Bringing a new life into the world is undoubtedly the most beautiful experience, but for some couples, fertility problems can make it challenging. However, in such cases, assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) such as IVF and surrogacy offer hope. Both these technologies can help infertile couples achieve their dream of parenthood, but they differ notably in many terms including the process, benefits, eligibility and drawbacks.
In this article, we will interpret the difference between surrogacy and IVF, shedding light on their unique aspects and helping you make a sound decision when considering these options.
Before you dive into any conclusion, it is foremost that you have a basic understanding of these ARTs so that you could determine which one better aligns with your fertility condition and preferences.
In vitro fertilization, abbreviated as IVF is one of the available fertility treatments that intend to clinically assist conceptions and induce healthy pregnancies. The treatment involves collecting mature eggs from the intended mother by inducing ovulation, fertilizing those eggs in a laboratory by the intended father’s sperm, and when those eggs become embryos, transferring them back to the intended mother’s uterus.
The treatment bypasses natural egg fertilization and embryo implantation process, avoiding related reproductive conditions that could impair conception.
Benefits of IVF
- Higher Chances of Successful Conception: Compared to other fertility treatments, it has a significantly higher success rate in couples with specific fertility challenges.
- Control Over Timing: Couples get greater control over timing the conception, planning the family in a better way.
- Genetically Healthy Offspring: The treatment allows preimplantation genetic testing (PGT), allowing the doctor to choose only the most viable, robust and healthiest embryo for implantation. This eliminates the risk for the offspring to be born with genetic disorders or abnormalities.
Drawbacks of IVF
- Physically and Emotionally Stressing: The procedure is physically very demanding, requiring certain hormone injections and several medical appointments. As well as, it can pose emotional stress due to uncertainties of the outcome and expectations of the couple with the treatment.
- Risk of Multiple Births: The treatment has a higher chance of resulting in multiple pregnancies. Because multiple eggs are transferred for implantation, multiple embryos can implant, carrying higher health risks for both the mother and babies.
- Costly Treatment: The treatment is significantly expensive and cost is variable depending on certain factors such as number of cycles required and involvement of additional procedures such as genetic screening.
Who is an Ideal Candidate for IVF?
- Couples with infertility conditions such as blocked or missing fallopian tubes, poor sperm health, ovulation irregularities, endometriosis, fibrosis, or PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome).
- Couples who want to pursue genetic testing to minimize the risk of genetic disorders being passed on to their offspring.
- Couples who have not benefited from other fertility treatments.
One can consider it an arrangement for the intended parents, if for some reason, typically a medical condition or treatment, the intended mother cannot carry a pregnancy and/or give birth. In this, a surrogate mother, a woman is arranged who carries and delivers the baby on behalf of a couple, the intended parents.
It typically has two types: one is traditional and another is gestational. In traditional surrogacy, the surrogate mother is artificially inseminated through intrauterine insemination (IUI) by the intended father’s sperm to initiate pregnancy. On the other hand, gestational surrogacy is when an embryo, created from the intended parents’ egg and sperm is implanted into the surrogate mother’s uterus to induce pregnancy.
Benefits of Surrogacy
- Biological Connection with the Child: By allowing the use of own sperm and/or egg for embryo creation, it allows the intended parents to have a biological link with the offspring.
- Medical Assistance: It is a great option for couples who have had failures with previous pregnancy attempts or cannot carry a pregnancy due to some medical condition.
- Legally Protected: It is legal and protects the rights and responsibilities of the intended parents and surrogate, ensuring that both the parties are bound to the made agreement.
Drawbacks of Surrogacy
- Emotional Stress: The journey can be complex and emotionally stressful requiring both the parties, intended parents and surrogate to have a strong communication and support system.
- Complex Legalities: To be able to protect rights and establish responsibilities of the surrogate mother and intended parents, both the parties have to undergo intricate legal aspects that may vary across jurisdictions.
