Starting or expanding a family through surrogacy is an emotionally, financially, and logistically complicated process. Families considering surrogacy have a lot of questions that would never even come up for most parents. Should you use a family member or friend as a surrogate or gestational carrier? Or should you go through an agency, where the gestational carrier will be vetted, and possibly more confident that they’re up to the task?
There’s no one right answer as to whether it’s best to use a known surrogate or gestational carrier or not (a surrogate is genetically related to the baby she carries, while a gestational carrier is implanted with an embryo which uses either a donor egg or the egg of the intended mother). The right answer, as it so often is, is the one that works best for you and your family.
- Known gestational carrier or surrogate: For many families, working with a gestational carrier who they already know, trust, or care about can add a sense of control over the situation. Working with someone the family already has an emotional connection to can also help parents-to-be who worry that surrogacy is a very clinical way to start a family feel more comfortable with it as an option. Working with a carrier who’s close to the family means that if your child has questions about the person who had such an important role in bringing them into the world, they’ll be able to ask someone they already know and are comfortable with.
- Agency gestational carrier: A gestational carrier who a family finds through an agency has already been vetted, including psychological screening, background check, and medical history. These can be tricky questions to bring up, or uncomfortable checks to arrange, for a family member or friend who has made the extremely generous offer to be a carrier, but they’re important for helping to make sure that the surrogacy journey is a healthy and positive experience for everyone involved in it.
- Known gestational carrier or surrogate: For families with known gestational carriers, the surrogacy process can be an extremely emotionally complicated one, and it’s important to think about the ways surrogacy might impact that relationship. It’s always best for both the intended parents and the gestational carrier to have their own lawyers when working out the details of the arrangement. It’s also a good idea to go through the same screenings – psychological screening, medical history, background check – that an agency would with a surrogate. In fact, most fertility clinics will require this, so while it can feel a little uncomfortable to request these things of a friend or family member, it’s often both the best and the only way forward.
- A gestational carrier found through an agency: Working with an agency can be more expensive than independently handling expenses, and if you’re interested in having your family’s gestational carrier remain as a part of your lives, it may not be as easy to arrange as having someone who’s already close as a gestational carrier.
No matter which way you build a family, it’s always going to be a journey that’s full of huge decisions, but what’s ultimately important is the baby that comes from those decisions, not the decisions themselves. By even thinking about approaching a surrogate or gestational carrier to help expand your family, you’re on your way.