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By Mary Ellen McLaughlin

One of the common questions we see on the discussion boards of the surrogacy communities we follow is typically posed by women who are considering becoming surrogates for the first time:  “Do I do it myself or go through an agency?”

Responses from others who have taken this path before vary, but lean toward recommending registering with an agency for the first time. At the same time, many say they have been do-it-yourselfers for subsequent surrogacies, recommending that route only after learning the ropes via the first agency experience.

Of course, I represent an agency, so forgive my bias. But the fact is that not all agencies are alike. And neither are all surrogacy journeys. There are many complexities involved and details to be managed in being a surrogate. The medical aspects aside, issues range from the legalities (contracts, compensation, meeting state laws over surrogacy arrangements, for example) to the surrogate’s emotional readiness to day-to-day dealings with the intended parents.

Frankly, once our surrogates begin the process, they’re happy to have an agency in their corner. If you’re thinking about embarking on this journey yourself, here are four reasons to consider an agency, and key points to keep in mind as you’re talking to likely candidates.

  1. The agency is your advocate in this process, representing your interests in everything from finding the right intended parents for you, helping to navigate issues that arise during your journey, to ensuring that you have someone in your corner with your best interests at heart. If you’re talking to an agency, ask for specific examples of how this role has actually played out with the surrogates with whom they have worked.
  2. As part and parcel of this role, the best agencies will ensure that their staff is available to you 24/7, to hold your hand, answer your questions and anticipate your needs.
  3. The agency has experience in dealing with all the aspects of the surrogacy journey. It knows what to expect for all the facets and, thus, can anticipate and effectively manage any bumps that may occur on the road.
  4. The agency also has developed the resources necessary to meet the surrogate’s interests, from legal specialists in family law to insurance programs to meet supplemental healthcare needs.

Anyone who’s considering becoming a surrogate knows it’s not a decision to be taken lightly. Once you’ve talked to several agencies using these points as a guide, go back to those message boards and ask members of the community to share their experiences, pro and con, with the agencies in question. You’ll benefit by extra careful due diligence in the long run.

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By Mary Ellen McLaughlin

It is kind of scary to think about the possibility that hundreds of people – thousands, even – are out there, innocently living out their lives and unaware that the guy who lives next door could be a half-sibling – genetically speaking, that is.

It’s a possibility that has the fertility field (and those with an interest in controlling it) fairly abuzz these days. The number of children who could be created by a single sperm donor during his fling with this particular brand of philanthropy is fairly mind-boggling, when you think about it.

One Toronto man tells a Canadian newspaper that he was born in 1952 with sperm from a donor who supplied his semen for over 30 years. It’s likely, he says, that his donor/father has between 500 to 1,000 children in Canada, the U.K., and who knows where else? “Freaky” is one word he uses to describe it.

Why is this cause for alarm? Well, the possibility of inadvertent incest, for one. For another, the possibility that these children might share disease-causing genes that might spread exponentially throughout the population.

Similar concerns have been voiced about children born through egg donation, though the scale of the issue there is far, far smaller – for practical reasons, if nothing else. Women produce far fewer eggs than men do sperm. The collection process entails a comparatively onerous medical procedure that’s a far cry from the “one and done,” if you will, of sperm donation. Women undergo a very comprehensive physical and family health history before qualifying as egg donors, which I’m not certain is as standardized for sperm donors.

There are very clear ASRM guidelines on how often a woman should donate her eggs, at least in the U.S.: No more than six cycles. For men, ASRM guidelines on sperm donation limit donors to 25 live births per population area of 850,000. (Some estimate that only between 20 percent to 40 percent of births are reported.)

In neither case, however, is there centralized tracking. While I can’t speak to sperm donor agencies, in the egg donor community, agencies like ours communicate locally and do a good job of monitoring. Yet there is nothing keeping (or to monitor) either sperm or egg donors from moving to new areas and starting all over.

It’s a concern that’s not going to go away, and has prompted calls for tighter regulations. The thought of more government regulation is always one for concern. Better yet that we, as an industry, revisit an idea that has been discussed for years and find a way to make it work: A centralized registry of egg and sperm donors that is scrupulously maintained. And where participation is a badge of honor.

What kind of guidelines are out there for gestational surrogates and intended parents? Does it vary state by state? These questions and more are answered by Mary Ellen McLaughlin, partner and surrogacy expert at ARR. Watch her explain surrogacy guidelines in the video blog below:

Have questions about surrogacy? Mary Ellen McLaughlin, ARR partner and resident surrogate expert, has the answers. McLaughlin busts the many myths surrounding the gestational surrogacy process through her new series of online v-casts. Check out the first one here:

Surrogacy is illegal in several U.S. states. If you have chosen surrogacy as your reproductive method of choice, where do you go from here? Our legal expert, Nidhi Desai, explains your options below.

Visit our Web site at www.arr1.com.

About Us

Conception Connections is a blog about alternative paths to family creation. It is maintained by Alternative Reproductive Resources. Contributors include intended parents, egg donors and gestational surrogates in addition to ARR staff. Our goal is to facilitate conversations about trends, issues, current events, technology and personal stories surrounding infertility, egg donation and gestational surrogacy. If you'd like to contribute, please e-mail shodge@hodgemediastrategies.com. We also welcome your comments and suggestions. Note: Comments are moderated and posted on approval.

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