During the years 2006 through 2010, roughly 6.7 million U.S. women between the ages of 15 and 44 struggled with infertility issues, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For some women facing such challenges, reliance on a surrogate mother may be an option. Like the women whom they help, surrogate mothers may experience a host of emotional issues.
Developing an emotional bond with a baby during pregnancy knowing that you will soon hand her over to another woman can result in confusion, sadness or even anger. During the nine months of gestation, the biological mother bonds with and becomes emotionally attached to the baby growing inside her. For some women, giving the baby up after birth may present a loss too challenging to overcome without outside help. Professional counseling during and after the pregnancy can help to minimize the effect of such emotions.
All in the Family
Chances are that the surrogate isn't the only person other than the parents-to-be who is invested in this pregnancy. She may have a husband and children of her own. If so, they also can develop an emotional attachment to the unborn baby. Additionally, the surrogate's parents and extended family may become emotionally and psychologically involved. For example, psychotherapist Ellen Speyer on the American Fertility Association website, the surrogate's mother may feel that the baby should be her grandchild. Including the family in the surrogacy process or allowing the family alone time with the baby after birth can help to relieve some of these tensions.
Feelings and the Law
As if the tangled web of emotions that come along with surrogacy weren't complicated enough, legal issues can make the process even more of a struggle for mothers and families. While there's no doubt that carrying a baby for nine months and giving birth creates an emotional attachment, additional problems can arise if the surrogate has the legal option to keep the baby. Surrogacy is not equally enforceable in all states. This may mean that the intended parents have no legal right to claim the baby as their own. That may complicate the decision-making process for a surrogate who can't bear the thought of giving up the infant.
Love and Joy
While being a surrogate mother has potential for a flood of negative emotions, it can still be a joyous occasion. Bringing a child into the world for someone else is an experience with which there is no comparison. The surrogate mother who recognizes this is likely to feel happiness for the intended parents. “This feeling of helping another couple become parents -- something they’ve wanted to do for so long -- is indescribable. Next to having my own children, it’s my proudest moment, writes surrogate mother and author Sara Chinn in her article "I Gave Birth to Someone Else's Children -- What It's Like to be a Surrogate" on the "Women’s Health" magazine website. This can translate into love not just for the child but for the new parents as well. In such a case, handing the baby over means the beginning of a new extended family and a close relationship instead of a tearful goodbye.
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Infertility
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: 2011 Assisted Reproductive Technology Fertility Clinic Success Rates Report
- American Fertility Association: Surrogacy: Keys to Building a Successful Surrogate, Couple Relationship Part I
- Psychology Today: Surrogacy: Some Words of Caution
- Women's Health: "I Gave Birth to Someone Else's Children" -- What It's Like to Be a Surrogate
- Journal of Reproduction and Infertility: Psychological Aspects of Surrogate Motherhood