Race & Surrogacy: Carrying Another Ethnicity

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Surrogacy makes a host of things that were once thought to be impossible happen on a regular basis. One of these things is the possibility that a woman is able to carry and deliver a baby that is a different ethnicity from her own.

 

This possibility can become a reality when a surrogate transfers an embryo into her uterus that was created from the genetics of either a sperm donor (often the intended father) or an egg donor that is from a different ethnicity. When this happens, it is entirely possible for a woman of any race to deliver an African American, Asian, Caucasian, or Indian baby.

Upon learning that a surrogate may be carrying for a couple who has used an egg donor, or occasionally upon learning that the couple themselves are of a different ethnicity than the surrogate, many people are left dumbfounded and a bit confused. They may ask you a variety of questions as they attempt to wrap their heads around this very unique situation.

First, understand that the body doesn’t recognize race at this stage, it just recognizes an embryo implanting into the uterine wall. From there, the pregnancy proceeds just as it would if the fetus was of a matching ethnicity to the carrier. Through the course of the pregnancy and birth, the body will respond no differently than if the carrier and the fetus were of the same race.

If you’re comfortable answering their questions, it is helpful to start by reminding people that the child you are carrying has no biological relationship to you or your partner. Explaining that this child, this embryo, was made outside the body and is the product of two other peoples’ DNA lays a solid foundation that helps others begin to separate the image of your face from that of the fetus. From there you can explain that the embryo was created through genetic donations of one or two people from different ethnicities.

Occasionally you may encounter people who still can’t comprehend how this is possible. Know that, for some, the science involved in surrogacy may be too complex for comprehension. Understanding when to accept that reality and change the subject could save you a lot of effort.

Dr. Kim Bergman

Kim Bergman, PhD, a licensed psychologist of 26 years, has specialized in the area of gay and lesbian parenting, parenting by choice and third party assisted reproduction for over two decades. Dr. Bergman has created a comprehensive psychological screening, support and monitoring process for Intended Parents, Surrogates and Donors. She is the co-owner of Fertility Counseling Services and Growing Generations and is a member of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the American Psychological Association, the Los Angeles County Psychological Association, the Lesbian and Gay Psychotherapy Association, and the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association. She is on the national Emeritus board of the Family Equality Council. Dr. Bergman writes, teaches and speaks extensively on parenting by choice. Along with co-authors, she published “Gay Men Who Become Fathers via Surrogacy: The Transition to Parenthood” (Journal of GLBT Family Studies, April 2010). Dr. Bergman’s is the author of the upcoming book, Your Future Family: An Essential Guide to Assisted Reproduction (Red Wheel Press 2019). Dr. Bergman created her own family using third party assisted reproduction and she lives with her wife of 35 years. Her two daughters are in college.