A lot has changed for women in the 21st century, so much so that a lot of women do have a career which they will choose any day over societal stereotypes. Women do have careers and plans that are well thought out. Nowadays, a lot of us strive for financial and economic independence. Sometimes this might pose a challenge to other social needs like having a family and raising kids. Some women, therefore, choose to pursue their dreams first and postpone childbearing to a later age compared to our mother’s generation. Even though fertility issues concern everyone but for the purpose of this article, we are going to concentrate on the women
Women are increasingly embracing the idea of harvesting and saving their eggs for when they will need it. In this fast-paced life of ours, women can only rely on these procedures to help them have children when and how they choose, and when they are done chasing their dreams. Such procedures, include IVF and surrogacy. IVF and surrogacy have given hope to more women in the world, to not worry about societal and biological pressures. Yet, society has placed so much importance on the idea that pregnancy and childbearing can only be complete when the woman/mother carries the embryo in her womb for nine or ten months and give birth to the baby. The question here is does it always have to be this way?
Enough! preamble already. Now let’s dive into the topic proper. Questions; What is surrogacy? or who is a surrogate mother? If faced with infertility as a Sierra Leonean parents would you try surrogacy? I know we have neither the laws nor the clinics in Sierra Leone. But, I also think it’s about time we have a discourse about this and at least bring the information closer to the people. To let them know they have choices, and that there are so many ways women can be mothers and surrogacy is one of the options.
WHAT IS SURROGACY?
Surrogacy is a procedure of aided reproduction where planned parents work with gestational carriers(GC) or surrogate who will carry and care for their baby(ies) until birth. Intended parents use surrogacy to start or grow their families when they can’t do so on their own. In another word, surrogacy is the process where an individual (woman) will willingly decide to carry a baby(ies) for another through the duration of the pregnancy, sometimes for financial gain but most importantly to help other parents enjoy the fruits of the womb.
Some types of surrogacy enable parents who are incapable of having children fulfil this desire. It’s a procedure that mandates medical and legal knowledge, as well as a healthy support method throughout the journey.
HOW SURROGACY WORKS
Through In Vitro Fertilization(IVF), embryos are created in a lab at a fertility clinic. Sometimes the intended parents use their own egg and sperm material. Other times, an egg or sperm benefactor is employed. At a fertility clinic, one or more embryos are implanted into a womb of the surrogate, who carries the baby(ies) to term.
Who Is a Surrogate Mother?
There are four kinds:
Traditional surrogate: Here a woman gets artificially inseminated with the father’s sperm. What we should understand is, with traditional surrogacy the surrogate also provides her egg to create the embryo, so the surrogate is biologically connected to the offspring and may assert in the court of law to contend the parental rights of the child. This type is certainly not recommended due to the lack of lawful defence for the parents seeking the service. She then carries the baby and delivers it for the parent in question to raise. It can also be a situation where both husband and wife want a baby but the wife’s egg is not viable, they can get a surrogate whose egg would be fertilized by the husband’s sperm. Note also that a donor sperm can be used
Gestational Surrogate. A procedure named “in vitro fertilization” (IVF) now makes it possible to gather eggs and sperm from a donor or the spouse that are requiring the service. Fertilize them, and place the embryo into the uterus of a surrogate mother.
The surrogate then carries the baby until birth. This type is free from most of the legal issues present in the traditional surrogacy. As the surrogate does not have any genetic ties to the child because it wasn’t her egg that was used.
Altruistic Surrogacy: In these arrangements, the surrogate doesn’t receive any monetary compensation. Here the intended parents will cover all the medical and legal expenses incurred during the process, including those directly derived from the pregnancy and the wellbeing of the surrogate, such as maternity clothes, special foods, vitamins and antenatal.
Commercial Surrogacy: Here the surrogate earns a financial dividend for the enormous bodily and emotional change she makes, as being pregnant brings a major change in a woman’s life. But the amount is restricted by law in order to deter the commodification of the woman’s body and surrogacy from becoming a business. This amount should not be an encouragement for women living in poverty to become surrogate. It should be a symbolic amount that rewards her solidarity and intention to help others and not for profit.
IMPORTANCE OF SURROGACY
1. It helps parents who have struggled with infertility to have a child(ren).
2. Makes it easy for women who are unable to physically carry a baby to have one.
3. It can help parents who have some form of genetic deformity, deficiency or health situation that is hereditary to have healthy babies.
4. It helps people who are in a same-sex marriage that want to have a baby that they are genetically connected with have one.
5. Women who had gone through vasectomy and their wombs were removed.
6. Conditions that make pregnancy impossible or too risky to carry by the wife such as terrible heart ailment.
HOW TO SELECT A SURROGATE?
Right now there aren’t any regulations about who can be a surrogate mother. But experts agree on a few points about how to select. You should choose a surrogate who:
1. Who is at least 21 years old.
2. A woman that gives birth to at least one healthy child, so she knows firsthand the medical threats of pregnancy, childbearing and other sentimental matters related to not bonding with the baby.
3. She must have been approved by psychologists to ensure that there are no underlying mental health issues, especially, issues such as giving up the baby after birth.
4. Signs an agreement about her role and obligations in the pregnancy, such as prenatal care and agreeing to give you the baby after birth.
We don’t have fertility clinics here and so we are not privy to some information on this matter. What we do know is how our societies most time make a woman who is unable to birth her own child(ren) feels less than or not much of a woman. Other countries in West Africa are at the forefront of fertility options, especially with options like IVF, countries like Ghana and Nigeria. There are people who have gone there with infertility problems and were able to have children. I also know that there will be a time in the not too distant future when surrogacy, will be a way of life for most women, irrespective of where they are in the world. Especially, those who can afford it, and are frightened of the birthing process and what pregnancy can sometimes do to the female body.
Some of the questions we should be asking ourselves are;
Are there local forms of surrogacy happening in our societies already, but we don’t have a name for it? If not, the next question should be;
Are we there yet as a nation? Are we ready for surrogacy and all its entanglements?
If we do have fertility clinics here, would you opt for these measures to have a child?
If you have the right information and resources as a woman would you go for surrogacy?
Are our men open and ready to have these conversations? If you are a man with infertility would you be willing to use donor sperm?
Since we don’t have laws that cover this particular problem. How are we going to handle the legal aspects of this process? If you are a woman with fertility issues would you be willing to use a surrogate?
If you are a young fertile woman, would you be inclined to be a surrogate?
If you were to be paid to be a surrogate how much would you accept as a fee?
If you were to pay for these services, how much would you be willing to part with?
Bear in mind that surrogacy is a complex topic and do have some ethical and moral issues surrounding gender, labour, exploitation, and inequality.
As a nation that claims to have an interest in women, these are the issues we should start discussing. I think it’s about time, Sierra Leone starts thinking about the health of the citizens, as infertility affects both genders. In the light of establishing fertility clinics in Sierra Leone that will be providing safe and affordable answers to infertility. This is the time we look at what is important to us and map out ways to achieve them. These are topics we need to discuss as a proactive nation that takes the health of its citizens seriously. Till my next curiosity and write up peace!! and take care of yourself.
This article is for information purpose only. Kindly, seek adequate information on this topic from your health professionals.
©By Rahima Vandy Kargbo known as Dasalonetiti Rahima.