Surrogacy continues to play a vital role in growing many modern families. Over thirty years of experience in modern society has helped shape it into a realistic option to overcome reproductive challenges for all. Interestingly, surrogacy has roots deeper than thirty years throughout history.
Surrogacy Through the Ages
One of the earliest known surrogacies comes from the Bible. In the book of Genesis, the tale is told of Sarah, the barren wife of Abraham. Since Sarah was unable to bear a child for Abraham, she had her servant Hagar serve as a traditional surrogate. Hagar did carry a son for Abraham; however, jealousy became an unbearable burden for Sarah.
Surrogacy also played a role in Native American history. If a couple was unable to conceive, the husband was encouraged to procreate with another woman to keep the family line growing. Different from modern surrogacies, the Native American child would remain with the biological mother.
Surrogates played a key role in the royal family in Spain. At the time, Spanish culture accepted the inclusion of surrogates to give the king sons. Any sons born by a surrogate were raised by the king and queen as their own children. The surrogate mother relinquished all parental rights but was welcome to work as a nanny to the royal children.
Early Traditional Surrogacies
In 1980, a traditional surrogate was paid $10,000 for her services. The surrogate was already a mother and had given up a child for adoption before agreeing to the surrogacy. After the surrogacy was completed, the surrogate regretted her decision and became an advocate against surrogacy.
Later in 1984, a couple contracted a woman to be their traditional surrogate. After the birth, the surrogate/biological mother decided she could not part with the child and the case went to court. The court determined this surrogacy agreement was illegal and granted custody to the biological father while giving visitation rights to the surrogate. The intended mother was never able to adopt the child. This case became known as “Baby M,” and helped shape future surrogacies and surrogacy law.
First Successful IVF
The first successful in vitro fertilization took place in England in 1978 for a couple who had struggled to conceive. A viable egg was retrieved from the wife and fertilized in a lab by the husband’s sperm. The fertilized embryo was transferred into the wife and she carried her child to birth. Referred to as the first “test tube baby,” Louise Joy Brown was born on July 25, 1978. While the biological mother was the carrier in this case, the successful egg fertilization and embryo transfer helped pave the way for gestational surrogacy.
The First Gestational Surrogacy
The first successful gestational surrogacy occurred in 1985, eliminating any biological connection between the surrogate and the child and forging the path for modern surrogacy laws.
Oldest Age of a Surrogate
There are two highly recognized cases of surrogate women much later in life. A woman at the age of 58 successfully carried her two granddaughters in 2005. Six years later in 2011, one woman successfully carried her grandchild at the age of 61.