The true sisterhood of women is showcased when one woman carries a child for another. Domestic and international adoptions may be the most common ways families introduce nonbiological children into their lives, but last year's movie Baby Mama and Sarah Jessica Parker's recent addition of twins have made surrogacy a common topic. Though there are no national statistics on the practice, it is estimated that approximately 1,000 such births occur each year.
After dealing with infertility and still desiring a family, some couples turn to another woman to carry their baby. In traditional surrogacy, the surrogate is artificially inseminated, by either the child-to-be's father or an anonymous donor, while in gestational surrogacy, an egg is removed from the future child's mother and fertilized with sperm from either the father or an anonymous donor. The fertilized egg is then implanted in the carrier via IVF. Similar to the adoption process, families interested in surrogacy often work with an agency to help them find a suitable surrogate, handle the legal issues that the transaction involves, and help them through the process.
Qualifications: Similar to adoption, families meet and register with an agency to learn about the process. and to find a carrier. In general, agencies require carriers to be between 23-38 years old, have previously had at least one child on their own, be married or in a serious relationship, undergo a complete medical and psychological evaluation, and be financially stable.
To see the rest of our look at surrogacy, including a chart of the states where it is legal,
Time line: In general, the entire process can take one to two years, based on the state and the health of the intended parents and carrier. Once a family has been matched with a carrier for a gestational surrogacy, the intended mother and carrier go through fertility treatments for egg retrieval and gestation. The embryos are then transferred and a pregnancy test is administered two weeks later. Assuming the transfer is successful, nine months later the process is complete.
Costs: Gestational surrogacy can range from $100,000 to $150,000, including the agency's fee, compensation for the carrier (approximately $25,000-$30,000), medical costs for fertility treatments, and the birth (though some carriers come to the process with their own medical insurance), travel, and legal fees.
Considerations: Before deciding to use a surrogate, parents must be comfortable with the idea of someone else carrying their baby. While they will meet and interact with that person prior to the birth, they will not have control over the carrier's daily life. They must also look into their state's laws about the process, as currently only six states legally recognize surrogacy contracts.
Photo courtesy of Universal Studios