When you’re thinking of becoming a surrogate, there’s probably nothing more fulfilling than the idea of helping hopeful intended parents becoming a family. But even so, the surrogacy process involves life-changing medical procedures — and that implies certain health risks of surrogacy that you need to be aware of.
In this guide, we’ll go over the risks and benefits of surrogacy, along with how your surrogacy agency can and should minimize them. For a more in-depth explanation, you can always reach out to us through our free information form to get connected with a surrogacy specialist.
What are the Physical Risks of Gestational Surrogacy?
Although a surrogacy pregnancy is different than what you’re used to, at the end of the day it’s still a pregnancy. This means that the same medical risks that come with childbirth and pregnancy still apply here. Expect to experience symptoms of nausea, cramps, mood swings, back pain, frequent urination and more.
While it’s rare, there are other, more serious risks of pregnancy, like hypertension and preeclampsia. You are at a higher risk of side effects, like high blood pressure for example, if you are carrying multiples.
Additionally, there is also medication that you’ll need to take during the IVF process that can increase the risks of surrogacy. You might experience a mild bruising at the sight of injection or a temporary allergic reaction. While there are little risks associated with the embryo transfer process, it is possible to experience mild cramping or light bleeding, which is why it’s a good idea to take some time off to recuperate after the transfer.
But, for surrogates like Codi, these minor side effects and the surrogate pregnancy risks are well worth the reward.
“Before transfer, I had a couple of headaches but nothing unbearable. It was really easy at that point,” she said. “Post-transfer, some of the side effects I had — besides your regular pregnancy side effects —I had some mood swings. It definitely affected my hormones because your body isn’t producing them yourself, so they’re kind of like, ‘Where is this coming from?’ And I would say that I had some soreness from the shots — that was uncomfortable — but other than that, the side effects were pretty minimal.”
Because every woman reacts differently to pregnancy, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor before becoming a surrogate. They can evaluate any symptoms you might be at risk for to ensure that surrogacy is something you are physically ready for.
What are the Emotional Risks of Becoming a Gestational Surrogate?
Surrogacy is an emotional journey for everyone involved. As a woman who’s helping a couple grow their family, it’s only natural to feel excited and proud of what you’re doing. Take it from Megan, a former surrogate who says she would do it all over again for the satisfaction of helping another family become whole.
“I wanted to give the biggest gift possible, and to me that was life,” she said. “I got to fulfill that, and I got to watch the emotions and I get to see the joy, and it is the most amazing feeling in the world. For my intended parents, they get their babies that they tried so hard for. All the stress and all the trying finally had the outcome they were wanting, and I can tell you now that it is worth every second and every up and every down. Surrogacy is worth it, 110%.”
But it is also possible to experience some emotional risks of surrogacy after birth and during the pregnancy.
Becoming a surrogate is a huge commitment and emotional investment. Over the next nine months, you will likely build a deep relationship with the intended parents. Many people forget that the surrogate and intended parent relationship can have a deep, lifelong impact on one another. And when you think about, there’s really nothing more intimate and irreplaceable than the experience of carrying a baby for someone else. While you can of course stay in contact with them afterward, through phone calls and emails, it’s not uncommon to feel some amount of sadness after birth, when there may suddenly be a little more distance in your relationship with the intended parents.
When Lindsey and Shiloh went through their surrogacy journey, they made a promise to stay close friends with their surrogate, even as their children grew up. To make it easier to cope with the emotional risks of surrogacy, you might choose to do the same.
“I never thought that it would go from complete stranger to best friend and a relationship that will always be there, so that’s pretty neat,” Lindsey says.
After giving birth, it is also possible for you to experience symptoms of postpartum depression as your body goes through the hormonal shift that comes with delivery and you return to your new normal. You might start to feel symptoms of:
- Emotional and mental exhaustion
- Mood swings from pregnancy hormones
- Emotional pressure from carrying the intended parents’ baby
Contrary to some common myths and misconceptions about gestational surrogacy, this isn’t because you feel attached to the baby or that you feel a sense that you are “giving something away”; surrogates are aware that they’re only “babysitting” for a short time. Alicia, a former surrogate, explains these feelings perfectly:
“I at no point wanted to take their child home or did I feel like it actually belonged to me,” she said. “I didn’t have that… I didn’t feel like a piece of me was missing. I felt like I did something good for someone else, and it was their child to have. I was glad that I was able to carry their child for them.”
Becoming a surrogate can also put strain on your other relationships, which is often a risk that surrogates face. You might feel guilty over lack of time for your family when you’re busy carrying for the intended parents’ baby. It’s important to think about how becoming a surrogate will impact your children and your significant other. When more of your time is taken up for taking care of the intended parent’s child, and your partner has to take on more of the day-to-day chores and child caring in your stead, it can put a strain on your relationship. Before you sign up to become a surrogate, it’s essential that your partner is completely on board with your decision.
A fantastic support system will make a world of difference, just like it did for Alicia:
“I had an awesome support system,” she said. “My mother was very supportive; she tells everybody and she shows pictures everywhere we go.”
Before you begin your surrogacy journey, you will undergo a thorough psychological and social evaluation. This is done to make sure that you understand all the potential emotional challenges and mental risks of surrogacy before you sign up.
How Your Surrogacy Agency Minimizes the Risks of Being a Surrogate
Every surrogacy agency knows that it’s not easy carrying the intended parents’ baby — which is why they will do everything they can to support you before, during and after the pregnancy. To ensure that you’re physically and emotionally ready for the surrogacy journey, here are a few things that an agency will do to try and minimize surrogacy risks:
- A thorough physical, social and medical screening to ensure that you’re ready for the surrogacy process.
- Extensive intended parent screening to ensure that they’re safe to work with and committed to the surrogacy process.
- Ongoing support during all stages of the surrogate process
No two pregnancies are alike, just like no two surrogacy experiences are alike. To ensure that you have the best experience you can during the surrogacy journey, it’s imperative to speak with a surrogacy specialist and complete their thorough screening process to ensure that you’re truly ready for the surrogacy journey.
Are the Gestational Surrogate Mother Risks Worth It?
You are the only one who can decide if it’s worth it to become a surrogate. Becoming a surrogate is a deeply personal decision to make. While this is an incredible opportunity to be a part of, there are still some risks of surrogacy that you should take into account. Complications can arise in any pregnancy, and surrogacy is no different. It is important that you do as much research as possible to make sure that this is the right decision for you.
With that being said, for many women, the joy of helping a loving couple complete their family outweighs any potential risks or side effects. For Codi, checking her expectations at the beginning of the process allowed her to enjoy the experience and focus on the amazing gift she was giving to another family:
“For anyone thinking about becoming a surrogate, I think it’s important to know that it’s well worth it,” she said. “It’s an amazing experience. You will and should feel proud of becoming a surrogate. But also, it’s not about you. You do have to come into it with a selfless attitude. This isn’t a glorious type of work in that sense. You’re a big part for a short time, and your heart needs to know that going in.”
For women like her, changing a family’s life forever will always be worth it, no matter what the surrogate health risks are.
If you have any questions at all about surrogate risks and complications, please don’t hesitate to reach out to a surrogacy specialist for more information to ensure this process is right for you.