Some women who are able to produce perfectly healthy eggs may not be able to carry a baby in their uterus (or no longer have a uterus). In this case, the use of a gestational carrier may be considered. A gestational carrier has an embryo produced by another couple (the intended parents) delivered to her uterus. She will carry the fetus through the entire pregnancy and deliver the child. In this case, the gestational carrier has no genetic link to the child.
The chances for success with this process are mostly dependent on the couple who are attempting to produce the child- not on the carrier. Assuming an acceptable carrier candidate has been chosen. The age of the female donor, the number of embryos transferred, the ovarian reserve and whether the embryos are fresh or frozen are all important considerations in the success of the process.
The gestational carrier process should not be confused with using a “surrogate” mother. A true surrogate not only carries the pregnancy for a couple, but also provides her own egg as the genetic material. A couple who decides to use a surrogate must make some large sacrifices. The female partner will not have any genetic contribution to the pregnancy and will not be able to carry or deliver the pregnancy. However, if neither of these are an option for the woman, this process can allow the couple to become parents of children with a genetic link to the father.
Surrogacy is the riskiest form of third party reproduction for the intended parents. Because the surrogate is considered a genetic parent and she delivers the baby herself, several issues can arise legally if she decides she wants to keep the baby.
Who are the best candidates?
A "perfect" gestational carrier or surrogate is a woman who is in a stable, monogamous relationship. Optimally, she would have her own children. A gestational carrier should have a history of pregnancies without complications and vaginal deliveries. A gestational carrier’s age is less important than it is with a surrogate mother since she is just the host, rather than contributing genetically. However, older women do have a higher incidence of pregnancy complications. These precautions are to lessen the risks, physically and mentally, associated with using a carrier or surrogate.
Gestational carriers and surrogates can be women who the couple has a relationship with beforehand or who are obtained from an agency. A sister or friend of the couple who serves as a gestational carrier can sometimes be a better choice if such a person is available.