- Cost: It is expensive as it makes the intended parents liable to bear compensations to surrogate mother, medical fees, legal expenses and more.
Who is an Ideal Candidate for Surrogacy?
- Couples with the female partner having some medical condition that incapacitates her from carrying a pregnancy.
- Couples struggling with recurrent pregnancy loss.
- Couples who have not benefited from other fertility treatments.
- Couples with the female partner having premature ovarian insufficiency (POI), an infertility condition in which a woman’s ovaries lose their normal function before menopause.
Differences Between IVF and Surrogacy
- Procedure: Where IVF involves transferring the created embryo, with the intended mother’s own egg or donor egg to her uterus, surrogacy involves a surrogate mother for artificial insemination by the intended father’s sperm or being implanted with embryos created with intended parents’ own gametes.
- Timeframe: Where a full IVF cycle takes about 3-4 weeks, surrogacy has a longer time frame because it involves finding a suitable surrogate, completing legal processes and then initiating the treatment.
- Cost: Surrogacy is clearly costlier than any other fertility treatment. The significant inflation in cost is due to additional expenses of legal fees and regular compensation to the surrogate.
- Success Rates: Where IVF success rates strongly depend on factors such as partners’ age, their fertility problem, its severity and type and number of cycles already attempted, surrogacy success rates are influenced by the health and fertility of the surrogate mother.
Surrogacy vs IVF: Which is the Better Option?
It can be a deeply personal and complex choice to choose between surrogacy and IVF. While both the options intend to help infertile couples start their family, determining which is the better option depends on individual circumstances and preferences.
Following are such factors you must consider before making your decision:
- Genetic Connection with the Child: If having a genetic link with the child is important to you, IVF should be your preference. With it, the intended mother gives her own eggs for fertilization, creating a genetic connection with the child. But, on the other hand, with surrogacy, however the intended mother’s eggs are used, the pregnancy is carried by a surrogate mother.
- Medical Condition: Surrogacy should be preferred if the intended mother is unable to carry a pregnancy because a surrogate can carry and deliver the baby on behalf of the couple. On the other hand, if the intended mother can carry a pregnancy keeping other fertility parameters in check, IVF would be a better option.
- Legal Obligation: There are certain legal aspects associated with both the options. However, when it comes to surrogacy, legal formalities and obligations are much more complex than for IVF. In this option, both the intended parents’ and surrogate have to establish a legal contract, ensuring the rights and responsibilities of each of them is protected. On the other hand, IVF only requires legal contracts in case of using donor eggs or embryos, otherwise there are no specific legal obligations.
- Financial Capacity: Though both the options are expensive in one way or another, surrogacy is comparatively a costlier treatment. Because it also includes regular compensation to the surrogate and legal fees other than the medical expenses. On the other hand, IVF does not involve such additional expenses.
- Emotional State: Your emotional readiness and comfortability with both the options also matters when it comes to choosing one. For some couples, surrogacy can be more emotionally stressful and uncomfortable as they have to establish a relationship with the surrogate and care for her throughout the pregnancy. However, on the other hand, IVF is emotionally challenging but is easily manageable with professional’s support.
- Personal Preferences: Eventually, it is your personal preferences that will influence your decision. Review your circumstances, expectations, perspective, and the amount of involvement you want in your pregnancy journey. For some couples, it is very important to live the journey from becoming pregnant till childbirth. On the other hand, some couples prioritize having a child regardless of the method.
The Bottom Line
Both IVF and surrogacy are two distinct paths for infertile couples to becoming parents. While one option offers the opportunity of becoming a mother to those women who cannot carry a pregnancy due to some medical condition, another provides greater control over the conception process. Well, both options have their own pros and cons, their own benefits, drawbacks, and necessary considerations. Consulting with a good fertility doctor and seeking appropriate legal guidance is essential before making your decision, to the best possible outcome of your journey to parenthood.