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The subject of surrogacy keeps re-emerging in the mainstream – whether it is through films like “Mimi”, the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019 which prohibits commercial surrogacy, or through celebrities who have opted for the surrogate route for their parenthood journey. Power couple Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas, who got married in 2018, are the latest to welcome their baby through surrogacy. And the news has rekindled interest into what surrogacy is all about.
The couple made the announcement via social media, and wrote: “We are overjoyed to confirm that we have welcomed a baby via surrogate. We respectfully ask for privacy during this special time as we focus on our family. Thank you so much.”
Surrogacy is an important method of assisted reproductive technology wherein a woman carries pregnancy for another couple, according to an article in the Journal of Human Reproductive Sciences.
In terms of technology and practice, surrogacy is of two types – traditional and gestational.
* In traditional surrogacy, the surrogate mother is artificially inseminated with the intended father’s sperm, making her a genetic parent along with the intended father.
* In gestational surrogacy, an embryo from the intended parents is transferred to the surrogate uterus. Simply speaking, the baby carrier has no genetic connection to the child.
Also, surrogacy may be commercial or altruistic. If a surrogate receives monetary compensation for the arrangement, it is commercial. But if she only gets reimbursement of her medical and other pregnancy-related expenses along with the insurance coverage for her, it is referred to as altruistic.
In India, lawmakers have sought a change in regulations around surrogacy practices. In December 2021, the Parliament passed the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019.
The Bill prohibits commercial surrogacy, but allows altruistic surrogacy, and defines the eligibility criteria of the intending couple, as follows:
* The couple should be Indian citizens and married for at least five years
* They should be between 23 to 50 years old (wife) and 26 to 55 years old (husband)
* They do not have any surviving child (biological, adopted or surrogate)
* This would not include a child who is mentally or physically challenged or suffers from life threatening disorder or fatal illness
In the recent past, celebrities like Preity Zinta, Sunny Leone, Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan, Shilpa Shetty Kundra and Lisa Ray, have been vocal about turning to medical technology to have children. And everyone has their reasons.
While Shilpa has been open about how an autoimmune disease called ALPA led to multiple miscarriages when she tried to have a second child, Lisa’s battle with cancer impacted her fertility.
While Priyanka and Nick, who have a 10-year age gap, have not addressed the reason they opted for surrogacy, an international media report cites a source saying the couple’s hectic schedules had been coming in the way of their family planning. But let’s respect the couple’s demand for privacy.
Here’s their Instagram post!
Even though leading celebrities across the world have taken the surrogacy route, the process is shrouded in stigma.
A part of writer Taslima Nasreen’s recent Twitter post, which mentions no one in particular, is testimony.
She wrote, “Surrogacy is possible because there are poor women. Rich people always want the existence of poverty in society for their own interests. If you badly need to raise a child, adopt a homeless one. Children must inherit your traits—it is just a selfish narcissistic ego.
“How do those mothers feel when they get their ready-made babies through surrogacy? Do they have the same feelings for the babies like the mothers who give birth to the babies?”
As expected, the tweets sparked a debate.
While motherhood itself is a roller-coaster ride, opting for the surrogacy process to fulfil your motherhood dreams also comes with its set of emotional upheavals. The mental well-being of the intended parents becomes a matter of concern, as does the psychological vulnerability of the surrogate.
According to Kanchan Rai, Mental and Emotional Wellbeing Coach, commitment, attachment and readiness are vital for the parenthood process.
“The bond of attachment between a mother and her child begins to take shape long before the baby is born. For nine months, in the mother’s womb, the relationship is built through sounds, kicks and flutters etc. And as their deep and affectionate bond evolves with time, the psychological connection makes the parents care for and nurture the baby to provide him or her a sense of security and safety,” Rai, Founder – Let Us Talk, tells HealthShots.
But what happens in surrogacy where the mother and the baby do not get to develop the required physical bond?
“It is most likely that the new parents have fought harder than most to become a parent and have been waiting for this moment for quite some time. In many cases, as diagnosed by experts, during the process of surrogacy, intended parents suffer from postpartum depression as well as mental and physical stress,” explains Rai.
Symptoms may include:
* Depression and mood swings
* Loss of appetite or eating too much
* Intense irritability and/or anxiety
* Difficulty bonding with the baby
After an emotional roller-coaster of mixed emotions and a sense of worry for the new baby in your life, returning to normalcy needs gentle caring.
From the surrogate mother to the intended parents, an emotional transfer needs to take place to allow the baby to begin bonding with parents before and after he or she is born.
While some couples may genuinely be struggling with infertility for long, some may just choose to have a child via surrogacy just because. And it’s okay.
But if you fall in the former category, Rai suggests, “It is required for parents to address unresolved grief that comes from years of struggling with infertility ahead of time that will allow them to focus on caring for the child. Also, practicing empathy, as studies suggest, lowers stress, reduces pain, improves mental well-being and makes us feel more connected to others.”
Try putting yourself in the shoes of the surrogate mother, as it will develop your overall psyche towards the whole process.
“Attending doctor’s appointments, talking to the woman carrying the baby, building a relationship with her etc. will help in developing a sense of connection and anticipation for the child,” says Rai.
* Practice mindfulness meditation:
Mindfulness, the ability of a human to be fully present in a given moment, has benefits that calm one’s mind and body. Meditation and exercise regularly help in effectively dealing with stress, anxiety and depression. It may seem low-priority as new parents, but doing so will improve your mental and emotional state and keep post-surrogacy depression at bay to help you to continue caring for your family. Adding regular mindfulness meditation through Yoga into your schedule will help to feel physically healthy and lessen your chances to be overly reactive or overwhelmed by stressful surroundings.
* Reconnecting and support:
Amid those edgy days, it is important to take some time out to reconnect with your partner and lean on emotional support from loved ones. It will deepen ties and form a more stable foundation to handle anything that comes along to bring a healthy and sound baby into the world. Find support groups and talk to people who have had similar experiences. Ask them about their experiences with post-surrogacy depression and who did they overcome them. Seek the help of an emotional and mental well-being coach if needed, preferably those who have experience with postpartum depression and surrogacy.
Standing at the crossroads may feel like other things are more important than taking care of your mental well-being, but do remember that nothing is more important than taking care of yourself.
Start the journey of parenthood by tending to your needs and becoming the happiest and the healthiest version of yourself.
In surrogacy, mental health is a critical piece of the puzzle that among all others must be treated with professional care. Taking care of your emotional, mental, and physical well-being will be the best gift that one can give to their newborn child!