Having a baby for someone else might seem like an innovative, new concept – but it’s actually been around for thousands of years. As far back as Biblical times, to be exact!
Here’s an overview of how surrogacy first came about and how it has evolved into something truly incredible.
The first use of surrogates in history
Long before the gestational surrogacy we know today, childless couples and singles turned to traditional surrogacy – when the woman carrying the pregnancy uses her own eggs.
The Book of Genesis – written some 3400 years ago – tells of how Sarah sought the help of a maidservant to bear her a child. (In fact, we’re told Sarah “gave” Hagar to her husband, and she conceived). Sarah and Abraham then became the child’s parents.
The practice of reproductive technology really only began a few decades ago. In 1978, a baby was born via IVF for the first time. This was followed by the first baby to be born using an egg donor in 1982.
Then, in 1985, a surrogate successfully carried a pregnancy created with the egg from the Intended Mother. This would be the first gestational surrogacy in history, heralding a new era of reproductive technology and hope for would-be parents all over the world. It led to new laws that protected surrogates, parents, and the children involved. It also sparked the development of surrogacy agencies to facilitate the process.
Today, gestational surrogacy is a popular way for couples and individuals to start or expand their families. The laws regarding commercial surrogacy vary widely throughout the U.S., but there are many surrogacy-friendly states that welcome hopeful parents from all over the world.
The development of IVF
IVF (in vitro fertilization) is a reproductive technique that was developed by gynecologist Patrick Steptoe and Cambridge research physiologist Robert Edwards. Over several years, they used stimulated cycles with clomiphene citrate (an infertility drug) and human chorionic gonadotropin (a hormone) to control egg maturation and collection.
In 1978, the world’s first official “test tube baby” was born in Manchester, U.K. Since then, it’s estimated that more than 8 million babies have been brought into the world via IVF.
Gestational carriers and gestational surrogates
A gestational carrier – AKA a gestational surrogate – differs from a traditional surrogate in that the woman who carries a baby is not genetically related to her. The embryo is created in a laboratory using an egg from either the Intended Mother or a donor, fertilizing it with sperm from either the Intended Father or a donor, and then transferred to the uterus of the surrogate via IVF.
Changing Attitudes to Surrogacy
Gestational surrogacy is now a global phenomenon worth up to $US6 billion annually. The practice is now legal in many countries, including the U.S, Canada, Ukraine, Russia, Mexico, India, and Thailand. In the U.S, California has become one of the world’s top destinations for surrogacy.
Commercial surrogacy has faced some opposition over the past few decades, particularly from those who have concerns about the rights of the child and the surrogate. However, the establishment of parental laws and professional agencies have helped to ensure that all parties involved are protected. Today, more and more people are recognizing the benefits of surrogacy for parents, surrogates, and the families it creates.
One of the biggest draw cards for surrogacy is that it comes with a high chance of success. Surrogates who have been screened and selected by a professional agency are more likely to carry a successful pregnancy and have a healthy baby. This is often a more attractive option for Intended Parents than undergoing expensive fertility treatments that may not result in pregnancy.
Celebrities have also helped to spur the surrogacy trend. Elton John, Cameron Diaz, Tyra Banks, and Kim Kardashian have all turned to surrogates to start or add to their families, generating mass publicity.
Reproductive technology today
Technology has evolved enormously over the past 40 years, and there are now several options for assisted reproduction, including:
IVF (in vitro fertilization)
IVF is the process in which an egg is fertilized with sperm in a test tube. The resulting embryo is then transferred into the uterus of a biological mother or a surrogate. Frozen embryos that have been previously created via IVF may also be used.
Like IVF, an egg is artificially fertilized in a test tube but then transferred directly to the fallopian tubes via laparoscopic surgery. This may be used by women who have blocked fallopian tubes or for religious reasons.
Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI)
This is usually carried out alongside IVF. ICSI involves a single sperm being injected directly into the center (the cytoplasm) of the egg. The embryo then develops in a laboratory for up to five days before it is transferred to the woman’s uterus.
Third-party ART can include egg donors, sperm donors, and gestational surrogates. In most cases, this will involve a combination of the procedures described above. Another person (a surrogate) is inseminated with sperm from the Intended Father or a donor, or IVF is used to transfer an embryo created from a donor or the Intended Mother and Father.
Yes, surrogacy and assisted reproduction are big topics! That’s why Family Source Consultants has a team of experts on hand to walk you through it. If you want to know more about becoming a surrogate, get in touch – we can answer every question!