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Friday, June 26, 2015

Surrogacy - The mothering instinct

The birth of a child has always brought joy to a household. Women often deem it a privilege to bear a child. Then again, not all women are blessed with the luck.

Couples often resort to surrogate births with a desire to establish a genetic link with the foetus. While some view the procedure from an objective point of view, reality showcases otherwise. To begin with, surrogacy is surrounded by several issues pertaining to privacy. Many aspects of a surrogacy contract are confidential. As a result, the grey areas continue to keep people wondering about the credibility of such methods.

In the Indian scenario, surrogates primarily belong to two categories. The participants in such procedures either hail from economically backward backgrounds or share a deep and close association with the couple.

Experts say that for years surrogacy has been associated with a negative connotation. “A lot of people do not look at surrogacy as an empathetic act performed on humanitarian grounds. In short, the act has often been associated with several negative connotations,” said Psychologist Zaileshia.

Counseling the surrogate

Zaileshia explains that mothering is an instinct. Irrespective of the surrogate being known to the couple or not, she is bound to experience several changes in her behaviour during the course of the pregnancy. “Although the woman is not giving birth to a child of her own, her body undergoes several hormonal changes during the gestation period. Thus, she becomes stressed out and faces several emotional problems,” she said. It is thus, likely that a surrogate mother would develop a bond with the child post the birth. Hence, counseling does play a significant role in the entire process.

Zaileshia further adds, “A woman is stressed out from the moment she is asked to make up her mind about being part of the procedure. The pre-contemplation aspect of surrogacy is a crucial for eventually, the entire process depends upon the willingness of one person.”

The most common aspect that is addressed while counseling the surrogate is post partum depression.

Depression, as Zaileshia said, is anger turned against oneself. Postpartum depression refers to that form of depression experienced by women after childbirth. The symptoms include sadness, low energy, changes in sleeping and eating patterns, a reduced desire for sex, episodes of crying, anxiety, and irritability.

Post the delivery of the child, a woman develops an urge to feed the baby. This is primarily due to the hormonal changes in the body. While the desire is satisfied almost instantly in the case of normal pregnancies, surrogate mothers are unable to do so. “This state of deprivation, leads to anger, sadness and eventually guilt. It is at this state that women are likely to act in a most unexpected manner. They might make efforts to obtain the child or would even be an extreme state of anxiety as well as depression. Thus, surrogates have to be counseled and sensitised,” she elaborates. She also agreed that lack of adequate compensation for the act could also intensify the levels of depression as the woman has not only dedicated her time to the pregnancy, but her body and health as well.

Surrogate mothers are also likely to experience ‘reactive depression.’ This depression rises out of an act that they have been part of. For instance, the woman is likely to wonder as to why she chose to be part of the pregnancy and how comfortable or not life would have been had she not agreed to do so.

Family history – a key clue

Zaileshia also stated that the resilience levels towards depression vary from person to person. A person cannot become easily aware of their psychiatric illnesses. It is, thus, best for experts to explore the surrogates family history for previous records of mental illnesses so as prepare themselves better in the event of a complication.

Stories that showcase all that is grey

Zaileshia narrates two instances of surrogacy that she had been associated with.

A means to a better life

'I remember this lady who hailed from a village in Karnataka. She was illiterate and she had to support her family and children. It was rather difficult for us to identify what she would have been thinking about the whole act. She was helpless and thus she sought the opportunity that could help her deal with her financial stress. The child was handed over to the parents immediately. She, then, returned to her village upon receiving the compensation so promised. May be the theory of out of sight and out of mind helped her dealing with the emotional stress to a small extent. But it is not all as simple.'

A good deed

Zaileshia narrated an incident where the act of surrogacy was purely altruistic: This couple from Karnataka shared a close bond with a lady friend. The husband, wife and the friend were educated and were doing well.

The couple had met with an accident. Post the accident the lady had to have her uterus removed. They wanted to have a child and they had approached their friend in this regard. Having such a deep bond, the friend volunteered to get pregnant. The child was handed over to the parents immediately after childbirth. However, in this case, the emotional stress is likely to take longer to fade away for the surrogate would hear of the child’s progress on a regular basis.


There are several aspects of human life that neither medical science or the law of the land can explain. An act such as surrogacy, while altruistic is certain cases, is more complicated due to its vast grey areas. Perhaps sensitisation and research in this field could be instrumental in the tackling the issue at hand.


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