Surrogacy is a viable option for individuals or couples struggling with infertility. However, for most couples, the entire surrogate process is new. As such, you might have questions and wonder how it works or what the legalities are surrounding it. In this article, we’re going to answer these and more. That way, you can make the right choice regarding whether or not surrogacy is right for you and your family.
What is Surrogacy?
Technically, surrogacy is an arrangement. This arrangement takes place between a woman, the surrogate mother, and another individual or couple. The surrogate mother legally agrees to carry the individual or couple’s child until birth. This is known as gestational surrogacy, which is the most common type of surrogacy
A couple or individual may choose to go this route if they are unable to carry their own child, such as having pre-existing conditions which make it very dangerous or impossible.
Why Choose Surrogacy
An individual or couple may choose gestational surrogacy for a variety of reasons to support their fertility journey. These may include:
- Unsuccessful IVF for Unexplained Infertility: Your fertility team may recommend this after many failed IVF cycles.
- Uterine Conditions: Some individuals may not be able to carry a child due to issues with their uterus, such as an abnormally-shaped uterus, uterine scarring, or uterine fibroids.
- Hysterectomy: You may have your uterus removed for medical or personal reasons.
- Conditions Making Pregnancy High-Risk: Some of these conditions may include obesity, diabetes, heart disorders, age, or sexually transmitted diseases.
- Same-Sex Couples: Surrogacy can help same-sex couples achieve their dreams of having a family.
- Maternal Age: Over the age of 35, fertility may decline and pregnancy risk increases. Surrogacy can help with this.
Types of Surrogacy
Typically, there are two types of surrogacy: Gestational surrogacy and Traditional surrogacy, which we explore in more detail below.
Gestational surrogacy involves the combination of the father’s sperm (or donor sperm) and the mother’s egg (or a donor egg) to create an embryo. This embryo is implanted in the gestational surrogate, who has no genetic link to the baby. The majority of the time when people mention surrogacy, we are referring to this type of scenario.
Traditional surrogacy means the surrogate is genetically linked to the baby. The father’s sperm is used to fertilize the surrogate’s own eggs. The surrogate carries the baby to full-term, where after birth, the intended parents become the legal guardians. Due to the complexities (emotional, legal and more) of traditional surrogacy, gestational surrogacy is more common.
How to Find a Surrogate
Finding a surrogate who meets your requirements is an integral part of a smooth and successful surrogacy journey. It’s also the very first step for surrogacy. So, how can you find a surrogate? Usually, there are two ways that couples and individuals go about this process, including through surrogacy agencies or through family and friends.
Surrogacy agencies, such as ELITE IVF, can serve as a go-between for couples or individuals and surrogates. Usually, surrogacy agencies work hand-in-hand with fertility clinics or doctors. This ensures the proper IVF and surrogate process is followed each time.
Finding your surrogate through a surrogacy agency can also help you navigate through the legalities involved, as well as give you the peace of mind that everything is being done as safely and as healthily as possible.
Family or Friends as a Surrogate
Some couples or individuals may choose to turn to a family or friend to help them through the surrogacy process. In these instances, it is still of the utmost importance to have all the proper paperwork and legal issues sorted out before any further steps are taken.
In fact, you can often do all of this through a surrogacy agency. Many agencies are more than happy to help couples or individuals go through the surrogacy process with their family member or friend and it is helpful to have an impartial third party guiding everyone on the entire process from beginning to end.
Legal Issues and Surrogacy
The legal process associated with surrogacy may pose a tricky situation, especially if you aren’t a surrogacy lawyer or familiar with what is involved. Surrogacy is 100% legal in Canada. However, the Assisted Reproduction Act (ART) makes it illegal to pay a surrogate a wage for her service. At the same time, it is legal and allowed to cover the surrogate’s expenses incurred due to the surrogacy process. Often this may amount to large sums of resources that help a volunteer surrogate to cover her living expenses during the year she helps an intended parent couple with their surrogacy journey.
Whenever you begin to seriously consider surrogacy, it’s critical to consult with a reputable fertility lawyer. The laws surrounding surrogacy are complicated and an expert can help you navigate this process and avoid any penalties for failure to abide by the law. A surrogacy agency like ELITE IVF can provide references to such experts.
