Having a baby is a life-changing experience but getting pregnant the natural way isn’t a viable option for every couple. Some couples struggle with infertility issues, and while the emotional turmoil of pregnancy can be so overwhelming for some women, it could put the health of the mother and baby at risk. Fortunately, surrogacy and IVF provide a range of options when a natural pregnancy isn’t possible. So, how does surrogacy and IVF work, and which option is best for you?
What is IVF?
IVF stands for in vitro fertilization. According to the Cleveland Clinic, IVF is a type of assisted reproduction where an egg is fertilized by sperm in a laboratory environment. The procedure involves a complex process where eggs are retrieved from a woman’s ovaries and manually combined with the father’s or donor’s sperm for fertilization in the lab.
Once fertilized, the egg becomes an embryo, and after several days the embryo is placed in either the mother or gestational carrier’s uterus. Once the embryo implants itself into the uterine wall, pregnancy is achieved. When multiple embryos are extracted (which is optimal), many couples choose to freeze some of the embryos to use later, should the initial attempt or attempts not result in pregnancy.
Surrogacy vs IVF: Should you undergo IVF yourself or use an IVF surrogate?
If you have been unable to conceive naturally, and you are an otherwise healthy woman, your first step is to meet with a fertility specialist to determine whether you would be a good candidate for IVF (in vitro fertilization). Both women and men can struggle with fertility issues, so the physician will evaluate both intended parents to help determine next steps.
Should the physician find that either or both parties are unable to produce healthy eggs and/or sperm, you do have options. You could pursue embryo donation or utilize sperm and/or egg donation and have embryos created in order to undergo IVF yourself. If you have a medical or emotional need—which the state of Texas requires for surrogacy IVF—and a doctor would sign an affidavit saying you need a surrogate for medical reasons, you could go the IVF for surrogacy route.
There are a number of physical reasons prospective parents are unable to have a child. According to Cleveland Clinic, common reasons include:
- Blocked or damaged fallopian tubes.
- Low sperm count or other sperm quality issues.
- Ovarian conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
- Uterine fibroids.
- Poor uterine health.
- Potential risk for passing on a genetic disease or disorder.
- Unexplained fertility issues.
Our law firm has also had many cases where the need to use a surrogate was based on an emotional need versus a physical need. These are cases where the physician believed the intended mother should not try to conceive because it would pose a threat to her emotional well-being. Some examples include scenarios where a woman has tried natural conception or IVF repeatedly but has been unable to have a successful pregnancy, as well as situations where the mother suffered from other mental health issues.
In vitro fertilization surrogacy is a great option when the intended mother’s physical or emotional health stands in the way of a natural pregnancy (and she has the financial resources to pay for surrogacy vs IVF on herself). Texas courts understand how emotionally traumatizing losing or struggling to have a baby can be and will typically support surrogacy in such cases, as long as the intended mother presents the required doctor’s affidavit.
What’s the difference between surrogate and gestational carrier?
A traditional surrogate is the genetic mother of the baby, whereas a gestational carrier becomes pregnant via an assisted reproduction surrogacy method (IVF) and is not genetically related to the child. The state of Texas has some of the most progressive surrogacy and egg, embryo and sperm donation laws in the country but it does NOT extend those protections to traditional surrogacy arrangements.
If you’re considering going the IVF with surrogate route, it’s important to speak with a reproductive lawyer about the legal risks and protections you would be afforded in the state where you plan to have a baby. In order to enjoy the legal protections provided under Texas surrogacy and donation laws, you would need to execute a valid gestational agreement that is written in accordance with Texas law.
Per Texas Family Code Sec. 160.752, a legal gestational agreement involves “an agreement between a woman and the intended parents of a child in which the woman relinquishes all rights as a parent of a child conceived by means of assisted reproduction and that provides that the intended parents become the parents of the child.”
Since the surrogate in a traditional surrogacy is the genetic mother, you could face additional risks, including the surrogate mother deciding not to give up her parental rights. If the surrogate mother does change her mind in a traditional surrogacy, there is little to nothing that you can do. Plus, you could end up sharing custody with her and potentially paying child support. A Texas reproductive attorney can explain what legal steps you can take to adopt the baby once the surrogate mother does agree to relinquish parental rights.
In a gestational IVF surrogacy, the gestational carrier gives birth, but genetically she is not the parent, which means you overcome any presumption of parentage automatically. Even if she tried to run off with the child, by law, the child is not hers. As long as you have a properly drafted and executed Texas gestational agreement, your reproductive lawyer would be able to get a court order ordering her to return the child back to you, and you wouldn’t be required to share visitation or pay child support in Texas.
We can answer your questions about surrogacy vs IVF in Texas
If you are contemplating gestational surrogacy or pursuing IVF yourself with donor embryos, eggs and/or sperm, it’s critical to seek advice from an experienced reproductive lawyer. To schedule a complimentary consultation, you can schedule an appointment here or call the Sisemore Law Firm in Fort Worth at (817) 336-4444 to learn more.
Photo Source: Canva.com