When a man and woman have tried every conceivable way to achieve a pregnancy and failed, their only and perhaps best option may be to use a surrogate.
A surrogate mother is one who carries a fetus for another person. There are various kinds of surrogacy including the traditional method in which the proxy is impregnated with the man’s sperm via artificial insemination. When this method is used it is considered partial surrogacy because the baby that is born is genetically 50 percent the father’s and 50 percent the woman’s that is carrying the baby.
This is a viable option when a woman is unable to get pregnant by, or carry to term, her husband’s or partner’s child. She opts to let another woman carry her husband’s or partner’s baby.
If both a man and women are infertile, the stand-in can be inseminated using donor sperm. This child would have no genetic connection to the people who ultimately become his parents.
Nowadays, there is another type of surrogacy that is utilized and it is called full or gestational surrogacy, which means an embryo, is implanted into the proxy. The fetus is not genetically connected to the carrier. The man and woman provide their sperm and their eggs which are fertilized in a test tube in a lab. The fertilized egg is then put into the surrogate mother. She serves, essentially, as an incubator.
There are those that object to the term “gestational carrier” versus surrogate mother because they believe it is impersonal and depicts the proxy mother as a machine where babies are harvested and then carried to term rather than as an actual woman who endures the rigorous nine months of pregnancy and does it for someone else.
There are, of course, tremendous advantages to using a substitute because it allows an infertile or partially infertile couple to have a child. The cons involved in this type of arrangement can be the loss of the pregnancy, which can happen to any expectant woman, and financial and emotional complications for the couple and the woman that is carrying the baby for them.
When a pregnancy is achieved, which is wonderful, there are still many obstacles to overcome. The couple and the pregnant woman may not agree on everything. Some couples are very controlling and want to oversee every aspect of the pregnancy. The surrogate may resent this.
Another fear is that the woman carrying the baby will change her mind after the birth and refuse to hand over the infant, particularly if the child is genetically half hers.
In this type of situation, she may have a legal leg to stand on. In the past, surrogates have been awarded custody of the child they were ostensibly carrying for someone else. This is a heartbreaking outcome for the couple that hired her to carry their baby.
Celebrities such as Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker used a surrogate to carry their twin daughters. Multiple births are not unusual in gestational surrogacy because more than one egg is generally fertilized and several embryos are then placed into the surrogate. All of the inserted embryos may not survive but the more there are inserted the better the likelihood that one will survive and, often, two do.
Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban’s second daughter was born via a surrogate, although the reason for this was never publicized. Kidman had previously given birth to a child fathered by Urban. Sarah Jessica Parker, however, reported that she was unable to get pregnant (again) so she and her husband went the surrogate route.
About the author: Daylan Jones researches and writes on topics related to donor sperm, artificial insemination, and donor sperm banks for Cryobank.