Surrogacy is perhaps one of the most selfless acts that a woman can bestow upon a couple in need of a child. Surrogacy, however, can come with both physical and physiological risks that may or may not be easy to recover from. Understanding what the psychological risks of surrogate motherhood can make the transition from carrying a child to relinquishing that child easier.
The psychological risks of surrogate motherhood may be a heavier burden to carry, but pre-screening and on-going counseling both before and after the event can help surrogate mothers adjust. There are four areas that are of particular interest in the psychological aspect of surrogacy: contact (bonds), control, closure and ethics. Surrogate mothers form relationships with the couples they surrogate for and that bond may perhaps be even stronger than the bond they may feel for the child they are carrying. They see and talk to their couples regularly and become used to the caring bestowed upon them from their couples. These bonds are strengthened by the routine prenatal visits, maternity clothes shopping, calls to see how they are feeling or if they need anything for comfort. These routine events cause them to become almost dependent on their couples and some surrogates report even becoming depressed after the birth not because of having to relinquish the child, but because they no longer have a reason for contact with their couples.
Another one of the psychological risks of surrogate motherhood is that of closure. Often, this can go hand in hand with every contact or bonding issues. The routines and relationships developed between the surrogate, couples and medical staff that often make the transition from pregnancy and surrogacy to the birth and farewell stage that makes it difficult. Not only does the surrogate have to deal with the loss of a child, per se, but also the loss of those unique and caring relationships and routines that they have grown used to over the previous nine months.
And finally, there are many ethical issues that arise from surrogacy that add to the risks of surrogate motherhood. The surrogate not only has to deal with her own personal religious and sociological beliefs of giving up a child that she has carried for nine months but she also has to deal with how other people within her community view her decision to essentially give up a child and how those views can also affect her own family.
Each of these psychological issues are recognized as risks of surrogate motherhood and each should be addressed during mandatory counseling before, during and after pregnancy to ensure that the surrogate remains mentally healthy and able to relinquish the baby with a clear mind. Contact or bonds are formed almost immediately with the parent couples and caretakers and may even be stronger than those formed with the baby and that understanding this may ease any closure issues at the end. Control issues should be discussed and comprises need to be made so that the surrogate, who inevitably has the most to loose, still feels in control of her own body, yet still assuring the safety of the baby she is carrying. And last, but not least, ethical issues should be discussed to ensure that the surrogate is comfortable with questions from her community and family.