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If you are considering reproductive surrogacy as a means of welcoming a child to your life, you probably have more questions than answers.

Understanding the process can you help you determine if it is the right choice for your family.

Understanding types of surrogacy

With traditional surrogacy, either the father’s sperm or donor sperm fertilizes a woman’s egg. She acts as the surrogate and carries the baby to term, at which point you and your partner will take custody of the child.

Gestational surrogacy involves the mother’s egg and either the father’s sperm or donor sperm. In vitro fertilization is used to create an embryo which a doctor implants into the womb of a gestational surrogate. As with traditional surrogacy, this woman will carry the baby and the parents will remain the legal parents upon delivery.

According to WebMD, gestational surrogacy is less legally complex because both parents are related to the baby biologically. For this reason, this method is more common than traditional surrogacy in the U.S.

Choosing a surrogate

Some people have a friend or family member who is willing to serve as a surrogate for their baby. In most cases, however, parents find a reproductive surrogate through an agency.

Although laws do not strictly govern who can be a surrogate, reputable agencies maintain their own requirements. In general, a surrogate must be at least age 21, have carried at least one healthy baby to term, undergo testing for infectious diseases and submit to a mental health screening to ensure she understands the psychological and legal ramifications of the surrogacy process.

Entering a contract

Surrogacy must include a legal contract in which the surrogate mother agrees to give up all rights to the child to the biological parent or parents. This document should outline roles and responsibilities such as prenatal care as well as the fee for the surrogacy services.

Surrogacy is an option for women who are unable to carry a child because of uterine issues or severe chronic disease that makes pregnancy unsafe, as well as for gay couples and others who are unable to conceive. With careful research, you can decide whether it is the right path to build your family.