Conceptual Options has been featured in our local Union Tribune about options for couples to creating their family.
According to the UT,
Saira Jhutty, CEO of San Diego’s Conceptual Options, a surrogacy agency, said to be matched with a surrogate, questions are asked of both parties. Many then meet in person or via Skype, but the majority meet face-to-face.
She said her agency has roughly 30 active surrogates in its database. In general, women who want to be surrogates have already had at least one full-term pregnancy of their own and they must be in good health. They – and their spouses, if they are married – must also be tested for sexually transmitted diseases.
At agencies such as Conceptual Options, Jhutty said only about 4 percent of women who are interested in serving as surrogates are accepted. Before being added to the agency’s database, potential surrogates must also meet with an in-house psychologist for a six- to eight-hour evaluation, and their medical records are sent to an IVF center to be reviewed and screened.
“It takes a special person to be a surrogate,” Jhutty said.
Before attempting pregnancy, Buchi said the intended parents and the surrogate must have their own attorneys – usually specialists in third-party pregnancy – draft detailed documents that outline every aspect of the pregnancy, labor and post-birth.
She said legal documents address everything including things like what’s done if the child has a genetic issue and the intended parents want to terminate the pregnancy. There are also details to agree on, such as who’s first to hold the baby, whether the surrogate will provide breast milk and whether the baby will go back and forth between a surrogate and the intended parents in the hospital post-delivery.
By the end of the first trimester, Jhutty said a pre-birth order is drafted legally stating the child belongs to the intended parents and the surrogate is not the mother, so when the baby is born, the surrogate is not the one with legal power over medical decisions.
The cost of using a surrogate varies from family to family. Surrogates are generally compensated and there are also legal and medical costs involved, such as genetic testing before pregnancy. Also, Buchi said some intended parents take the surrogate under their wing and provide meals, housing, health care and anything else to make life comfortable. Others might have a hands-off relationship with a surrogate who lives out-of-state and has her own health insurance.
In addition, couples who need a donor sperm or egg to create an embryo to be implanted in the surrogate will also face additional costs.
Lawson said an average surrogacy where an agency is used can range from $80,000 to $125,000.
“Many factors can affect the cost range,” she said. “We do our best to help those involved to understand all the costs.”
During pregnancy and beyond, Jhutty said intended parents and surrogates have a range of relationship options with their surrogate. For instance, she said some parents send photos of the child to the surrogate and maintain contact, while others don’t even tell their families they’re using a surrogate. She said before pregnancy, parents and surrogates are matched partially based on what they want the relationship to look like both before and after birth.
And while she said there can be misunderstandings about what happens when a surrogate is used — such as a surrogate being taken advantage of or a surrogate wanting to keep the baby — she said such instances are rare and typically only happen when parents don’t use an agency, don’t have a legal contract or a surrogate doesn’t undergo psychological testing or counseling.
“If it’s done correctly, you can have a very happy and successful result,” she said.
That’s something Lawson — whose daughters are now 5 and almost 2 — has experienced firsthand. She said she stays friendly and keeps in contact with both women who carried her daughters.
“They were both lovely women who gave my husband and me the most precious gifts in the world,” she said.
Read more here about Couples Have More Options with Surrogacy: Conceptual Options.