Maybe you’ve reached the point in your journey to become a parent where you are considering going down the surrogacy route. Or perhaps you have a friend who is about to start the process. Or maybe you just became curious about it after watching Keeping Up with the Kardashians (both Kim and Khloe have welcomed babies via surrogate). Whatever your experience, you may have a few misconceptions about the how and the why of surrogacy. For this reason, we asked Stephanie Levich, celebrity surrogacy consultant and founder of Family Match Consulting, to debunk the most common myths about surrogacy and shed some light on the subject.
6 Myths About Surrogacy You May Have Heard That Just Aren’t True
Surrogacy Myth #1: Surrogates Are Only in It for the Money
It’s natural to wonder why someone might be willing to sacrifice their body for nine months to carry a stranger’s child, but don’t jump to the most cynical conclusion. Surrogates are indeed compensated for being pregnant, but Levich emphasizes that this is not the main motivation for women entering into the process.
In fact, there are extensive criteria to become a surrogate. For starters, candidates must provide proof that they have carried at least one healthy pregnancy to term, are currently raising their child(ren) and are financially stable without the help from any income received for surrogacy. Above all, Levich tells us that surrogates are “women who have had easy and uncomplicated pregnancies, enjoyed being pregnant, and genuinely love the idea of helping someone else experience the joys of parenthood that they have been fortunate enough to experience.” In other words, they’re decidedly not offering up their womb and going through the whole rigamarole just for the sake of a quick cash infusion; on the contrary, they view the good deed as “an accomplishment they will carry for their entire lives,” says Levich.
Surrogacy Myth #2: Women Turn to Surrogacy to Avoid Gaining Weight and Other Undesirable Body Changes During Pregnancy
Especially with some of the more high-profile surrogacy cases, it’s tempting to assume that a woman might opt for a surrogate in order to preserve her physique. But it’s time to silence your inner cynic once again, friends, because the expert can't stress enough how far this misconception is from the truth. In her 20 year career as a celebrity surrogacy consultant, Levich has not encountered a single client who opted to take the surrogacy route out of vanity. “Sometimes a person’s reasons for exploring this option are more obvious because it’s a single father-to-be or a same-sex couple who need the help of an egg donor and a gestational carrier to achieve their dream of becoming parents,” she explains. But there are plenty of other explanations, including infertility struggles, trauma from past birth experiences, and mental or physical health conditions that require the use of contraindicated medications or otherwise that make pregnancy an unsafe or unlikely endeavor. Bottom line: If someone in your life is considering hiring a surrogate, you can be sure it’s not about the baby weight.
Surrogacy Myth #3: Surrogates Are Genetically Related to the Baby They Are Carrying
Forget what you’ve seen in the movies, because surrogacy does not typically involve a borderline incestuous arrangement. Per Levich, most surrogacy programs throughout the country only facilitate what are called “gestational surrogacy,” meaning that the surrogate is not biologically related to the baby they are carrying. Instead, the genetic material is either provided by the parents-to-be, or by an egg or sperm donor, before the resulting embryo is transferred into the surrogate's uterus in hopes of achieving a pregnancy.
Surrogacy Myth #4: Surrogates May Decide to Keep the Baby
If you’re considering surrogacy, you can rest assured that the woman carrying your child will not suddenly decide to hold on to the infant herself—namely because surrogates do not have any parental rights to the child. “With the help of attorneys who specialize in surrogacy arrangements, the proper contracts and parentage documents are always in place to ensure that the surrogate relinquishes her rights to the child and that the parents-to-be are protected,” explains Levich. But legal procedures aside, it’s just not very likely to happen. In her long career as a facilitator of surrogacy cases, Levich has never seen a surrogate have misgivings in the final hour. Women who become surrogates say that a surrogacy pregnancy is not the same kind of bond they had with their own children. In fact, Levich says that surrogates look forward to the profound moment when they have the privilege of witnessing the parent(s) take their baby into their arms for the first time.
Surrogacy Myth #5: Surrogates Are Unlikely to Follow Healthy Protocols Throughout the Pregnancy
Given what we’ve learned about the motivation and sincerity of surrogates, it should come as no surprise that they take the job quite seriously. In fact, Levich says that most surrogates take even better care of themselves during the surrogacy pregnancy vs. their own. “They are invested in the process, the parents, and the child they have been granted the tremendous responsibility to nourish and protect, and they desperately want to do right by all parties.” Additionally, before pregnancy even begins, all parties involved (the agency, the intended parents and the surrogate) sit down to discuss and negotiate all eventualities during the pregnancy so that everyone can enter the pregnancy with clear expectations.
Surrogacy Myth #6: Surrogacy Is Transactional
We kinda covered this one already, but it bears repeating: Although compensated for their hard work, surrogates are, first and foremost, providing an extraordinary gift to parents in need. As such, Levich emphasizes that surrogacy is not some seedy transaction, but rather “a supreme example of human kindness where people are coming together to create families.” In fact, she describes the relationships forged during this profound journey as being truly transcendent and beautiful beyond words. Anyone else getting a little misty-eyed?