For 26 year old Anna being a surrogate mother is her main source of income.
She is now pregnant with her second child, impregnated according to the practice. It was hard for her to make the initial decision to become a surrogate, but she has already got used to it now.
“Social and economic problems pushed me to taking this decision. I have already done this once before and I know that I am not doing anything wrong,” said Anna. “It was difficult, however, at the beginning, mostly because of the reactions of some of my relatives. No one understood me, even my own parents, but I still made this move.”
Anna already has her own child. She said the feelings were different between the pregnancies. “I can clearly remember the period of being pregnant with my own child. At that time I understood why I was pregnant from the very beginning. Now, being a surrogate mother is my job and nothing more,” she added.
“It took a lot of time to convince myself that I was making the correct decision. It was very difficult psychologically. When doctors assured me that the child would not have a genetic connection to me whatsoever; that I would only be a carrier and not the mother, that the child would not be mine by even one percent, I calmed down,” added Anna.
According to data of the National Statistics Office of Georgia the birth-rate over the last ten years has increased by 3.1%. It is not clear what percent of that is children born via a surrogate. According to doctor’s data, the number of surrogate mothers has increased recently. The majority of surrogate mothers explain that the financial aspect is the most determining factor in their decision.
Doctors consider that becoming a surrogate mother could be a business for women. “Surrogacy has recently become popular in our country. It has increased by approximately 15 times. And of course the prices have increased too,” said Ketevan Robakidze, Director of the Georgian Medical Tourism Company.
Two or three years ago, as a surrogate a woman could earn about 10,000 USD. Now she can earn more than 13,000 USD.
As for the prices, an egg donor gets 1,500-2,500 GEL whereas surrogate mothers are paid up to 13,000-15,000 GEL. The price increases if the woman has already given birth to children via this method. For couples the sum is 20,000-25,000 GEL. In other countries the price of surrogacy is 50,000 USD. In Georgia, however, the prices are different for local and foreign couples. Medical institutions say that there are a lot of people willing to hire a surrogate mother. There are more hiring applicants than willing surrogate mothers. “Due to moral and religious issues in our country, many do not dare take these steps specifically because of their society’s stance toward the issue, but people now are more informed on the subject and the situation is improving greatly in this respect,” said Tamar Khachapuridze, Director of the Surrogate Motherhood and Donation Centre Human Georgia.
Not everyone can be a surrogate. One must be 20-35 years old, must have had a child already, and be physically healthy. A surrogate mother is a woman who carries a childless couple’s embryo and has no genetic link to the child. Therefore doctors say that a surrogate mother cannot be the egg donor for the child she carries. When a couple needs both a donor mother and a surrogate, they must take the egg from another woman, because the surrogate mother must not have a genetic connection with the foetus she carries. If the child is genetically hers, then it will turn out that she is selling her own child, which is a criminal offence.
People working in this sphere say that there is a growth of surrogacy in Georgia which is supported by the fact that in developed countries this sector is comparatively very expensive. Therefore those seeking surrogate mothers go to poor countries where the living standards are very low. “We have both Georgian and foreign patients. There is a very high rate of childless couples in Georgia and in other countries as well.” said Tamar Khachapuridze. “In European countries there are about 1-2 million childless couples, 6-7 million in the USA and Canada. Because of the high prices and certain legal restrictions foreign couples often go to relatively cheaper developing countries to find a surrogate. Surrogacy is prohibited by law in Austria, Norway, Sweden, France, in some Scandinavian countries, and in some states of the US. In some countries only non-commercial surrogacy is allowed. Obviously, not many are willing to be a non-profit, volunteer surrogate,” she added.
Doctors working in this field say that in the developed world the number of childless couples has greatly increased and that is because medicine has invented surrogacy. Surrogacy means transferring an embryo in to a foreign organism in order for it to grow. This, however, leads to differences in opinion. For some it is a sin and for some humans it is a kindness. This method has been sufficiently tested. In turn, there are other obstacles, in particular the challenge of finding good surrogate mothers.
The first child born via artificial insemination in 1978 Louise Brown, now has her own children. The first child carried by a surrogate, a girl, was born in England in 1986. As for Georgia, the first child born by artificial insemination was born in 1999 and by a surrogate - in 2004.
In some countries surrogacy is legal for same-sex couples, but that is not the case in Georgia. “We don’t serve same-sex couples, because according to the legislation of Georgia a ‘couple’ is the union of a man and a woman. But for a couple to hire the services of a surrogate mother, it is not mandatory for them to be married,” said Khachapuridze.
“This field of medicine does not exist without its risks. Any childless couple which starts a relationship with us is informed of the risks. They know in advance that the rate of success of artificial insemination is only 40%. Similarly, we provide all the information to the surrogates,” said Ketevan Robakidze.
“We explain to the willing surrogate women that in pregnancy they are just vessels and that they don’t have any sort of rights after the child is born,” she added.
If a surrogate mother loses the embryo then it is the company’s responsibility to investigate the cause. If negligence on the part of the surrogate was not the case, then she still gets money according to the contract, however if it is the mother’s fault, then she must reimburse money to the couple. No one woman in Georgia has given birth to more than two children as a surrogate. The person who has given birth to the most children as a surrogate is a 39 year old woman; she has given birth to nine children as a surrogate. In Georgia a woman can be a surrogate as many times as she wants until she reaches the age of 35.
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