Traditional surrogates and gestational carriers allow gay couples to have their own biological children by using the same assisted reproductive technologies that help infertile heterosexual couples.
A surrogate or gestational carrier can also be used when the female partner is unable to carry a baby to term, a condition that may occur when:
- She has a medical condition that would make a pregnancy risky
- She has uterine abnormalities that prevent her from getting pregnant or staying pregnant
- She does not have a uterus
- She has immunological abnormalities that cause her to repeatedly miscarry
- She has repeated implantation failure when using IVF to get pregnant
A traditional surrogate is a woman who provides the eggs and carries the baby. Sperm is deposited into her uterus on the day of her ovulation and hopefully she conceives and carries the baby to term. If she is unable to conceive through intrauterine insemination, in vitro fertilization with her own eggs may be used. The distinguishing factor of a traditional surrogate is that the child she carriers has come from her own egg.
A gestational carrier, on the other hand, is a woman who carries a baby to term, but does not provide the egg. She is simply the “incubator” for the baby. Eggs from another woman (donor eggs) and sperm are mixed in the lab to create embryos through a process known as in vitro fertilization (IVF). The created embryos are then placed into the gestational carrier’s uterus to hopefully implant and grow. For gay male couples, family building using a gestational carrier requires IVF with a donor egg, but traditional surrogacy does not.
Using guidelines established by the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, traditional surrogates and gestational carriers are given a thorough psychological and physical evaluation, uterine evaluation, and a check of their overall health. They are screened for infectious diseases as well as common genetic disorders. The screened carrier is then carefully matched with patients.
It is essential to obtain a legal contract stipulating the specific arrangements between the surrogate or gestational carrier and the intended parent(s), as the legal issues can become quite murky when either party changes their mind. There are attorneys who specialize in this type of law, and it is highly recommended that individuals wanting to pursue this option work closely with them. Third party reproduction laws vary by state, and it is important to seek counsel from somebody who is well versed in your particular state’s law.