The use of gestational carrier (GC) services is on the rise. Not only does this service provide another family forming option, but it also gives individuals and couples the ability to have biological children in situations where it would have been impossible just a few decades ago. While choosing to use a GC is a welcome option for many employees, the journey presents its own unique challenges. Here’s how employers can best support employees who choose this path.
Be mindful of language
The term “‘surrogate” is widely used when it comes to discussions around third-party reproductive services. However, that term is outdated; many organizations in the field have been transitioning to the term “gestational carrier” instead. Here are a few reasons why:
- There’s a significant difference between a surrogate and gestational carrier. The technical definition of a surrogate is someone who donates their egg and then subsequently carries the pregnancy. A gestational carrier, on the other hand, is defined as a person carrying a pregnancy they are in no way biologically related to. While these two phrases tend to be used interchangeably, each term carries its own weight. For instance, let’s say someone uses the phrase “surrogate mother” when, in fact, they’re referring to a gestational carrier who shares no DNA with the baby. This discrepancy in language is not only inaccurate but can also make the parents of the child feel diminished in their role.
- There are misconceptions associated with the term surrogate. By moving away from inaccurate language, we can also help professionalize the category and make it clear that legal, medically-assisted, third-party reproduction doesn’t involve sexual intercourse between any of the parties to achieve pregnancy. Educating the other employees at your company about these distinctions with language can make a meaningful difference to the people who are going through the process.
Offer legal and financial guidance
Using GC services for the first time can be an overwhelming experience for those involved. That’s why one of the best things an employer can do is to offer guidance in the form of company benefits and offerings. Here are a few areas to consider investing in:
- Financial. As you might imagine, using a GC comes with a hefty price tag. While the ultimate cost depends on the type of insurance coverage and benefits an employee has, costs can vary widely with the average cost of successful first-attempt GC pregnancy starting at $136,000 (including everything from the agency and legal fees to the in vitro fertilization process). Additional attempts and complications can add tens of thousands of dollars to the cost. To help, employers may want to consider offering a family financial planning service or financial consulting sessions to help employees plan and save for their future.
- Legal. Using GC services also comes with many legal considerations, so it’s absolutely critical that your employee enlists the help of an attorney experienced in reproductive technology law — a resource that your company can help them find. The lawyer’s most important role is to write a thorough GC contract for the intended parents, the GC, and, if applicable, the GC’s partner. This contract should detail the parties’ rights, obligations, intentions, and expectations. Intended parents will also need to pay for an attorney to represent the GC in the contract creation process. There are also guidelines that most people may not be aware of, such as the FDA-mandated testing for egg and sperm donors and the medical and psychological evaluations required to use a GC. The right attorney should be able to help their clients navigate these.
- Fertility. If you have the resources to do so, the absolute best type of support you can provide your employees is through fertility benefits. Fertility offerings can lessen the financial burden of using GC services, since part of the cost will be covered. In addition, the right vendor should also be able to provide helpful legal, emotional, and health-related guidance throughout the process — which can be particularly invaluable for employees who are going through this experience for the first time.
Understand that the decision is very personal
Finally, it’s important to not make assumptions about why an employee chooses to utilize GC services. The reasons behind this decision are incredibly personal and can vary widely. Below are a few of the reasons why an individual or couple could choose to use GC services:
- Infertility. Health insurance companies typically define infertility as a disease characterized by the failure to establish a clinical pregnancy after 12 months of regular, unprotected sex between genetically-defined males and females. It’s an emotionally difficult diagnosis and also a common reason that individuals and couples choose to seek out GC services.
- Single and same-sex parents. At Carrot, we know there isn’t a singular “right” or “traditional” way to start a family. That’s why we love that both same-sex couples and single parents can turn to gestational carrer services to have children, which is also becoming an increasingly popular choice.
- Safety. Unfortunately, there are also women who have medical conditions that don’t allow them to safely carry a pregnancy to term. To ensure the safety of both herself and her child, she may elect to use a GC instead.
Given these diverse reasons, everyone at your company should approach the topic of GC services with sensitivity. It can be hurtful or even isolating to your employees if someone makes assumptions about their fertility, sexual orientation, or marital status. So it’s always better to start off by asking questions and trying to understand everyone’s unique situation.
We’re thrilled to see that GC services are becoming more popular in the fertility care space. As more employees chose to turn to this option for starting their families, we hope employers can do more to provide emotional and financial support to these individuals and couples. If you’re interested in learning more about Carrot and how we can create a customized plan for your organization, let us know.
This is the final article in a three-part series about how to best support your employees as they undergo a range of treatments and processes to start their own families. Visit our blog to read Part 1 and Part 2.