Surrogacy offers couples who are unable to carry a pregnancy an opportunity to become parents of their own biological child. The surrogate agrees under contract to carry and deliver a child for the couple and signs away any parental rights. A surrogate can be a close friend, family member or a woman the couple recruits to carry the pregnancy.

Surrogacy is an option with many issues to consider. Surrogacy is expensive, time-consuming, emotionally stressful, and poses a whole set of legal concerns.

Surrogacy Types

The number of pregnancies carried by gestational carriers in Canada is unknown, but likely small. Assisted pregnancies have been self-regulated for years within the clinics’ own codes of conduct. However, Bill C6, legislation which had been pending for more than a decade, became law in 2004 and has made it illegal to sell or buy human sperm or eggs, or provide surrogacy for profit. Violators face fines of up to $500,000 and prison sentences up to 10 years.

There are two forms of surrogacy: gestational surrogacy and traditional surrogacy. In gestational surrogacy the couple are the biological parents of the child. In vitro fertilization (IVF) is used to create an embryo from the eggs and sperm of the couple. The embryo is then transferred to the surrogate uterus for gestation. In this instance, the surrogate mother is not genetically linked to the child. With traditional surrogacy, the surrogate is the genetic mother of the child. Insemination is used to combine the sperm from the intended father with the eggs from the surrogate.

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Psychological Concerns

There are added psychological considerations with surrogacy. There is always a risk that the surrogate will become so emotionally attached to the child she is carrying, she may not be able to give it up even if the child is not genetically hers. To avoid this scenario surrogates are required to undergo extensive psychological testing before being accepted into a program.

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Legal Concerns

Surrogacy involves highly intricate legal processes. Couples considering surrogacy are advised to seek the advice of an attorney with experience in this area.

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Added Stresses

Because a third party is involved in the gestation and delivery of the child, the couple is faced with a unique challenge. There are now three people making the decisions, not two. Although there is a contract, there are still issues over which the couple may not have full control and will have to negotiate with the surrogate as they arise. For example, the couple and the surrogate may have conflicting opinions on how to manage the pregnancy, labour and delivery. The surrogate and couple may have different views about the need for genetic testing.

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