The relationship between a surrogate and her intended parents can be tricky. Since the surrogate has been pregnant before, at least once, she likely feels more comfortable in her role as a pregnant woman. She’s been there before and understands which behaviors are risky and which are beneficial.
Intended parents, on the other hand, have invested a lot of time, money, and energy into the cycle and surrogate and they want the pregnancy to be perfect! They may want her to do things such as take only the name-brand vitamins or completely give up coffee or fried foods.
How much of a say do intended parents have over the life of their surrogates? Read on for more information.
The Legal Contract
The legal contract between a surrogate and intended parents will determine what restrictions the intended parents can put on her. Surrogates need to have a separate attorney who will speak for you and your needs. This is an absolute requirement because not having separate attorneys would result in a conflict of interest. Also, read the contract word for word yourself to understand what is in it. Take notes and write down any questions that you have. It’s extremely important that you understand what you are signing, and ask questions if you don’t.
Another important point is to be honest. If your intended parents don’t want you to drink any coffee, but that’s too restrictive, say so. It’s better to work out these differences while negotiating the legal contract instead of just agreeing and sneaking the coffee anyway. If you are found to be in violation of the contract, that could break the trust and confidence of your intended parents, and even possibly carry legal consequences.
One common restriction found in surrogacy contracts is where and when you can travel during the entire pregnancy or sometimes, just towards the end of the pregnancy. There are many reasons for this restriction:
- Risk of infectious diseases, like Zika
- Preventing delivery in a non-surrogacy friendly state
- Not being close to home when you go into labor
Planned travel should be discussed with your coordinator as early in the process as possible, ideally during the application or admissions process. Your coordinator can help you figure out whether it is best to cancel a planned trip or vacation until after the cycle or to postpone your surrogacy journey until you can commit to the necessary travel restrictions.
Another restriction that you may find in your surrogacy contract is to abstain from alcohol and nicotine products before and during your pregnancy. Like the travel restrictions, this is also non-negotiable due to the risk to the fetus. It is important to make sure that you can comply with these requirements, even if you were comfortable with an occasional glass of wine during your own pregnancies. It’s important to remember that it isn’t your baby that you’re carrying, but someone else’s.
Some contracts may put restrictions on when you can have sex with your partner, particularly during the IVF cycle before pregnancy. Though this may sound like it’s none of your intended parents’ business, there are important reasons for this. One of the biggest reasons to limit intercourse before the embryo transfer is the risk of personal pregnancy. After all, you are taking hormones to help your body get pregnant. After the transfer, you may be on “pelvic rest” meaning that intercourse or any other activity in your pelvic region is not allowed. Although it’s less common, the risk of infection may also be of concern.
Again, make sure that you are comfortable with this and understand the timeframe and stipulations intended parents are suggesting.
Sometimes, the intended parents will ask for additional restrictions to be placed in the contract. It is acceptable for their surrogate to not be okay with them, ask questions, or offer alternatives (i.e.: one cup of coffee per day, or switching to decaf instead of regular). It’s not unusual for intended parents who follow specific dietary practices, such as vegetarianism, to want a surrogate who follows the same practices. Intended parents with particular lifestyles should look for a surrogate who e.g. is already a vegetarian. Asking someone who isn’t already a vegetarian to become one for the surrogacy is not recommended. Ultimately, it is the surrogate’s decision about whether she can accept the contract and the restrictions found in it.
In some cases, intended parents and surrogates attempt to handle the legal contracts themselves by downloading a template found online. While it may seem like a great way to save money, this is incredibly risky and not recommended. Independent contracts are generic and don’t address individual circumstances and needs.
It is crucial to work with an experienced agency and knowledgeable reproductive attorney in order to make sure that the proper protections for all parties are in place before the cycle begins. There is a lot at stake for both the intended parents and their surrogate, and saving dollars here is not worth the potential risk associated with skipping this step.
It’s important for surrogates to remember that this isn’t their baby. Above all else, the intended parents, doctors, attorneys and the surrogate are all working toward the same goal of minimizing risks and ensuring a healthy pregnancy and delivery. While there are some compromises and sacrifices that may be made throughout the journey, it is ultimately for the greater good of all involved. It’s important to be upfront with your agency and never be afraid to ask any questions that you may have.