child is not entirely the biological child of the intended parents, the surrogate may actually have a legal right to the child. Although it is not common, there have been instances when a surrogate has decided that she would like to keep the baby and in some cases the surrogate was awarded custody of the child.

The intended parents almost always assume financial responsibility for the entire pregnancy process. This includes paying for IVF (or artificial insemination - when the surrogate’s egg is used in place of the intended mother’s egg), all doctor’s or midwife visits, tests and procedures.

Often, the intended parents will also pay for any travel costs the surrogate incurs for traveling to prenatal check-ups, buying maternity clothes and, sometimes, even buying food. On top of this, you may also pay a fee to the surrogate and to the agency if you used one. In total, using a surrogate can cost a couple anywhere from $25,000 to $50,000 and possibly even more.

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