Surrogacy, or the practice of carrying a child in another woman’s womb, is becoming an increasingly common practice. Anyone can choose to use a surrogate, for a variety of different reasons. As the method becomes more accepted, many celebrities are coming forward with their stories of adding a new bundle — or bundles, since multiple pregnancies are common with surrogacy — of joy to their family by using a surrogate. Let’s take a closer look at some of these stories. Will this surge in celebrity surrogacy lead to an increase in the business of fertility?
The Surrogacy Process
Surrogacy is another form of in vitro fertilization. In this case, instead of fertilizing the egg in a lab and implanting it into the biological mother’s womb, the fertilized egg gets implanted in the uterus of a volunteer. The surrogate carries the child until birth, when the baby or babies go home with their parents. In many cases, the surrogate has no genetic relation to the baby. If the biological mother has viable eggs, her eggs get fertilized using either the father’s sperm or donor sperm and then implanted in the surrogate. Traditional surrogacy uses the surrogate’s egg, fertilized with the father’s or donor sperm. This field is growing exponentially. Right now, an average of 750 babies are born every year using surrogacy. Of course, it’s more complicated than we’ve laid out here. Potential surrogates and families go through an extensive matching process to make sure they perfectly complement one another, and may travel to doctor’s appointments with their surrogate to be part of the entire process.
Celebrity surrogacies are becoming more common, and more celebrities are coming forward with their stories. Their tales might surprise you, since none of them feed into the Hollywood stereotypes of women who choose surrogacy because they want to maintain their figure. Kim Kardashian, for example, chose to use a surrogate for her third child because during her first two pregnancies, she experienced a condition called placenta accreta, where the placenta doesn’t detach from the uterus after birth. This condition can be dangerous and requires medical intervention. Instead of going through that a third time and risking her life, she and husband Kanye West chose to use a surrogate. Elizabeth Banks, of Hunger Games fame, wasn’t able to get pregnant on her own. According to her doctors, her eggs were fine — the embryos were just unable to implant in her womb. She recently welcomed a son into her family, via a gestational surrogate. It is also a popular option for same-sex celebrity couples who would be otherwise unable to have biological children on their own. Pop star Ricky Martin chose to become a single dad via a surrogate. Elton John and Neil Patrick Harris, with their respective partners, also decided to have children with the help of a surrogate. These are just a few of the examples of celebrities who have chosen to add to their families with the help of a surrogate. Dozens have started to come forward to share their stories, and even that has barely scratched the surface. Many others may have chosen this path, but prefer to stay private about their experiences.
Surrogacy and the Business of Fertility
Infertility is a blanket term that describes anyone who can’t get pregnant or carry a baby to term naturally. Upwards of 12 percent of women in the United States are medically infertile. Sometimes specialists can determine the cause of infertility, but in anywhere from 5 to 15 percent of cases, there is no apparent reason for the problem. International commercial surrogacy has become an enormous industry, even though some countries — like Nepal, Mexico, Thailand and India — have banned the practice for foreigners. Many people consider this reproductive tourism unethical, in spite or perhaps because of the compensation being offered. In the United States, the practice of paying a surrogate to carry your baby is legal and regulated. Unfortunately, the cost of surrogacy and other fertility treatments often place them out of reach of those who need them. On average, a surrogate receives anywhere from $40,000 to $45,000, spread out in payments throughout her pregnancy. The family is responsible for these payments, as well as the cost of a doctor’s appointments and other medical care. Unfortunately, the fertility business isn’t all about providing help for women who can’t conceive on their own. It has quickly turned into a multi-billion-dollar industry that is growing exponentially. Investment firms are buying up fertility clinics and other facilities across the country and pouring millions of dollars into advertising campaigns targeted at everyone from infertile women to individuals who aren’t ready to have kids, but might want to freeze their eggs for later use. None of these services are cheap — one round of IVF or egg freezing can cost upwards of $18,000, not including storage fees for the frozen eggs. Some companies are even offering egg-freezing as a benefit alongside health insurance and gym memberships. That isn’t a bad thing — though some argue it sends the message that work should be more important than family — but it doesn’t make services more affordable for women who don’t work for these companies or have thousands of dollars set aside to spend on egg storage or IVF.
It’s hard to know whether celebrity surrogacy has had any measurable impact on the fertility industry. Yes, it has brought the practice into the limelight, but until the procedure becomes more affordable, we likely won’t see many changes in the number of women who choose to use a surrogate instead of carrying a baby themselves. However, surrogacy is one option for women who have infertility or can’t get pregnant because of current or previous health concerns. As it becomes more widespread, chances are the cost of the procedure will drop, making it more accessible for everyone. Stories from beloved celebrities only serve to prove how life-changing surrogacy can be.