Psychological Aspects of Surrogate Mothers

By Kristen Moutria
Giving a child away to another person, even if planned, can prove to be a challenge for many surrogates.
Giving a child away to another person, even if planned, can prove to be a challenge for many surrogates.

Surrogate motherhood is a controversial subject that is not yet widely accepted by society. While having a baby for an infertile couple could be considered a selfless gift, the idea of a woman carrying her child for nine months only to give it away may cause uneasiness among some. The psychological issues a surrogate mother faces before, during and after her pregnancy are potentially significant and are worth considering if you or someone you know is considering surrogacy.

Giving Baby Away

Giving a baby away is one of the most difficult tasks faced by a surrogate mother. Even if the baby is genetically unrelated to her, the fact that she carried it in her womb for nine months makes handing it to another person very challenging. Researchers Fazli Khalaf, Abdollah Shafiabadi and Madjid Tarahomi report in "The Journal of Reproduction and Infertility" that giving the child up may be extremely distressing to the mother and may even result in psychological problems.


Psychologist R.J. Edelmann reports in the "Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology" that a surrogate mother may have to face the reality of parents who want her pregnancy terminated if it is discovered that the baby has some sort of birth defect. While surrogate mothers often sign a contract agreeing to an abortion if this were to happen, many do not plan for the unexpected and face psychological crisis at the idea of having to follow through with it. Although the law usually protects the right of the child over the wishes of the prospective parents, each case is different, and the complications of what to do with the child who is no longer wanted by the adoptive parents can cause tension and depression in the surrogate mother.

Refusing to Relinquish Her Child

In extreme cases, a surrogate mother may refuse to give up a child to the prospective parents. Dr. Connie Shapiro reports in "Psychology Today" that legal protections for surrogate parents have been slow to develop, and that oftentimes the surrogate will get to keep the child. A surrogate mother's attachment and bonding to a baby may cause a host of legal problems if she refuses to follow through with her agreement to give the child up.

Family Conflicts

Edelmann states in the "Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology" that surrogate motherhood can cause conflicts in the family, as well as strained relationships between the surrogate mother and her husband. He may struggle to accept the fact that his wife is pregnant with a child unrelated to either of them, and the children in the family may wonder why they are not going to have a new sibling. Although oftentimes the family is accepting, if they are not completely supportive of the idea of surrogacy there will likely be tension.

About the Author

Kristen Moutria has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Evangel University. She is currently pursuing her Master of Arts in education from the University of Nebraska.