Choice has come a long way in the last 41 years, and US surrogacy hopes to take it further.
50 million couples worldwide struggle with the devastation that a diagnosis of infertility brings. Infertility can affect couples from all backgrounds, ethnic groups, educational and economic status. Infertility is something that has yet to be correlated with a specific kind of lifestyle, or a specific kind of person. Sometimes it’s thought to be inherited, sometimes it’s related to trauma, and sometimes, there are no good answers.
When it comes to receiving an infertility diagnosis, most couples have already tried to conceive for at least a year- with no results. Others have tried for the same amount of time, but have been met with miscarriages, or all too real health risks. The only universal truth about infertility, it seems, is that it is a struggle that touches many people deeply and presents each case with difficulty that isn’t easily put into words.
Raising the Bar on Infertility Treatment Options
“While many options are available, as far as fertility treatments are concerned, science still has yet to be able to address every ailment [resulting in infertility]” says a spokesperson for ilaya. Admitting to the less than perfect options available, ilaya, a company that consistently pushes the boundaries on assisted reproduction and its sciences, hopes for more. “We know that there is always a better solution available, and until we find it, our goal is to provide possibilities for everyone.”
41 years ago this year, the very first baby born via IVF was delivered in Oldham, England. Since that fateful day, there have been some incredibly notable advances in the science of fertility and treatments. Those advancements have not only allowed thousands of couples to be able to conceive, but have also offered choice to the historically choiceless.
While the topic of surrogacy has been routinely taboo for decades, it wasn’t entirely unheard of. Surrogacy dates back to biblical times, however, with limited options on how best to actually get a baby into another woman’s uterus, the procedure remained highly controversial. While surrogacy still suffers its share of contention, the practice has come far from its humble beginnings.
Traditional vs. Gestational
Originally, the only choice that existed for surrogacy was a “traditional” arrangement. Traditional surrogacy is on in which the intended father supplies the sperm and the surrogate mother supplies the egg for the child’s conception. The surrogate mother is then artificially inseminated with the intended father’s material and the rest is left up to nature.
While this worked well as the only option available, it can cause some sticky situations from the perspective of parental rights. As the surrogate mother can claim a genetic link to the child, she may also be capable of petitioning for custodial rights. Luckily, IVF came into play, which allowed intended parents the peace of mind offered under a “gestational surrogacy” agreement.
Gestational surrogacy is achieved by combining genetic materials in a laboratory setting and then implanting the resulting embryo into the surrogate mother’s womb. This ensures that the surrogate mother has no need to supply any genetic material to the child, resulting in no paternal or custodial rights.
Advances in IVF as well as cryopreservation techniques have also made it possible for intended parents to use donor materials, should they be medically unable to provide them themselves. Which means that even if intended parents can’t supply all the genetic materials needed, the surrogate mother is still not saddled with the burden of supply.
“Surrogacy is the last option for most couples. But it’s an option that’s proven to work.” Ilaya reports that while it’s definitely not the first step to be taken, hopeful parents shouldn’t discount the results that US surrogacy can realistically offer.
Long Road Ahead
It’s relatively unheard of that someone just hires a surrogate on a whim. The process is arduous, and often prohibitively expensive. However, it’s also a welcome relief for many. “You can’t just walk into a clinic and ask for a surrogate” ilaya cautions. “While it is difficult, it’s often required that intended parents provide medical proof that they are unable to conceive on their own.”
Which means that all the right routes must be taken before acquiring a surrogate. For most hopeful parents, this isn’t a negative. “With major advancements in the field of reproductive science, women who were told they would never be able to carry a child of their own are now able to turn that around.”
Ilaya is just one clinic in a sea of providers that are offering novel approaches to an age old issue. In 1936, pharmaceutical production of estrogen had begun. Since that time, a multitude of other fertility drugs have become available. Egg collection and preservation techniques have become more precise, allowing women from all walks of life the possibility of using their own materials.
Surgical options for what were once considered fertility death sentences are now readily available. The advent of laparoscopy and several other types of non-invasive and exploratory procedures are seeing fewer patients even needing to consider US surrogacy as an option.
When Surrogacy is Necessary
Despite all of the advances, surrogacy agreements and clinics are still widely used, because sometimes there is no easy fix for the problems at hand. “When surrogacy is the only option you’re left with, it’s important that a couple do their due diligence.” Says ilaya. While the practice is becoming far more acceptable in mainstream society, as high profile figures like celebrities now openly discuss their own surrogacies, it has yet to fully put a stop to rumors of exploitation and malpractice.
“In all realms of medicine, you do need to understand the nuances of the procedure you’re going to have.” Reports of exploitation of underprivileged women and shady practice are only the tip of the iceberg. Even in the United States, surrogates and even programs, can be questionable at times. Not all states agree on how a surrogacy should be handled, or indeed whether they’re legal at all.
It’s important for any prospective parents to keep their goals in mind, but also be mindful of reality. Check to make sure that whatever state or agency you’re choosing for your surrogacy program is in strict compliance with local and national laws. Luckily, at least in the US, there is a surrogacy program that is sure to fit any family’s needs. Thanks to advancements in science, and compassion.