A Beginner’s Guide to Surrogacy for Intended Parents
Surrogacy can be a fulfilling experience for many intended parents who cannot conceive or carry a child themselves. This beginner's guide is meant to provide an overview of the surrogacy process.
What is Surrogacy
Surrogacy is an arrangement in which a woman carries and delivers a baby for another person or couple. There are two types of surrogacy: gestational and traditional.
In a gestational surrogacy, the surrogate is not the baby's biological mother. She's implanted with an embryo created using the intended mother's eggs and the intended father's sperm through in vitro fertilization (IVF), or a donor egg and/or donor sperm. In a traditional surrogacy, the surrogate mother uses her own egg. She is artificially inseminated using sperm from the intended father or donor.
Where to Start
The best way to begin the surrogacy journey is to find a trusted surrogacy agency, like Vermont Surrogacy Network, that will help intended parents throughout the entire process. During an introductory call with an agency, intended parents can ask questions about the agency and their surrogacy process. The agency will explain their process, surrogacy's ethical and emotional aspects, financial expectations, and fee structure.
The following is an abbreviated version of Vermont Surrogacy Network's surrogacy process. For a more detailed explanation of each phase, the complete process can be found here.
After an exploratory phone call and the intended parents decide to move forward in the surrogacy process, the next step is completing an application. The surrogacy agency will also request the following:
- Medical Records Release
- Criminal Background Check
- Copy of Legal Identification
- Photos of you and your family (for matching process)
When the application is processed, a final in-person meeting will occur with the intended parents and surrogacy agency where the application will be reviewed together.
This meeting is another opportunity for the intended parents to ask any other questions they may have. Once the interview is completed, the matching profile will be created.
The surrogate matching process between the gestational surrogate and intended parents is based on the criteria individually identified in the applications from both parties. The agency determines a suitable match and provides the intended parents with the profile of the prospective surrogate; no identifiable information will be provided.
If intended parents want to pursue a match, the gestational surrogate will be sent the intended parent's profile. If both parties agree, an in-person meeting will be arranged, and if parties agree there's a good match, the screening phase begins.
Surrogates mothers undergo a thorough medical screening process. They must also pass standardized psychological screening to ensure they're emotionally prepared for the journey and experience of being a surrogate. Gestational surrogates will be tested for STDs, undergo a uterine evaluation and other tests depending on the IVF clinic policy. Her spouse or partner would also be a part of the psychological screening and have STD testing as well.
The surrogacy contract, known as the Gestational Carrier Agreement, is between the surrogate and intended parents in which the surrogate agrees to carry and deliver the baby for the intended parents. Every match must have a legal contract drafted by a qualified professional before medical procedures. It's imperative the lawyers selected are experienced in the drafting of gestational surrogacy contracts. Intended parents and the gestational carrier will have their own legal counsel.
The contract specifies how much the surrogate will be compensated and what medical procedures she will undergo during the surrogacy process. Once the contract is signed, the In vitro fertilization (IVF) cycle can begin.
The IVF clinic will set a protocol to prepare your surrogate's body for the transfer. Her first medical appointment is to establish a baseline performed by an internal ultrasound to evaluate her uterine lining. She will also have a blood test to check her estrogen and progesterone levels. If test results come back normal, the surrogate will begin estrogen.
The surrogate mother will undergo additional lining checks to determine the thickness of the uterine lining. These results will determine a tentative date for the embryo transfer and when the surrogate can begin taking progesterone approximately 5 days prior to the transfer day. This cycle typically lasts between 3-6 weeks.
The embryo transfer process takes about 15 minutes. A catheter is inserted through the cervix into the uterus, and the embryos are injected through the catheter.
While the surrogate is not obligated to have the intended parents present for the transfer, it's a wonderful way for them to feel involved and for them to develop a deeper bond with the surrogate. Two weeks after the embryo transfer, the gestational carrier will have a blood test to determine if the embryo transfer did in fact produce a pregnancy.
Surrogacy agencies may differ in the exact approach to delivery day, however birth plans should be developed and agreed upon during the 3rd trimester in the early stages of pregnancy. The plan should clearly state what the surrogate wants to happen on delivery day and what the intended parent's part in the delivery will be.
Benefits of Using a Surrogate Mother
For many people, the dream of becoming a parent is met with family planning and excitement. For others, the process is more complicated. Surrogacy offers an opportunity for those who are unable to conceive or carry a child to experience the joys of parenthood.
