Surrogacy After 40 by Angel La Liberte
Motherhood through surrogacy is not ‘all smoke and mirrors’—an impression that sensational media coverage of celebrity diva-moms like Nicole Kidman or Sarah Jessica Parker might convey.
According to WA state surrogacy consultant, Sharon LaMothe—a gestational carrier twice over who gave birth a second time at 41—“surrogacy is not out of reach” for the average gal next door.
But, for women over 40, there may be an added ‘caveat emptor’ when choosing a fertility clinic.
LaMothe—with more than a decade working in the infertility community, and serving as an advisor to organizations like Parents Via Egg Donation (PVED) and OBGYN.net Women’s Health Forum—says “a lot can go wrong” with surrogacy agreements.
Women thinking about becoming a parent through a surrogate should “ask a lot of questions” and not “run into it blindly.”
“The old adage ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’ is very true in the case of surrogacy arrangements,” says LaMothe, who says the majority of her female clients are over 40.
First, ‘commercial surrogacy’ is not legal in many states across the USA (including Washington) and the “intended parent” must have a medical reason for using a surrogate in states where it is.
“Age can be a big factor, but so is cancer, hysterectomy, and diseases like diabetes, and single women or same-sex couples.”
LaMothe, whose work involves educating and assisting intended parents and their surrogates, knows the “do’s and don’ts” on their path to parenthood.
While “the list is a mile long,” there are some key issues not to play around with.
“Do not download sample surrogacy contracts from the internet,” she warns.
LaMothe urges that both the intended parent and the surrogate are better off hiring an attorney experienced in reproductive law.
“Make sure that all parties attend at least one session with a mental health service provider who is experienced in surrogacy evaluations,” she continues.
And to avoid the risk of things getting ugly over money, “use an escrow account for disbursements.”
When shopping for a fertility clinic, LaMothe advises her clients to look carefully at the clinic’s “take home baby” statistics, compared to their rate of successful pregnancies.
While conceiving is great; a failed pregnancy is a disappointment to everyone.
And this is where fertility clinic selection can get sticky for a woman of 40 or over—as in a recent FPM blog article—who wishes to conceive with her own eggs.
“Once you hit that magic 4-Oh, your eggs are not as viable as those of a younger woman,” says LaMothe.
“Some fertility clinics may discourage women over 40 from using their own eggs because they are concerned about their ‘take-home baby’ statistics,” she admits.
In these cases, says LaMothe, a woman of 40+ may have her “opportunity to .choose” her own eggs “taken away.”
There are other clinics who are more inclined to work women over 40 and it’s important to find a provider who is a good fit.
Once the surrogate is chosen, the pregnancy and birth can only take place in a state that allows surrogacy arrangements.
“Once the surrogate mother has passed stringent exams including a mental health evaluation,” says LaMothe, “she and the intended parents sign a legal agreement.”
The fertility clinic then places the surrogate and the intended mother or egg donor on a schedule that includes medicals, blood tests and ultrasounds.
The embryo transfer to the surrogate usually takes place about 3 to 5 days after the egg retrieval.
Two weeks after the transfer, the surrogate will have her blood drawn to see if she’s pregnant. Most contracts allow for up to 3 IVF attempts.
If an ultrasound taken 4-6 weeks after embryo transfer shows a baby’s heartbeat, the pregnancy is “confirmed.”
Approximately 10-12 weeks after the transfer, the surrogate mother is then released to the care of her OBGYN or midwife.
Of course, there are the common concerns of the expectant mother developing an attachment to the unborn baby.
LaMothe, who was a gestational carrier (meaning no biological relation to the child) twice says that she “did not have the same feelings” she had while carrying her own two children.
“Women who want to be surrogates,” she continues, “already have a family of their own.”
“There is compensation involved, but giving the gift of life via surrogacy is a very personal and life-changing experience.”
“Not everyone can be a surrogate,” she adds.
Given the virtual obstacle course of decision making, LaMothe’s advice is practical.
“Deciphering all of the surrogacy programs, laws and relationship concerns can be overwhelming.”
“Do your homework and, if you become overwhelmed, hire a consultant who can take away the stress of figuring out how the whole thing works.”
Notes for this blog:
Angel La Liberte is the founder of the website Flower Power Mom—The Truth About Motherhood After 40 (www.flowerpowermom.com), a regular blog featuring news, commentary, real mom stories and expert advice about motherhood after 40.