Surrogacy is still controversial in our society, and one of the choices for some couples to start a family. It’s one of the medical services assisted by doctors and medical teams as they offer to help intended parents to conceive a child of their own. The reasons could be infertility, failed multiple pregnancies, miscarriages, and other health conditions. However, surrogacy also open door to the single biological parent or same-sex couple seeking to have children.
Surrogacy is often very expensive and set a toll on social, emotional, financial, and legal settlement. It requires a significant commitment between intended parents and surrogate mothers to protect their rights. Such agreement clearly states that, once the baby is born, a surrogate mother has to give full custody and guardianship of the child to the intended parents.
There are two types of surrogacy and they are:
- Gestational surrogates: Pregnancy takes place through “In Vitro Fertilization” commonly known as IVF. An IVF is a procedure to gather eggs from the intended mother or egg donor, fertilizes them with sperm from the intended father or sperm donor, together as processed as an embryo, they are placed in the uterus of a surrogate mother known as a gestational surrogate. In gestational surrogacy, pregnancy for a couple takes place where the egg is not from the carrier. It’s either from the intended mother or the egg donor. Therefore, this type of surrogacy is also known as “Host surrogacy”.
In gestational surrogacy, the surrogate mother carries the baby until birth. However, the baby being born is not related to the surrogate mother as she is not the genetic mother.
But scientifically a surrogate mother can pass some DNA to the child through the placenta.
In gestational surrogacy, the surrogate mother will be referred to as the “birth mother”. The biological mother of the baby will be whose eggs were used for fertilization.
- Traditional surrogates: Pregnancy takes place through intrauterine insemination commonly known as IUI. In the IUI procedure, the surrogate woman uses her eggs to get artificially inseminated with the intended father’s sperm. In traditional surrogacy, the woman who carries the baby becomes the biological mother as it was her egg that was fertilized with the intended father’s sperm. Therefore, a surrogate mother shares a genetic link with the baby.
In traditional surrogacy, the surrogate mother carried the baby up to the specified term until birth and delivers it back to the intended couple. This type of surrogacy is also known as “Straight Surrogacy”.
Overview of an emotional experience a surrogate mother goes through:
Most surrogate mothers are happy for the intended parents as they can give the joy of motherhood to the families. However, some struggle with emotional bonding with the baby and health issues during pregnancy. They are emotionally prepared for not keeping the motherhood feeling for the baby inside their womb. They are hired for the purpose to provide an appropriate environment for the baby to grow and nurture.
A surrogate mother is concerned and worried about the baby’s health at the time of pregnancy. The constant fear of abnormality and complication at the time of birth is one unpleasant experience. Negative thoughts of a baby being rejected by intended parents due to any defect or abnormality will have to compensate for the medical expenses. Also, the baby will be abandoned for having any physical or mental disorder.
Choosing to become a surrogate mother is a life-changing experience. And therefore, it will impact close people, it could be life partners, friends, relatives, and family. The perception view of society toward a surrogacy mother would be different and it requires a lot of physical and emotional energy to face the situation.
It is challenging for such mothers to convince their partners or husbands to give them emotional support throughout the journey of surrogacy. And having such a strong understanding with the husband is an invaluable feeling. Certain things could impact the relationship with your partner such as restriction on intimacy, which means abstaining from physical activity up to a certain period. Having moral support and sharing shift in responsibilities. Certain limits on a few family activities like vacations, outings, and any long trips during surrogacy.
Surrogate mothers face health complications during pregnancy that could be complex and severe like gestational diabetes, placental abruption, hypertension, and miscarriage. Additionally, some common pregnancy symptoms like general discomfort, morning sickness, swelling, and soreness. Post-pregnancy health symptoms could be both short and long-term. It could be excessive bleeding after delivery, perineal pain, postpartum infections, vaginal discharge, stretch marks, and hair loss among a few.
The last step of giving birth is the emotional challenge of a surrogacy mother to hand over the baby to its rightful owner/intended parents of a child. Letting go of a baby to its biological parents after carrying it for long nine months is emotionally challenging. The surrogate mother may experience the feeling of loss, the grief of losing a baby right after the birth. The surrogate mother feels an emotional connection due to which some may fall into depression, anxiety, and PTSD-related symptoms.
Several women take up the assignment for monetary gain as they belong to poor families therefore such agreement is purely commercial.
The Story of Reena living in Chennai, India. The wife of the ricksha driver and the mother of two, a boy of 8 years old and a girl of 5 years old. Reena works in a garment factory and makes 150rupees wages per day while her husband makes roughly six to seven thousand rupees a month. It became insufficient for the family to educate their children and had loans from previous settlements to repay.
Reena came across Sarita who works as a nurse in one of the fertility clinics and told her about surrogacy as one of the opportunities to pay back loans and solve financial problems. Reena was informed that she could make up to 2,00,000 rupees and that could solve much of her debts.
It was difficult for Reena to convince her husband and more importantly to make her children understand the situation. When the procedure was explained to Reena’s husband, he understood and agreed to corporate with the pregnancy.
Reena’s son would often question why his mother has to go to the hospital now and then. Reena would simply say her stomach has been swollen and her treatment is going on. While her youngest daughter was too small to understand.
Throughout pregnancy, Reena knew that this child is a hope and joy for the intended family and they have high expectations from her. Reena would go under regular medical checkups just like regular pregnancy examinations, her medical expenses were taken care of well.
At the time of birth, Reena was not allowed to see the face of the baby nor gender was ever revealed by a doctor. When Reena’s children came to see their mother, she had no answer to tell them what happened to her. Reena’s husband comforted her saying the baby went where it belonged. However, it was difficult for Reena to accept the reality and it took an emotional toll on her health.
For the longest time, Reena was under depression dealing with the loss of a child and the emotional trauma. Reena faced Postpartum depression (PPD) right after the birth and it took months to recover her health. Reena’s family received the amount which she and her husband managed to clear off debts but to accept the reality of motherhood of a surrogate mother was difficult.