By Angela Bekiaris: AS Kim Kardashian and Kanye West prepare to follow in the footsteps of Giuliana Rancic, Tyra Banks, Sarah Jessica Parker and, more recently, Cristiano Ronaldo, we dig into the world of surrogacy. From what it costs to what it all entails, we share some must-know facts with you – along with a real surrogate experience.
Sharon*, 36, is a mother to three beautiful kids and has been married for 15 years. She welcomed twins via surrogacy 16 months ago, thanks to her sister who was her gestational carrier. “My daughter is 14 years old and a big sister to two handsome little boys who are 16 months old. Our struggle to fall pregnant started eight years ago. At first we didn’t think anything of it, however, as the months and years went by, we decided to visit a fertility specialist.”
Sharon explains that they tried everything from a homeopath to acupuncture combined with IVF treatments. “We did a few egg retrievals and transfers with different protocols with the one specialist, but never had a positive result — every negative blood test nearly drove me to depression. I just couldn’t give up. I was desperate to have another child, so we decided to try another specialist who told us it was an unexplained infertility problem. He told us to never give up so we kept trying and did a few IVF treatments with him as well, but the test always came back negative.”
After years of struggling and during a tearful conversation with her sister over the phone one day, Sharon’s sister suggested they do a transfer to her with Sharon’s embryos. “Words can’t express our gratitude for this selfless act of both my sister and her husband,” explains Sharon. “It wasn’t easy for both of us. She suffered with bad nausea and developed ICP (intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy) in the last three months of the pregnancy, and I struggled with the anxieties that come with being a mother-to-be from afar, like the crushing sadness of never feeling your own kids kick from within. But there were beautiful moments too, like when we were told that I am having twins and hearing their heartbeats for the first time, or when we learned that my babies were boys, and celebrating the baby shower together – her belly massive and mine still flat. I was the bun and she was the oven, both of us beaming. I am truly blessed to have the most amazing sister to have offered us a gift of life… Now I can finally say my family is complete!”
Just like Sharon, and many others worldwide, Hollywood stars Kim Kardashian and husband Kanye West have announced that they have chosen a gestational carrier for their third baby, after being advised by a doctor that Kim would have another high-risk pregnancy. The pair have reportedly agreed to spend more than R1-5-million.
Opening up on reality show Keeping Up With The Kardashians earlier this year about her medical struggles during her pregnancies with daughter North, born in 2013, and son Saint, born in 2015, she said, “I think I always knew that surrogacy was an option, but I didn’t think it was that realistic of an option, and now I feel like that’s my reality.” And after a very difficult year, which included Kim’s robbery in Paris and Kanye cancelling his tour and being hospitalised after an apparent mental breakdown, it was the best way to expand their family.
Just like Kim, Tyra Banks went the surrogacy route, welcoming her first child in January last year. The model-turned-talk show host and her boyfriend, Norwegian photographer Erik Asla, welcomed what they called their ‘miracle son’, York, via surrogate after what they explained as a ‘traumatic’ IVF struggle, and they thank the ‘angel of a woman’ who carried him. Sharing a photo of the newborn on social media at the time, Tyra wrote: “The best present we worked and prayed so hard for is finally here. He’s got my fingers and big eyes and his daddy Erik’s mouth and chin. As we thank the angel of a woman that carried our miracle baby boy for us, we pray for everyone who struggles to reach this joyous milestone. York Banks Asla, welcome to the world.”
E! star Giuliana Rancic and her husband Bill also chose a gestational carrier after many failed IVF treatments and a breast cancer diagnosis — they welcomed son Edward Duke in August 2012. And recently, soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo welcomed his twins via surrogacy — he also has a seven-year-old son from a previous relationship. Other Hollywood stars who have gone the surrogacy route include Sarah Jessica Parker, Nicole Kidman, Ellen Pompeo and Elizabeth Banks.
What Does It All Entail?
We share some interesting facts on surrogacy — from DNA to how it will affect your pocket.
- Surrogacy is an agreement between two parties, whereby a woman agrees to carry a pregnancy for another person or persons.
- In a gestational surrogacy, the child has its parents’ DNA. This involves in-vitro fertilization (IVF), “Where an egg is taken from the mother and fertilised with the dad’s sperm, later transferred to the embryo into the uterus of a gestational carrier,” explains reproductive endocrinologist Naveed Khan, MD, of Shady Grove Fertility in Leesburg, Virginia on health.com. The gestational carrier then carries the baby to term, and mom and dad resume their rolls as parents after the baby is born. So a gestational carrier has no biological relation to the child.
- A traditional surrogacy, on the other hand, involves natural or artificial insemination of a surrogate — the father’s sperm is used, however the biological mother is in fact the surrogate mother.
- There are a number of reasons to choose surrogacy, from a woman not having a uterus after a hysterectomy to suffering recurrent miscarriages or having a number of failed IVF treatments. Other health problems, say experts, which could make a pregnancy dangerous include pulmonary hypertension. In other cases, surrogacy is used when a homosexual couple uses donor eggs to have a child.
- The surrogate could be a friend or stranger – either way, medical and pregnancy history will be carefully looked at before the process begins.
- It isn’t cheap — the fertility treatment costs the most. According to Robynne Friedman, of Robynne Friedman Attorneys — who is also the Chief Advisor for the Surrogacy Advisory Group — it could cost anything between R55 000 and R80 000 for just the fertility treatments. Robynne explains that other costs could include things like reimbursement for nutrition requirement, vitamin allowance, travelling expenses to the doctor or hospital for scans, scar creams and clothing in some cases, as well as any loss of actual earnings during maternity leave, sick days, and so forth. Robynne adds, however, that this is a conservative amount.
- You should always protect yourself by talking to a lawyer who specialises in reproductive law before going ahead with the process.
- Altruistic surrogacy is legal in South Africa.
FACTS courtesy of www.health.com and www.surrogacy.co.za
* Not her real name.