Today, a woman can get pregnant and bear the child of another woman through surrogacy, which is fast becoming an attractive Assisted Reproductive Technique globally.
Nigerian couples have embraced surrogacy and are still embracing surrogates to complete their families, even though they are not talking about it much. This is one of the least talked about tools in the fight against infertility. If you are thinking of exploring the world of surrogacy, it is necessary to be educated and informed.
As a couple, you could request another woman to carry and give birth to your baby, if you are unable to have a normal pregnancy. If you are a woman that is unable to carry a child due to problems with conception or potential problems with pregnancy, labour or delivery, then a surrogate mother can carry your child on your behalf.
If you have medical problems with your uterus, have had hysterectomy through which your uterus was removed or suffered conditions that make pregnancy impossible or risky for you, such as severe heart disease, surrogacy could be the solution you seek.
Surrogates have also made parenthood an option for people who might not be able to adopt a child, perhaps because of their age or marital status.
If you want to start a family but are facing a variety of challenges in the process, surrogacy may be a great way to achieve this goal. There are two types of surrogacy — natural (traditional surrogates) and IVF surrogate mother (gestational surrogate). Both require a surrogate mother to carry the baby for the intended parent(s).
If you opt for traditional surrogacy, fertility experts would use your husband’s sperm to artificially inseminate the surrogate mother who then carries the baby for you. A traditional surrogate shares a genetic connection with the baby.
Opting for gestational surrogacy means you are using IVF to create an embryo that is then carried by the surrogate. In gestational surrogacy, the surrogate has no genetic ties with the baby since her eggs are not used. Eggs can be obtained from the commissioning couple as a donor.
Gestational surrogacy allows many intended parents to be the biological parents.
If you use a natural surrogate mother, she would be genetically related to the child. But an IVF surrogate is not genetically related to the child. She only carries a pregnancy, created by your egg and your partner’s sperm or through sperm and egg donors.
If you are selecting a surrogate, she should be under 38 years, married or in a stable relationship. She should also preferably have had at least a previous live birth without complications.
Once the eggs are retrieved, they are fertilised in a laboratory to create embryos, which grow for three to five days before being transferred to the surrogate or frozen for later use. Typically one to three embryos are then implanted into the surrogate’s uterus.
Six weeks later, upon heartbeat confirmation, the gestational mother is officially considered pregnant. Throughout her pregnancy, the intending parents, the surrogate, and their programme coordinator are encouraged to stay in touch, discussing parenting, pre-natal tests and any other matters that may arise. This consistent communication allows for an honest and fluid process.
A friend or relative could be engaged with your surrogate.
A prospective surrogate is thoroughly screened and counselled. Such a person should not have medical disorders, such as diabetes or blood group incompatibilities and shouldn’t smoke, drink or abuse drugs.
Success rates for traditional surrogacy are approximately between 10 and 20 per cent per cycle if intrauterine insemination is done but with IVF, the chances depend on the age of the egg donor and range from 35 to 40 per cent per cycle.
One of the biggest surrogacy issues is whether it is fair to the surrogate mother. It is generally assumed that she will become attached to the child she is carrying, even if it is not genetically her own. So, it is in some way cruel to take it from her, even if that is the established agreement.
However, surrogate mothers rarely change their minds and want to keep the child. They can adopt a range of techniques to maintain an appropriate relationship with the baby they are carrying, including bonding with the commissioning couple, and this helps to prevent attachment. Counselling is also very important before embarking on the process.
Surrogacy is usually a treatment of last resort and proper legal and medical precautions need to be taken at every step of the process.
Not only does surrogacy allow you to overcome obstacles on your journey to creating a family, it also allows surrogates to play a role in the journey of others to parenthood.
There’s still some controversy about using a surrogate mother to have a baby. The legal process is also tricky because it varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Even so, whether it’s because of fertility problems or other reasons, surrogacy is an option for you and your partner.