Can a Surrogate Keep the Baby?
The short answer: No. A surrogate can’t keep the baby.
There are various legal agreements drawn up before any surrogacy processes take place. This is why a fertility or surrogacy lawyer should be involved from the get-go. They can help you and your surrogate draft, negotiate and agree upon the legal rights and obligations of each party involved. This will include legal agreements stating that once the child is born, the intended parents become the legal guardians. Additionally, after the baby is born, there are some legal processes that will have to take place for this to happen.
So, what does the surrogacy process entail exactly? What should you expect?
As outlined above, the surrogacy process begins with your decision. This is not a decision you want to take lightly. Yet, if your options are limited elsewhere, surrogacy might be right for you. Weighing the pros and cons can help you make your choice. You will also want to budget out the cost accordingly before committing, which we’ll talk about in the next section. Your fertility agency can guide you on making the best decision for your future family.
Your next decision is deciding between gestational surrogacy and traditional surrogacy, according to you and your situation. Gestational surrogacy is significantly more common, which is where a woman carries a child that is not biologically related to her. Once you’ve determined your ideal path, it’s time to get lawyers and/or a surrogacy agency involved, as well as find a suitable surrogate match.
Fertilization and Embryo Transfer Process – Gestational Surrogacy
Once all legal agreements and contracts have been signed, the medical procedures involved in gestational surrogacy begin. This usually takes place within a fertility clinic alongside an experienced reproductive team.
The intended mother (or egg donor) undergoes the egg retrieval process, which is the same as IVF. The intended mother (or egg donor) will take medication to help her body develop and mature eggs that are suitable for fertilization. These eggs are then fertilized in a lab using the intended father’s sperm (or pre-arranged sperm donor). The egg and sperm combine to create an embryo, which will then be transferred into the surrogate’s womb.
Before this happens, the surrogate goes through background, psychological and medical checks to ensure that they are a good match and ready for pregnancy. It is important to also note that surrogacy is very similar to IVF cycles in that it can take a few attempts before pregnancy takes place. Once conception occurs, the surrogate attends regular pregnancy checkups and follows a prenatal plan accordingly.
After nine months, the baby arrives. Many parents join the surrogate during the birthing process or at the hospital. Once the baby is born, the intended parents become the baby’s legal guardians. The surrogate is discharged from the hospital and the intended parents take their baby home. It’s a beautiful process for both the surrogate and the parents.
How Much Does Surrogacy Cost?
The cost of gestational surrogacy largely depends on where you live in the world. In Canada, the average surrogate is provided with reimbursements that equate to $30,000—$40,000 CDN. In the United States, direct compensation is permitted and ranges from $20,000 — $60,000 USD when combined with reimbursable expenses. Overall, the surrogacy contract is highly individualized, compensation or reimbursement depends on multiple factors. At ELITE IVF, we work with you to ensure that the contract between you and your surrogate provides clarity on all logistics, such as expenses, financial reimbursement and related legalities.
Does insurance cover surrogacy? Sometimes, your insurance will cover associated costs or related expenses, such as fertility medication. Before committing, ask your surrogacy agency what questions you should ask your insurance. Together, they will work with you so that you fully understand your expenses and budget breakdown.
Where does this hefty cost come from? The IVF cycles necessary for surrogacy cost between $10,000 and $20,000 (once again, this depends on a variety of factors that you will review with your surrogacy agency). The various medical costs involved before and during pregnancy also amount to tens of thousands of dollars. There may also be additional costs, such as those associated with a c-section, multiple births, and bedrest of the surrogate. Then, there are also legal and agency fees, which can add about $10,000 to $20,000 more. This is why it’s so important to plan your expenses and finances before going this route. Remember, a baby will cost money as well once you bring her or him home.
At ELITE IVF, our specialists are here to help you grow your family. We offer a variety of fertility options from IVF to surrogacy, guiding you toward achieving your dreams. With over 16 years of experience, you can trust our team to help address your unique concerns and act as your guide every step of the way. Contact us today for more information on our US, Canada and Europe surrogacy programs.