Things TV and the Movies Get Wrong About Surrogacy

Things TV and the Movies Get Wrong About Surrogacy

Let’s face it: TV shows and movies aren’t always accurate sources of information! And yet, they can have a huge influence on our opinions and beliefs, especially when it comes to sensitive subjects like surrogacy!

Surrogacy often gets a bad rap in the media, and that can extend to the storylines we see in film and television. Unfortunately, most viewers don’t realize how inaccurately the surrogacy process is often portrayed, leaving many intended parents with the wrong idea about why women become surrogates and how strict the criteria that surrogates have to meet are.

Well, we hope to set the record straight. Here are the some things that TV shows and movies get wrong about surrogacy. 

On-screen: You can be a surrogate if you’ve never been pregnant
Reality: No! 

Surrogacy agencies and fertility clinics in the United States will not accept someone as a surrogate if they’ve never been pregnant before — for obvious reasons! 

And this isn’t just a standard set by surrogacy agencies. Many US states have laws that require prospective surrogates to prove that they have had a baby before. 

Unfortunately, this is not what the movie Baby Mama would have viewers believe. In this 2008 comedy starring Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, a single businesswoman (Kate) hires a working girl (Angie) to become her surrogate. Bizarrely, Angie has never been pregnant before, but it appears she is able to go through IVF treatment at a surrogacy center. The IVF fails, so she pretends to be pregnant in order to receive her surrogacy compensation. 

It turns out she IS pregnant – but to her husband, not through the IVF. Again, the movie gets a crucial detail wrong. Surrogates are contracted to follow medical protocol, so an “accidental” pregnancy like this would be very unlikely. 

Prospective surrogates need to show that they have previously carried a pregnancy to term without complications and given birth to a healthy baby. After all, Intended Parents have poured their hopes and dreams into this journey – not to mention a substantial amount of money – so it makes sense that they will expect the best chances of a successful outcome. 

This requirement is to protect the surrogate, too. Pregnancy is a physically and emotionally demanding journey, and you won’t know how capable you are until you’ve been through it yourself. 

On-screen: there’s no difference between gestational surrogacy and traditional surrogacy
Reality: No! 

In a 2018 episode of the sitcom Roseanne, one of the lead characters (Becky) decides to become a surrogate. She says she will be using her own eggs, which would make her a traditional surrogate.

Well, this is unlikely. Traditional surrogacy is pretty uncommon today, and some states have even banned it completely. Gestational surrogacy is the most common and legally safest form of surrogacy today.

Traditional surrogacy and gestational surrogacy are two very different things. In traditional surrogacy, a woman carries a pregnancy created with her own egg and the sperm of the Intended Father. This means the child she gives birth to is genetically related to her. 

In gestational surrogacy, the embryo is created using the egg of the Intended Mother or egg donor and the sperm of the Intended Father or sperm donor. The embryo is then transferred to the uterus of the surrogacy via IVF (in vitro fertilization). This means the surrogate is not the biological parent of the child. 

On-screen: Surrogates can keep the baby
Reality: NO!

In the limited release movie from 1995, The Surrogate, the surrogate had a plan to keep the baby all along. While the movie had a happy ending with the intended parents bringing home their baby, this false storyline can cause concern if you aren’t sure of the laws around surrogacy.

Bottom line, surrogates cannot keep the baby. A legal contract is signed by the intended parents and their gestational carrier before fertility treatments begin. This document states that the carrier must give the baby to the intended parents after delivery.

This is one storyline that you won’t have to worry about!  

On-screen: Surrogates are just in it for the money
Reality: NO!

Here’s where the TV show Roseanne gets it wrong again. Not only does Becky claim to be using her own eggs, she freely admits that she is only becoming a surrogate for monetary gain. In other words, surrogacy is portrayed as a ticket to financial security that would otherwise be unavailable to someone without a high school diploma (which, by the way, is another requirement for becoming a surrogate).

Yes, surrogates are generously compensated. But no, that’s not the sole reason they become surrogates!  

Professional surrogacy agencies will only accept applicants who are genuinely motivated to help someone else start a family. Strict screening procedures will quickly weed out anyone who is in financial distress and/or is only interested in the compensation. 

Being a surrogate is never just about the money. It’s about helping another individual or couple achieve the dream of becoming a parent. Surrogates are compensated for the time and commitment involved in nurturing a healthy pregnancy, attending appointments, and maintaining a relationship with your IPs, not to mention facing an element of risk. 

And let’s face it: there are easier ways to make money than carrying someone else’s child! 

Learn more about becoming a gestational surrogate by contacting a reputable agency. 

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