What You Need to Know About Surrogacy


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The U.S. State Department says that there were about 7,000 adoptions in 2012. That is quite a few needy children finding a home. When you have questions about adoption, it is best to look at facts, not stories. This means that well-meaning friends, family, even acquaintances will all have some sort of opinion about adoptions, but opinions are not truth. For adults looking into having the help of a surrogate mother or birth mother, it is even more important to understand the process as it is just a bit more complicated than traditional adoption programs.

Why Do People Plan a Non-Traditional Pregnancy?

In a storybook-perfect world, babies would only be born to loving couples who planned for their birth. Reality does not allow for this, whether due to messy break-ups, infertility, homosexual couples, underaged pregnancies, or single adults who want to start a family on their own. In the case of couples who are unable, for one reason or another, to have a baby in the traditional biological way, there is the option of a surrogate mother or birth mother.

The terms “surrogate mother” and “birth mother” are not interchangeable. Both have precise legal terms. A traditional surrogate mother is artificially inseminated with the father’s sperm, which fertilizes one of her eggs. The resulting pregnancy is carried to term. The baby is ideally given to the biological father and non-biological mother, as agreed upon beforehand. This method has at times caused foreseeable problems. A woman who believes she will have little trouble giving up the baby may have a different opinion after having carried it in her body for nine months. It can be emotional, to say the least. And because the surrogate mother has contributed biological material, namely her egg, she has a claim to the baby.

It is extremely important that the adopting adult(s) and surrogate mother consult a lawyer well-versed in surrogate law before the baby is born, or even better, before the pregnancy begins. The question of the birth certificate can cause all sorts of trouble. For example, if the situation is not clearly outlined beforehand, when the surrogate mother gives birth, she can legally put her name on the birth certificate along with her husband’s name. Once that happens, the baby is now legally their own. The couple who had planned to take their baby home would then need to make inquiries about adoption.

Isn’t the Birth Mother Pretty Obvious?

Interestingly, the woman who gives birth to a baby may not legally be considered the baby’s birth mother. Another type of surrogacy is gestational surrogacy, in which the father contributes his sperm, and the mother contributes an egg to be fertilized with in vitro fertilization. The woman who then takes the fertilized egg into her uterus is not considered the birth mother, even though she will actually give birth.

Couples may choose this option for several reasons. The birth mother may not be able to carry a pregnancy to term, for one medical reason or another. And unlike a traditional surrogate, the baby will have genetic material from both parents who plan to raise him or her. In this case, the woman who carries the baby will not have the same legal claim to the baby, which many couples find attractive. It is better to not have to worry about possible legal battles, especially over the life of your child.

Finding a birth mother or surrogate mother is different than adopting. If you are thinking about adoption, there are certainly many wonderful children in foster homes and group homes. But if you want a child that will have a biological connection to you or your spouse, it is fine to look into other options. Only 53% of parents say they feel they handle parenting “very well.” It is a life-long job that no one is ever really prepared for, but nothing is more important or rewarding.