When you are struggling with infertility, it’s easy to lose sight of your end goal -- a healthy baby. With all of the medical options available, you may not have considered using a surrogate to carry and give birth to your baby. Surrogacy can be a lovely way to expand your family, but is it right for you?

The statistics on infertility are staggering. According to the Centers for Disease Control, an estimated 11 percent of all women (regardless of marital status) ages 15 - 44 have received some level of infertility services. When you are struggling to start a family -- or add another child -- each month that passes without a positive pregnancy test leaves you feeling more hopeless. Infertility treatments can be costly, time-consuming and uncomfortable. Many couples find that dealing with infertility causes a strain on their relationship over time. More couples are considering using a surrogate mother to help them add to their family.

How it works

There are two different types of surrogate mothers:

Traditional

A traditional surrogate is a woman who is artificially inseminated with sperm from the intended father. She carries the child she conceives and delivers it for the intended parents. In this arrangement the surrogate is the biological mother of the baby, since she provided her own egg. Traditional surrogates may also be inseminated with donor sperm, meaning that neither of the intended parents is a biological parent.

Gestational

A gestational surrogate has no biological ties to the baby she carries. Using in vitro fertilization (IVF) eggs are harvested from the intended mother, inseminated with sperm from the father and implanted in the uterus of the surrogate. She then carries the baby and delivers it -- and is referred to as the birth mother since she has no genetic ties to the baby. The intended parents are also the biological parents in this case.

Who uses a surrogate?

Using a surrogate mother is a good option for women with uterine problems, medical conditions making pregnancy dangerous (like heart conditions) or for women who have undergone a hysterectomy. Some consider surrogacy after having been through many rounds of other infertility options -- like IVF cycles -- with no luck. Advanced maternal age may also be a reason to seek a surrogate mother.

Legalities

Reproductive law is constantly changing as new medical technologies have created so many options for conceiving and parenting a child. Laws may vary from state to state, and anyone seriously considering using a surrogate mother should consult with an attorney who specializes in reproductive issues. A contract should be drawn up and agreed to by all parties, including any special circumstances that may arise during the course of the pregnancy.

There may be fewer potential legal issues with a gestational surrogate, since she is not biologically related to the baby she carries. Since each state has different laws, it is advisable to meet with your lawyer before starting the surrogate process.

Bottom line

If you are searching for ways to expand your family, surrogacy might be a good fit for you and your partner. Research the laws in your state and do your homework before agreeing to use any surrogate.

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