i) What is surrogacy and is it that only a woman can surrogate a baby or even a man can be a surrogate father?
-> Surrogacy is a process usually opted by the parents when the normal pregnancy is impossible by the mother. It is a legal process where a healthy female agrees to conceive or bear a baby in her womb for the duration of nine months and after delivering the baby, the couple will be the legal parents of that baby.
No, a man cannot be a surrogate father, as it is about giving birth to a child. A man cannot conceive or bear a baby normally, so he cannot be a surrogate father. But if a single man wants to have a child with the help of a surrogate mother, he can go for it after following some legal formalities. These formalities are basically to check whether the man is capable of the proper upbringing of the child and it includes both financial and physical aspects.
ii) What are the legal procedures or agreements that one needs to complete or follow?
-> There are many formalities required to be done before going for surrogacy. These rules differ in different countries and couples should check with their surrogacy advisor for the same. The main outlines of the legal procedures are as follows-
a) A proper contract needs to signed between the "to be surrogate mother" and the intended parents which include all the financial as well as social terms. The financial terms include the payments, the medical expenses, expenses in case of any medical emergency, etc. The social terms include the clause about intake of alcohol, tobacco or any other edible which is not good for the pregnant ladies.
b) Another document states the presence of the intended parents during prenatal check-ups and even at the time of delivery.
c) Then comes the Pre-Birth order, where the concerned doctors signed the affidavit saying that the embryo was transferred to the surrogate mother in this particular pregnancy. The surrogate family signs an agreement saying that they will not be having any right on this child after delivery.
d) The last and final documentation required is about adoption or Post-Birth documentation. It varies depending upon the type of surrogacy chosen. The "stepparent adoption" is done when either the egg or the sperms are taken from the intended parents. If none of the intended parents are genetically related to the embryo, then "embryo adoption" documentation needs to be done.
iii) Who can surrogate a baby and what are the different types of surrogacy?
-> Couples with medical issues can go for a surrogate baby or surrogate mother. These cases include the weak uterus, infertile sperms, age of both the couples, sever problems in mother that makes her incapable of bearing a child for 9 months, etc. Couples having a history of genetic issues can go for surrogate mothers with an embryo adoption method where both of the intended parents will not be genetically related to the child.
There are basically 2 types of surrogacy procedures and the intended parents can choose any of them. The one which includes the egg and sperms of the intended parents is known as "Gestational surrogacy". In this case, the egg and sperms are fertilized in-vitro (in the lab) and then transferred in the womb of the surrogate mother.
In another case, where sperms are taken from the intended father and transferred or inseminated to the surrogate mother, is known as "Traditional Surrogacy". Here the traits of the child will match with father and the surrogate mother as the egg used for fertilization belongs to the surrogate mother.
iv) Can a surrogate refuse to give the child and if yes, what can be done?
-> Yes, a surrogate can refuse to give the child post-delivery as she may feel connected with the child she bore for 9 months. In such cases, the legal documents which were prepared and signed pre-birth need to be used. If proper legal documentation is done, then it is not difficult to fight such cases.
v) Does any religion have deflection or limitation about surrogacy?
-> All religions have different beliefs and couples following their religion strongly will prefer the surrogate mother of their religion. In the case of egg or sperm donor, he or she must also be from the same religion as that of intended parents. But such things vary on the personal front. Many people do not even disclose that they are planning to have a surrogate baby to avoid such religious or social issues.
vi) What is the treatment of surrogacy and when can one opt for surrogacy?
-> Treatment of surrogacy is nothing but delivering the child through artificial insemination or IVF in the womb of the surrogate mother. Here, proper tests are needed to be done before initiating the process and it includes blood tests, the family history of the mother is analyzed to check the presence of any genetic issues, the health of the uterus, etc. When the IVF procedure is chosen, special care is taken of the surrogate mother, as neither the sperm nor the eggs are related to the surrogate mother genetically hence her body may face problems accepting it on the immunological front.
When the intended parents are not capable of delivering the child due to any medical issues, they can go for Surrogacy. In case o single parents, they can also go for surrogacy. Even in the case of homosexuals, they can have a child by providing their eggs or sperms through surrogacy.
vii) Any additional points to be looked into while thinking about surrogacy?
-> Proper legal documentation and the medical health check-ups of the surrogate mother are very important in surrogacy. Improper documentation may take you to legal discrepancies related to the right of the child post-delivery and the financial issues may arise in later stages.
If the surrogate mother is not fir physically, mentally or genetically, she may face difficulties during pregnancy and even at the time of delivery.
Lastly, consent from the surrogate mother's family also plays an important role as they may create problems after delivering the child.
Living & Learning- simultaneous processes!