New reproductive techniques have provided many approaches for a couple suffering from infertility to conceive a healthy child. A gestational carrier (GC), also called a gestational surrogate, is one of the options couples can choose. The surrogate is a woman who is not an intended parent, but only carries and delivers a baby for the actual parents (another couple or person) through invitro fertilization.
A woman may decide to approach a gestational carrier if she has medical problems with her uterus, removed her uterus through hysterectomy, has recurrent miscarriage, IVF failure or a medical condition that makes pregnancy risky (such as severe heart disease). Moreover, surrogacy is also considered by couples who choose to have a biological child rather than opt for adoption as well as by couples of the same sex.
A healthy woman of 21 to 45 years of age can be a gestational carrier provided she has had a successful full-term pregnancy (not more than five vaginal and two cesarean deliveries) and a supportive family environment.
The gestational carrier and intended parents are reviewed for their medical history and undergo a thorough physical examination to ensure that they are qualified for the surrogacy process. Screening tests for viral infections such as hepatitis, HIV, syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia and cytomegalovirus, and psychological test are also recommended.
The process of surrogacy involves harvesting eggs from the biological mother, fertilizing them with sperm from the father in the laboratory (invitro fertilization) and placing the resulting embryo into the uterus of the gestational carrier, who carries the developing baby until birth. Since the carrier does not provide the egg, she is not considered biologically (genetically) related to the child.
Surrogacy is a very controversial method of conception, and is governed by strict legal bindings that support the sentiments of the parties involved, and most importantly clearly spells out the ownership rights of the child.