There are so many misconceptions about surrogacy, and they can be dangerous in so many ways. Not only is false information hurtful to both the intended parents and surrogates, but it also threatens the ability of people to use surrogacy to build their families in the future. In fact, it continues to hinder the ability of people to choose this option now. These false statements allow countries to keep it illegal, allow for exorbitant fees to match a surrogate with an intended parent, and allow places to make it illegal to compensate a surrogate for helping a family. There are so many obstacles to surrogacy that exist sheerly because of misconceptions that continue to be perpetuated, but I believe we can all work together to change the narrative. Here are some of the top misconceptions about surrogacy:
1. The surrogate is related to the baby. When it first came into existence, there were situations where the surrogate used her own eggs and was therefore related genetically to the baby. However, since IVF has become more prevalent, the virtually exclusive way of approaching surrogacy is by doing a frozen embryo transfer with an embryo that belongs to the intended parents. The embryo is often genetically related to the intended parents, but even if they use the help of donors to create it, the surrogate is not related to the baby. The more common term for a surrogate now is a gestational carrier to clear up confusion about any biological connection.
2. The surrogate is being forced into the arrangement. It is extremely harmful to perpetuate this misconception. The surrogate is entering this arrangement completely of her own will. It is a mutual decision between the intended parents and the surrogate. It is obviously a huge decision for someone to carry a child for another person, and it is one of the most selfless acts that can be done. But they are doing it by choice. Most commonly, these are women that have children of their own, get pregnant easily, and genuinely want to help another family.
3. Surrogates want to keep the baby for themselves. This is a very popular storyline in movies and TV shows, but it is completely false. It really makes me angry that people continue to perpetuate this as something that’s true. If you talk to any actual surrogate, you will find that they never say that they are giving a child to the intended parents – they say they are giving a child “back”. And the word “back” is very important because that child was never theirs, to begin with. It was always the intended parents. She is not the mother and she was never the mother.
4. Surrogacy is only used for vain purposes. There are all of these rumors about celebrities who use a surrogate just because they do not want to ruin their bodies – when it’s likely that is not true. In reality, people do not usually decide to use a surrogate as a first choice for having a child, but way down the line when that’s the only option they have left for a biological child. If you speak with the intended parents, they would have loved to carry the child themselves. It is not an easy decision, so stop assuming this is why people use surrogates.
5. People should adopt instead. There is this widespread misconception that adoption is an easy option for people if they want to have a child. Adoption is not easy in any sense of the word. There is so much to it, and telling people to “just adopt” diminishes what people actually go through. On the flip side, everyone deserves a chance and option to have a biological child if that is what they want. And it is not the infertile world‘s job to adopt every child. This phrase and suggestion usually comes from people who have had their own biological children. I do not understand why they think they have a right to have a child in a way that works for them, while other people who need a little more help don’t have that same right. Any way you look at it, adoption is not this easy option, and people should not be shamed for wanting to try a third-party option such as surrogacy to have a child.
As you can see there are so many misconceptions about surrogacy – and these are not all of them. It is important for people to understand what surrogacy actually is, not just what they have been told that it is. I hope that if someone says one of these things to you, regardless of whether you are experiencing surrogacy or not, you correct them. Together, we can all change the narrative on surrogacy. We can all correct these misconceptions. And we can all allow people to see that surrogacy is a beautiful and incredible option when people need it.
Written by Alex Kornswiet, Fairfax Surrogacy Contributor: Alex and her husband are high school sweethearts, and always knew she wanted to be a mother. Her journey was not linear at all. Two years into trying, she welcomed her first son via IVF in 2017. Between 2017 – 2019, Alex went through six cycles of IVF and lost four pregnancies. Her final option for a second biological child was surrogacy. She matched with an incredible person, and finally had her second son at the end of 2020! In April 2021, Alex found out that she was miraculously pregnant with her third child, and completed her family with her third son in January 2022! She now continues to share about infertility, loss, pregnancy, surrogacy, motherhood, and beyond.