Surrogate mothers feel some degree of disappointment

October 5, 1998

Surrogate mothers feel some degree of disappointment

EDITORS: This news release is being issued in conjunction with the American Society for Reproductive Medicine which has issued a separate news release.

SAN FRANCISCO—A study by a University of Michigan professor of nursing shows that surrogate mothers express some degree of disappointment later in life about their roles as surrogates and that those who are satisfied with their roles generally had better relationships with the adoptive parents during pregnancy.

“We found that the quality of the relationship with the couple after birth may influence the degree of long-term satisfaction and regret of surrogate mothers,” said Nancy Reame, professor of nursing and research scientist of reproductive sciences at U-M, who will present the results of her study today at the International Federation of Fertility Societies (IFFS) 16th World Congress on Fertility and Sterility/American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) 54th Annual Meeting in San Francisco. The meeting is sponsored by the Mental Health Professional Group of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

Reame and a team of researchers interviewed 10 women who served as compensated surrogate mothers and gave birth to a healthy single newborn before 1988.

The women were between the ages of 37 and 47 and had been surrogate mothers 11-15 years earlier.

Since the surrogate birth, four of the seven women had divorced and re-married at least once. In three cases, women had experienced 1-2 additional surrogate pregnancies for different couples.

The level of contact with the adoptive families at the end of 10 years differed from regular visitation for two women, infrequent correspondence for two women, but in six cases, the relationship had been abandoned by the adoptive couple abruptly at the time of birth (for three women) or over time (for three women).

Although four women were highly satisfied with their experience as a surrogate mother and no one expressed remorse, six women felt some degree of disappointment ranging from sadness to betrayal for the adoptive couples’ unmet promises to maintain contact. Five women made at least one unsolicited attempt to initiate contact and in two cases, relationships were temporarily resumed.

There were also unresolved conflicts with the adoptive couple about perceived differences in parenting style, ethical behavior and disclosure decisions. All women expect they will have the opportunity to meet the child after age 18 and explain their role.

The study was supported by a grant from the U-M’s Institute for Research on Women and Gender.

Reame is a master’s prepared nurse, a reproductive physiologist and women’s health researcher who conducts studies in two major areas: the reproductive endocrinology of reproduction and menopause; and, bioethical aspects of assisted reproduction.

In the early 1980s, Reame led the first support group for surrogate mothers in the country.

The Mental Health Professional Group is a group of professionals within the American Society for Reproductive Medicine dedicated to enhancing knowledge and understanding of psychological and emotional aspects of reproductive health. These professionals are involved in education of the public and professional community, as well as research to help answer questions that new reproductive technology brings.

U-M News and Information Services University of Michigan

American Society for Reproductive MedicinenursingNancy ReameInstitute for Research on Women and GenderU-M News and Information ServicesUniversity of Michigan