A gestational carrier (GC) is someone who carries and gives birth to a baby for another couple or individual. Gestational carriers have become more common as more people choose to use a GC over a traditional surrogate. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 1999 and 2013, about 2% of all assisted reproductive technology (ART) cycles used a gestational carrier, which was an increase over the years.
There are many reasons someone may choose to use a GC to carry their child, but it’s not the best option for everyone. Here are six things you should know about using a gestational carrier before you start down that road.
1. A Gestational Carrier is Not the Same as a Traditional Surrogate
While the terms “gestational carrier” and “surrogate” are often used interchangeably, there is a difference between the two. In traditional surrogacy, a woman (the surrogate mother) is artificially inseminated with the sperm of the intended father or a donor. The surrogate mother provides her own egg, therefore any resulting children will be genetically related to her. The surrogate then carries and delivers the child. This was more common in times when IVF was not available. Now, it is considered more controversial and can cause both emotional and legal complications.
A gestational carrier is sometimes called a gestational surrogate. In gestational surrogacy, both the sperm and egg are provided by the intended parents (or donors). The intended mother or egg donor goes through an IVF cycle and her eggs are retrieved. They’re then combined with the sperm in a lab for fertilization. Then the embryos are transferred to the GC’s uterus. The GC then carries and gives birth to the baby. People may have a close friend or relative act as a GC or they can find one through an agency.
2. Different People Choose Gestational Surrogates for Different Reasons
The reasons people use gestational surrogates or carriers vary depending on individual circumstances. Sometimes a couple enlists a gestational surrogate to carry and give birth to their baby because the intended mother is unable to carry the baby herself. Some of the reasons women can’t carry children include:
- Prior hysterectomy
- History of miscarriage
- Previous implantation issues
- Conditions affecting the uterus or uterine function
Sometimes there are social reasons GCs are used. A male same-sex couple (or a single male) may choose to use a gestational surrogate because they want to have a baby that is genetically related to one of them. Some female same-sex couples have what is called reciprocal IVF where one partner donates the eggs and the other partner carries the baby.
3. A Gestational Carrier Must Meet Certain Criteria
All of the individuals involved in the gestational surrogacy process are usually put through a screening process, but we’ll get into that later. To qualify to be a gestational carrier a woman must meet the following requirements:
- Between the ages of 21 and 39 (different agencies may have different age requirements)
- Have had at least one healthy, full-term pregnancy and delivery
- Have a BMI between 18 and 32
- Has had no more than 2 c-sections
- Financially stable
Other requirements vary by agency and more detailed requirements are covered during the screening process.
4. There are Strict Screening Processes
- Background screening
- Medical screening
- Psychological screening
- Background screening
- Psychological screening
- Genetic screening (for eggs and sperm used in IVF)
- Financial information
Some surrogacy agencies require more in-depth screening than others. Both the GC and intended parents are required to receive education on the social and emotional aspects of the process. Intended parents may be required to have a home visit by the agency, but that is not a legal requirement.
5. You Should Get Legal and Financial Representation
While using a gestational carrier may eliminate some of the complications of traditional surrogacy, you still need to have a lawyer that specializes in assisted reproduction on your side. They can help you iron out the legal and financial details of your relationship with your GC. That includes agreements on compensation and whether the GC will have contact with the baby they carry after birth. Usually, intended mothers are able to be put on the baby’s birth certificate, but make sure you are familiar with the laws where you live. Having an attorney well-versed in reproductive law can make the process much easier. If you use an agency to find a surrogate, they may be able to help you find a lawyer.
Our staff includes board-certified Reproductive Endocrinologists and Embryologists that can help you build the family of your dreams. Call us at (336) 448-9100 to make an appointment in the Triad, or (844) 686-2233 for our Charlotte office.