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The Politics of Women's Health

Surrogacy and Gestational Care

Gestational Care: Another Perspective

Gestational care provides opportunities to groups of women and men who would otherwise be unable to parent their full biological children. These include women who have lost their uterus to cancer, women born without a uterus (Rokitansky syndrome), women with severe consequences of DES exposure and women with medical conditions, such as Marfan’s syndrome that make pregnancy hazardous.  In addition, gestational care is also very attractive to gay male couples who want a child who carries a genetic tie to one of the fathers. (Occasionally, gay couples elect to work with surrogates, rather than gestational carriers, because the process is less expensive. However, “traditional surrogacy” is rarely practiced. Among other reasons, it poses legal risks).

Who chooses to carry a baby for another couple and why is this something she wants to do?  In interviews I have done with women who are carriers, I have found that many have the following characteristics:

  • They are “family” women—most are at home moms who are very involved with their children’s schools and activities. They say that they cannot imagine life without their children and want to help someone less fortunate.

  • They love being pregnant.  Some will say that they never feel better than when they are pregnant.  However, they are also clear that they don’t want to parent additional children.

  • They are nonconformists—they don’t care what others think about their decisions.

  • They like to watch TV shows about pregnancy, labor and delivery. They have supportive husbands. They do not feel they have done anything “important” in their lives and this is an opportunity to do so.

The question often arises: “is she doing this for the money?”  Although most gestational carriers acknowledge “the money is nice,” it does not seem to be their primary motivation.  Instead, women seem to view the money as operating in partnership with the emotional rewards. They describe Gestational Care as a “win-win” situation—they are able to do what they do best—be pregnant- as a way to help others, and they receive payment that often enables them to stay at home with their children.  Most often, they are middle class women whose husbands are employed, but their families can use the “second income” they receive from the GC pregnancy.

Surrogacy has been characterized as “exploitive,” and continues to be a problem in countries where poorer women are gestational carriers for richer women. In the United States, there is now little evidence of wide income disparity between “carriers” and  intended parents.  Nor are there wide disparities in terms of age or social status. In most instances the two women are close in age and sometimes, in social status. Some gestational carriers are college graduates while others may have returned to school—often nursing school or another allied health profession—after being home with their children.

Gestational carriers and intended mom’s generally work hard to share a pregnancy.  Many meet this challenging experience with creativity and spunk.  It is common for intended moms to record their voices, reading a story or singing to their unborn child, and for their gestational carriers to take great delight and comfort in these recordings, which serve as constant reminders to them of the expectant parents delight and anticipation.  In addition, carriers have found other creative ways of “not bonding” with the children they carry. One taped a photo of the parents to her pregnant belly and another made and decorated a plaster cast of her pregnant abdomen for the parents. Participants in Gestational Care have found that the process is meeting with increased acceptance and understanding. Many who become involved in GC say they are surprised to find that they meet others who are also involved in this process in some way.  Physicians are increasingly familiar and comfortable with these shared pregnancies and hospital staffs seem to “get it”—tending to the post-partum woman following birth but also offering rooms, support and assistance to the new parents.

Written by Ellen S. Glazer.
Last Revised: July 2005.

Companion Pages:  1  2  3  4 

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