Surrogate parenting is an agreement by a woman to carry a baby for another person or couple. The baby may be implanted and she serves as the incubator, or her egg may be used and she gives the baby up to the adoptive mother at birth. Surrogate parenting helps thousands of people become parents each year who otherwise would not be able to achieve their dream. However, risks are involved for both sides with such an intertwined agreement about a human life.
A surrogate parent agrees to give a baby up for adoption. A couple who cannot have children naturally may opt to have a surrogate carry a child for them. A single person who wants to have a child but does not want to include a life partner may also elect to use a surrogate. Surrogate parents are typically compensated for any lost wages during the pregnancy, all medical bills are paid for, and sometimes living expenses are part of the agreement. When the agreement is drawn up, each side must make explicit their current and future rights and responsibilities. To ensure this, hire an attorney to review the agreement to note any issues that you may have overlooked. The agreement can present financial and emotional risks to both sides if not worded well.
The potential parent can face financial risk and hardship if the agreement states the surrogate’s medical expenses will be taken care of and she ends up being hospitalized for a significant number of days during the pregnancy. The surrogate’s financial situation could also change during the pregnancy, presenting minor or major expenses such as, for example, a vehicle breakdown. To ensure the surrogate can continue to attend her prenatal appointments, the potential parent is then faced with the decision to pay to fix the car, even if this responsibility had not been stipulated in the agreement.
Surrogate mothers go through the pregnancy, feel the baby kick, see the ultrasound and hear the heartbeat, only to go through labor and hand the baby over to someone else. At the same time that she gives up the child, her post-delivery hormones are in gear. The emotional aspect of surrogate parenting can take a toll on the surrogate as well as her family.
The emotional risks to the potential parent include bonding with the surrogate during the pregnancy and then saying goodbye if the adoption is going to be closed and sealed. Surrogate pregnancy also carries the risk that the surrogate will change her mind and opt to keep the child, which can cause the potential parents significant emotional trauma.
The legal risks of surrogate parenting vary from state to state. If the surrogate mother is impregnated with the sperm of the adoptive father and changes her mind about giving up the baby once it is born, she can face legal considerations. She may be legally obligated to pay back the money spent on her medical bills and living expenses during the pregnancy. She may also find herself in court fighting to maintain custody if the potential father is also the biological father. The potential parents also face legal risks. If they change their mind and walk away from the deal halfway through, and they signed a contract with the surrogate, she could sue them for breach of contract. If no contract was drawn up and the state she lives in does not provide financial protection for surrogate mothers, she could find herself alone with medical costs and a child to raise. All parties involved need to be sure of their decision before entering the surrogacy agreement.
Once the agreement is made to become a surrogate parent, she effectively agrees to have someone else have a say in how she treats her body. Disagreement on what she should eat, how she should exercise or any other aspect of the surrogate’s life can present problems. Tension between a surrogate and the potential parents can make for a very difficult and stressful nine months.