BioNews reporting from ESHRE conference, Madrid:
Research presented at the annual conference of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) in Madrid shows that women who act as surrogates suffer no severe emotional problems during pregnancy or after giving up the child. In what the researchers say is the largest and most representative study of surrogates undertaken so far, 34 surrogates were interviewed. They were asked about their reasons for becoming a surrogate, their relationship with the commissioning parents, how they felt about handing over the child and the reactions of others.
The researchers, from the Family and Child Psychology Research Centre at City University, London, interviewed the surrogates approximately one year after they had given birth. Five of the women had acted as a surrogate on a previous occasion. Seven of them were known to the couple before the surrogacy arrangement was entered into, and the others had been introduced to the couple through a surrogacy agency. None of the women said that they had had doubts about handing over the baby to the commissioning parents. Most of the women said that their main reason for becoming a surrogate was 'to help a childless couple', while other reasons given were 'enjoyment of pregnancy' and 'self fulfilment'. Only one woman said she had become a surrogate for the money as well. Only half of the women had experienced a negative reaction to their being a surrogate from their family and friends, but this changed over time, becoming more positive toward the end of the pregnancy.
All of the women said that they had enjoyed a good relationship with the commissioning couple before the pregnancy and, although some of the relationships had sometimes become slightly strained, this was rectified by the end of the pregnancy. The biggest problem was encountered by a woman who became pregnant with twins, said Vasanti Jadva, the lead researcher. 'None of the women experienced any doubts or difficulties whilst handing over the baby', said Ms Jadva, adding 'one woman said that she never viewed it as handing over the child; instead she considered she was handing back the child'.
In the few weeks after giving up the child, 11 of the women experienced 'mild difficulties' and one had 'moderate difficulties'. After a few months, 29 of the women had no difficulties at all, and after a year, this figure was 32. The other two women reported feeling 'occasionally upset'. Eight of the women had had no contact with the child at all since it was handed over, but the majority of the surrogates had maintained some level of contact with the child and the couple. However, only two of the women expressed a desire for more contact than they had. Ms Jadva said that the research, which is ongoing, shows that 'surrogacy appears to be a positive experience for surrogate mothers'. Professor Susan Golombok, director of the centre, said that the study 'does not support many of the claims commonly made about surrogacy. There was no evidence of difficulties with respect to those aspects of surrogacy that have been the greatest cause for concern'.