Deciding to become a surrogate is perhaps one of the most life-changing decisions you can make as a woman. Not only is carrying someone else’s child an emotionally taxing process, but it also comes with all of the risks and trials of a natural pregnancy — with the potential for added complications from IVF and legal contracts.
It’s important that you seriously consider the risks of being a surrogate mother before you commit to a year or more of fertility treatments, carrying a child who isn’t yours and a close relationship with a couple who desperately want a baby.
Below are some of the general risks that extend to most surrogate gestational pregnancies, but it’s encouraged that you speak to your doctor, your fertility clinic and your surrogacy agency to determine what your personal health, financial and emotional risks could be based on your individual situation.
To speak with someone who has been through the process, you can find other surrogates through online support groups and blogs like:
You can also find support today by reaching out to a surrogacy professional.
Read on for more information about the risks to surrogate mothers and potential surrogate mother side effects.
Medical Issues with Surrogacy
Like any other pregnancy, surrogate pregnancies involve the same medical risks of carrying a child and giving birth. These can include nausea from morning sickness, weight gain, swelling, back pain, heartburn and other uncomfortable side effects. Some more serious side effects are conditions that can develop during the pregnancy like gestational diabetes, hypertension or potential damage to your reproductive organs.
As with any pregnancy, there is also the risk of a surrogacy miscarriage or preterm labor. To reduce these risks, it’s important to keep in close contact with your doctor, take the proper medication, get the right amount of rest and follow their recommendations precisely.
With gestational surrogacy, there are also some minor medical risks associated with IVF treatments. Because you do have to take medicine for IVF with surrogacy, including injecting yourself with fertility medications at home, you can expect anything from slight needle bruising to temporary allergic reactions. As you take medicine to regulate your menstrual cycle and increase your chances of becoming pregnant, you may also experience increased pre-menstrual syndrome effects, like headaches or mood swings.
There are few risks associated with the embryo transfer process. You may experience slight cramping or bleeding from the procedure. As always, it’s important to stay in touch with your doctor; in rare cases, you may develop an infection that can be treated with antibiotics.
Because carrying multiple babies is common in surrogacy, you should also be aware of the risks of a twin or triplet pregnancy; preterm labor, low birth weight for the babies, placental abruption and the potential for a Cesarean-section may be more likely with multiples. If you are carrying multiple babies, your doctor will likely give you strict instructions on how to proceed safely with your everyday life.
To reduce surrogacy risks, it’s important that you follow your doctor’s recommendations and schedule an appointment as soon as possible if something feels wrong about your pregnancy. While your side effects may be completely normal, updating your doctor about your condition is one of the easiest things you can do to reduce the risks of being a surrogate mother.
Your surrogacy agency will also require you to complete an extensive medical screening before becoming a surrogate. These screenings are extremely helpful in informing you and your doctor about your medical condition and the possibilities of medical issues with your surrogacy. Make sure that you’re completely honest and open about your medical history during this screening. For information about how your previous medical conditions may affect your ability to be a surrogate, click here.
Emotional Risks of Surrogacy
In addition to the medical risks of surrogacy, there are sometimes emotional challenges for potential surrogates to consider. While pregnancy in itself can be a difficult process, some women find surrogacy to be more emotionally challenging because, at the end, they will not be going home with the child they have lived with for nine months.
As with any pregnancy, you may be at risk for depression during and after the surrogacy process. While you’ll be excited and overwhelmingly happy for the intended parents, you may also experience some difficult feelings of grief and loss following the birth of the baby.
These feelings are why it’s so important to meet with a mental health professional, seek surrogacy counseling and establish boundaries and expectations for post-birth contact before you even become pregnant.
A key part of coping with any challenging emotions you may experience is creating a solid support system that you can lean on before, during and after your surrogate pregnancy. This should be a group of friends and/or family members who can talk to about your feelings — but it’s important that you are open and honest with them (and yourself) during the whole process.
In addition to the emotional effects surrogacy may have on you, it’s important to recognize how your surrogacy will affect your family. If you have a spouse, you may need to abstain from sex while you are trying to become pregnant, and they may need to take on more duties around the house and with your family as you reach the final stages of your pregnancy. They will need to be 100 percent in agreement with your surrogacy decision, and they can act as one of the most important members of your support team.
You also should be honest about your feelings with the intended parents and your surrogacy case worker through the surrogacy process. If you are struggling emotionally, it may be helpful to talk to a therapist experienced in surrogacy issues. Remember, the emotional risks of surrogacy are completely normal and many other surrogate mothers experience them — so they’re nothing to be ashamed of.
While being a surrogate mother is a fulfilling experience and a wonderful way to give a gift to another couple, it also has some serious risks and side effects as well. It’s important that you fully research what surrogacy entails before you make this life-changing decision.
The risks of being a surrogate mother may be intimidating at first, but you will likely find that the positives of helping to create a family far outweigh the potential risks and medical issues with surrogacy. To reduce these risks, it’s best to work closely with an experienced surrogacy professional who can effectively respond to every challenge that may come your way. Every case is different, so talk extensively with your doctor, the intended parents, your fertility clinic and your family to determine whether surrogacy is right for you.