For many women, depression is a normal part of life — and nothing to be ashamed of. With proper medication, this mental condition can be effectively managed, and you may go about your normal day-to-day without thought of your diagnosis.
But, if you’ve been thinking about being a gestational carrier, you will be reminded of your diagnosis — and it may make it difficult for you to proceed with your surrogacy journey. Unfortunately, many surrogacy professionals set strict mental health requirements for being a gestational carrier. Even if you meet all the other requirements to be a gestational carrier, you’ll hit a roadblock when it comes to this stage in your pre-surrogacy screening.
So, can you be a surrogate if you’re on antidepressants or have a history of depression?
The answer is a bit complicated. While we’ve answered some of the biggest questions about this topic below, we encourage every prospective surrogate to speak with a surrogacy professional before doing anything else. Surrogacy requirements vary by professional, so the best answer will always come from someone who deals with this subject daily.
Remember: The information in this article is not intended to be and should not be taken as medical advice. Please speak with your doctor if you are considering surrogacy with a history of depression.
Can I be a Surrogate if I Have Depression or a History of Depression?
As mentioned, many women who have been diagnosed with depression or have a history of depression can treat their condition effectively with antidepressants. But, if you’re not on antidepressants right now, whether or not you can proceed with surrogacy will depend on a few factors.
First, know this: Surrogacy is an emotionally complicated journey. Even though surrogates are fully screened and prepared for the challenges and risks, there may be unexpected developments during your surrogacy journey. Having a solid state of mind will help you cope with those surprises and tough moments. But, if you have an untreated depression diagnosis or your depression comes back in the middle of your pregnancy, you can put yourself, the intended parents and the baby you carry in danger.
For this reason, if you have a history of serious depression or a current depression diagnosis, it’s unlikely that you will be able to be a gestational carrier.
Sometimes, a woman’s history of depression stems from a specific situation: pregnancy and postpartum recovery. Postpartum depression is far more common than you may know. If you’re in the 15 percent of women who experience depression after giving birth, you may be worried that this history will disqualify you from being a surrogate. You may ask, “Can I be a surrogate with a history of depression, even if it’s postpartum-related?”
The answer will depend upon the policy of the surrogacy professional you choose to work with. Many surrogacy professionals will waive concerns of depression if it is postpartum related. Every prospective surrogate undergoes a psychological evaluation prior to being approved, and a mental health professional will talk to you about your concerns and mental health history during this screening. If your history of depression (whether pregnancy-related or not) have been successfully treated and you’re not longer using antidepressants, it’s very likely that you will be able to proceed with your surrogacy journey.
Can I Be a Surrogate if I Take Antidepressants?
If you are a prospective surrogate treating your depression diagnosis with antidepressants, you may think you’ll be able to move forward. After all, your depression is being effectively treated, and you are mentally prepared for the challenges and rewards awaiting you as a gestational carrier.
However, you cannot be a surrogate if you’re on antidepressants. Surrogacy professionals will often require you to be off antidepressant and antianxiety medication for at least 12 months prior to starting the surrogacy process — and for good reason.
While it’s important for a woman to balance her mental health needs with the needs of her pregnancy, this balance shifts when you are carrying a child for someone else. Intended parents go through a lot before coming to surrogacy; they’ve often spent months or years trying other infertility treatments before choosing this family-building path. Therefore, they want the best chance of success possible. That means a healthy gestational carrier who can give them the best opportunity to have a child safely and successfully.
A woman treating her depression diagnosis with antidepressants often can’t provide that. While there is some evidence that antidepressants don’t cause birth defects in babies, about 30 percent of babies whose mothers take antidepressants experience neonatal adaptation syndrome. Any medication can be a risk to a developing baby, and women who take antidepressants regularly can expose the child they carry to risks that a woman not on antidepressants doesn’t.
For many intended parents, the risks and unknowns of using a gestational carrier on antidepressants is too much. For that reason, many surrogacy agencies and fertility clinics will disqualify prospective surrogates who are taking antidepressants.
But, before you go to throw away your medication in an effort to reach your surrogacy dreams, remember that you should never make changes to your depression treatment without talking to your doctor — no matter how badly you want to be a gestational carrier. You’ll also want to ask yourself: Can I still be a good surrogate if I let my depression go untreated? As mentioned above, surrogacy can be tough, and it’s important that a surrogate is in her best state of mind to complete this journey.
While your dedication to the surrogacy journey is admirable, think about whether you can be the kind of surrogate intended parents want without taking antidepressants. Will you be able to handle the responsibilities and challenges of the surrogacy process? Will your decision be fair to your family, to whom you will also have responsibilities? Are you prepared for the additional responsibilities of an independent surrogacy — one of the only ways a woman on antidepressants can be a gestational carrier?
Honesty is always the best policy when it comes to your surrogacy application, even if it means you cannot be a surrogate if you’re on antidepressants. No matter how great your desire to be a surrogate, you must put your own needs first.
For more information on whether your history of depression will disqualify you from the surrogacy process, please contact a surrogacy professional today.