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Surrogate motherhood is the practice when a woman bears a child on behalf of another person who is not able to carry a baby. It typically occurs via in vitro fertilization.
Jade Elliott spoke with Dr. Barney, the OB/Gyn who delivered the baby carried by surrogate mother Brianna Bigelow for mom Jenny Lowe about surrogacy on this episode of the Baby Your Baby Podcast.
Click here to hear about Brianna and Jenny’s journey.
Reasons to consider surrogate motherhood
Surrogacy may be a desirable option for women who are unable to carry a baby due to infertility, cancer or other medical conditions or health concerns that would make pregnancy impossible or very risky for the woman who wishes to have a baby. Same sex couples may also enlist a surrogate mother if they wish to have a baby.
Talking with your doctor about infertility options or surrogate motherhood
It’s important to talk with your doctor or midwife if you are struggling with infertility or have health concerns about becoming pregnant. Your provider knows your medical history and can help provide medical information and options that will help you make your decision about pregnancy or surrogacy.
Finding a surrogate mother
Some women turn to family or friends for surrogacy. Others go to a surrogacy agency which helps people find a surrogate mother. Surrogacy can be very expensive, especially if the surrogate does not have health insurance. Most experts agree a surrogate mother should:
- Be at least 21 years old
- Have already given birth to at least one healthy baby
- Have passed a psychological screening
- Sign a contract about their role and responsibilities in the pregnancy, prenatal care and after birth
Health screenings for surrogate mothers
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine says surrogates should get a medical exam to check that they are likely to have a healthy, full-term pregnancy. The organization suggests they complete a drug screening, and get tests that check for infectious diseases such as syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, HIV, cytomegalovirus, and hepatitis B and C.
Surrogates should get tests to make sure they have immunity to measles, rubella and chickenpox.
Surrogacy laws in the U.S.
Currently there is no federal law in the U.S. about surrogacy. Surrogacy laws vary from state to state, so be sure to research and understand the laws in your state.
To protect your rights as parents-to-be – and the rights of the child you’re hoping to have – it’s wise to hire an attorney who specializes in reproductive law in your state. They can write a surrogacy contract that clearly spells out what everyone needs to do.
A contract helps if legal issues come up after birth. It can also outline agreements about a variety of possible scenarios with the pregnancy, such as what happens if there are twins or triplets.
In the contract, couples working with a surrogate mother may want to address who the doctor will be who sees the surrogate mother for prenatal visits and delivers the baby. The two parties may also want to agree on who can be present at prenatal visits and for the birth and where those events might take place and when the surrogate hands over the baby.
What it’s like to help deliver a surrogate baby
“In the past twelve years since I’ve been in practice in Utah, I’ve seen about six families working with a surrogate mother. Most often it’s due to infertility. I have also seen same sex couples,” said Dr. Barney.
“I’ve seen cases where the mother is able to donate an egg for insemination and other cases where an outside egg donor is needed,” he added.
Dr. Barney says sometimes one of the parties is outside of Utah. During prenatal visits with the surrogate or the delivery, the parents might join in-person or remotely. Sometimes the mother and the other parents have developed a relationship and other times they are not as involved. Jenny and Brianna developed quite a friendship. And Jenny typically joined the appointments either in-person or on Zoom.
Emotional concerns for surrogate mothers
“The mom who is carrying the baby often has split emotions. They go into the pregnancy knowing they’ll give up the baby, but it can still be difficult, so we screen for postpartum depression or mood disorders at the follow-up visit.”
After Brianna gave birth, Jenny held the baby almost immediately afterward, skin-to-skin to promote bonding.
“It’s a really unique experience to deliver a baby from a surrogate mother. It’s amazing the journey some couples end up taking in order to have a child.”
For more information about reproductive medicine and in vitro fertilization visit intermountainhealthcare.org
To listen to our podcast about postpartum depression, click here.
To listen to the podcast on dads and postpartum depression mentioned in this episode, click here.
The Baby Your Baby program provides many resources for all pregnant women and new moms in Utah. There is also expert advice from the Utah Department of Health and Intermountain Healthcare that air each week on KUTV 2News.