Some of the many benefits of surrogacy for intended parents are:
- Surrogacy offers same-sex couples or single men the chance to experience fatherhood.
- Some women can not conceive, or are able to conceive but are at high risk for complications during pregnancy and childbirth.
- Intended parents can have a child that’s genetically related to one or both parents.
- As opposed to adoption, intended parents won’t face so many uncertainties and restrictions, such as age or gender.
- Surrogacy allows intended parents to experience and be present for many milestones throughout the pregnancy.
- Intended parents will be able to form a close bond with their child from birth
Surrogacy Risks For Intended Parents
While surrogacy can be an enriching experience, it's essential to be aware of potential risks. Surrogacy is a substantial financial commitment, and there's no guarantee the process will be successful. In addition, surrogacy is an emotionally and physically demanding journey. It's a complex process; some of the potential risks include:
The surrogacy process can be emotionally demanding for everyone involved. The surrogate may experience pregnancy and birth-related hormones, leading to strong emotions, such as sadness or anxiety.
There are potential medical risks for both the surrogate and the baby. These risks include premature labor, high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, and preeclampsia. These risks are not greater with surrogacy than with any pregnancy.
However, the rewards can be life-changing for intended parents with the chance to realize their dream of becoming parents and potentially building a lifelong bond with the surrogate.
The family-building process is often an emotionally difficult one. For those who are financially able, it can be a great way to start families without worrying about the cost and commitment of having children exclusively through marriage or adoption.
While the cost of surrogacy is an important factor to consider, it's also uncomfortable territory for many people. The conversation can feel daunting at first - but this discussion will ultimately lead you down a path toward making informed decisions about your future as a well-planned parent.
Surrogacy costs vary depending upon the arrangement. The cost of a gestational surrogacy is upwards of $100k; costs generally include:
- Agency fees
- Legal fees, IVF and related medical procedures
- Surrogate's base compensation
- Medical insurance (if the surrogate's insurance doesn't cover a gestational pregnancy)
- Life insurance policy for the surrogate
- Maternity care
Intended Parent Relationship With the Surrogate
The relationship between intended parents and the surrogate is unique. The level of involvement will vary depending on what's comfortable for everyone involved. In most cases, the intended parents will remain in close contact with the surrogate throughout the pregnancy, including regular doctor appointments, ultrasounds, milestones, and mini-milestones along the way.
Throughout the process, intended parents form a special bond with their surrogate mother - a woman who is carrying their child and helping to make their family complete. The relationship between intended parents and their surrogate is one of the most special and unique bonds in the world.
The Baby’s Birth and Afterwards
The delivery of a baby is always a special and momentous occasion. But when a surrogate mother has carried the baby, the sense of joy and wonder is even greater.
For the intended mother, it may be the first time she has held her baby in her arms. For the intended father, it may be the culmination of a long and emotional journey. And for the surrogate mother, it may be an emotional rollercoaster as she hands over the baby she has carried for nine months. But above all, it is a moment of pure love and joy as a new baby is finally brought home.
It is important to plan to be a part of the delivery and be flexible with your surrogate's wishes during this time, as she is truly running the show that day. Having discussions with your surrogate about a pre-birth plan, meeting with the delivery hospital, and determining who will be in the delivery room and when they should be there, is very important to helping the big day flow more smoothly for everyone.
Following delivery, it is important to spend time with your surrogate while you are all still in the hospital and make sure she is able to see and hold the baby if she wishes to. This can be something that intended parents are concerned will continue to cause her to bond with the baby; however, it is just the opposite. Time with you and the baby will allow her to have closure on the surrogacy process with you and see the joy that she has helped to bring into your lives.
The few days following delivery, once she is home, her body will be going through a lot of hormonal changes. The best thing you can do to help your surrogate is to send her photos and check in on how she is recovering. Depending on the relationship you have built with your surrogate throughout this journey will determine the level of connection and communication you have going forward. This truly is something that's very unique and individualized with each surrogacy journey.
Work With a Trusted Surrogacy Network
Gestational surrogacy is an excellent option for many individuals who are unable to have children of their own. If you're looking for more information on how gestational surrogacy can work for your family, or considering becoming a surrogate yourself, or simply want to learn more about the surrogacy process get in touch today.
We are here to help you through every step of the process, and look forward to meeting you!