How Surrogacy Works: An All-In-One Guide
Surrogacy is a legal process where a woman agrees to carry a pregnancy for the intended parents. The process of surrogacy starts with the donation of sperm and eggs, and In-vitro fertilization is carried out, resulting in the conception of an embryo. The embryo is then transferred to the surrogate mother, who will then become pregnant with the intended parent’s child and give birth to them. Whether you want to become a surrogate mother or are prospective intended parents, this guide will simplify for you how surrogacy works so it becomes easier to make an informed decision.
Parties Involved in Surrogacy
Intended parents is an umbrella term that includes all types of couples, such as single men, single women who cannot carry a child, homosexual couples, and heterosexual couples who cannot carry a child or have infertility issues. In most cases, the egg is donated by the surrogate to the other woman who wishes to be the intended parent.
The surrogacy agency mediates the whole process ranging from surrogate matching to support counseling, IVF, or In-vitro clinics where the egg and sperm fertilize outside the human body. The fertilized eggs are then placed inside the surrogate for further growth and development of the embryo. Now that we have covered the involved stakeholders in the process of surrogacy, let’s explore the types of surrogacy you can opt for.
The conventional type of surrogacy involves artificial insemination of the surrogate with the sperm of the intended parent. Gestational surrogacy involves the transfer of embryos or sperm from the intended parents to the surrogate.
Surrogacy is also categorized in terms of financial gains. In commercial surrogacy, the surrogate mother receives money for the arrangement, whereas altruistic surrogacy involves no compensation except medical bills and pregnancy-related expenses. Here’s a brief overview of the steps involved in the surrogacy process,
The first step of the process is artificial insemination, where the donated eggs and sperm are conceived into embryos. Donating sperm is relatively quicker than egg donation. The female donor undergoes a 2-week hormonal treatment called ovarian stimulation. After this period, the eggs are retrieved to carry out the process further. Stimulation of the female donor results in the release of mature and healthy eggs, ensuring perfect embryo growth. An embryo and a sperm are used to conceive the embryo that will be transferred to the surrogate mother. The embryo is kept in the incubator for 5 days. After this period, the embryo will either be transferred to the surrogate or can be frozen for up to 10 years.
More embryos can be formed when more eggs are retrieved, increasing the chances of pregnancy. The way embryos are conceived and transferred influences the outcomes of the surrogate pregnancy. The success rate of IVF clinics is around 75%, even after fulfilling each process requirement. Therefore, the conception of several embryos should be planned for a successful surgery.
IVF clinics run several screening tests on all potential donors, ensuring they are in good health and have perfect hormonal balance within their bodies. Hormone-related tests are also run to check whether the eggs are healthy to retrieve. The IVF specialists may even perform an ultrasound examination to check how many eggs can be retrieved from the ovaries.
Finding a Surrogate Mother
Most surrogacy agencies facilitating the process can make it easier to find a surrogate and charge you a fee for their services. The surrogate mothers must meet the regulatory qualifications implemented by the American Society For Reproductive Medicine. Surrogate agencies use recruiters to find surrogates and mediate the process.
Finding a surrogate through an agency will take around 2 to 4 months. The agency will also screen potential surrogate candidates, run several medical tests, get their legal consent, provide agreed-upon financial support, and compile everything in a contract. The average charge for a surrogacy agency falls between 2 to 3 grand. Intended parents can also find their surrogate without the involvement of the agency. Several online communities can be used by intended parents to connect them with potential surrogate mothers.
However, as there are way more intended parents than surrogates, finding a potential candidate might take a lot of time. When finding a surrogate mother on your own, remember to fulfill the medical and legal requirements as you proceed with the process. You can review frequently asked questions about surrogacy and read the requirements for the process through reliable online resources. Knowing the requirements and nuances can better assist in the surrogacy process. It is crucial to understand that these requirements need to be met. Otherwise, you might face trouble while seeking legal representation from surrogacy lawyers.
The Pregnancy Phase
In this step, the embryo will be transferred to the surrogate mother. Several hormonal and fertility treatments are given to the surrogate for a successful pregnancy. The endometrium is where the embryo will be implanted.
These fertility treatments influence changes in the surrogate's uterus to increase the chances of a successful pregnancy. Frozen embryos are preferred as synchronizing the stimulation protocol of the surrogate and performing in-vitro fertilization are difficult to carry out at the same time. Doing this also decreases the chances of fertilization and successful pregnancy. Frozen embryos are also graded so fertility doctors can use the best ones first. In a nutshell, the success rate of the pregnancy will depend on the quality of embryos, the expertise of the clinic, and the way the whole process is carried out.
Depending on the program and local regulations, prenatal care requirements vary. In the U.S, prenatal care is managed by the surrogate using her healthcare provider or getting coverage from the surrogacy agency if agreed upon in the contract. Several overseas programs are also run where appointed social workers routinely visit surrogate mothers. They make sure the surrogate mothers are healthy and will arrange for the required medical checkups.
Leading industry specialists recommend intended parents be involved throughout the surrogacy process, especially with the surrogate mother. This can include personal visits or chat over the phone. Fostering a positive relationship will ensure a long-lasting relationship with the surrogate.
Similarly, the surrogate mother has the right to decide how much involvement of the intended parents can allow being a partner in the process.
Welcoming the Baby
Normally, the baby fully develops and is ready for delivery at around week 38 after confirming the pregnancy. In some cases, it can take an additional 2 to 3 weeks for normal delivery to occur. However, surgical intervention might be necessary if complications are already identified during routine pregnancy checkups. The gynecologist examining the surrogate will identify if there are any red flags so everything can be prepared beforehand. During ultrasound examinations, you will get an estimated date of delivery.
However, the actual birth date can vary greatly. A delivery plan needs to be divided before the expected birth date. The plan highlights the role of each party involved in the surrogacy process. The input from the intended parents, surrogate, and the hospital will be decided in the delivery plan. For example, the plan will mention the partner who will be cutting the umbilical cord and will be allowed in the birthing chamber. The hospital will evaluate the delivery plan and allow what is not against their hospital policies, laws, and regulations.
With the birth of the baby, the legal process begins. The surrogacy lawyer will facilitate the legal journey. In regions where surrogacy is allowed by law, the birth certificate will be issued in the name of the intended parents. On the other hand, for overseas surrogacy, you might have to fulfill the local requirements, secure citizenship, and apply for a passport to bring the baby home. This process can take a few months to complete.
The baby's birth is a life-changing event for both the parents and the surrogate mother. Most intended parents prefer joining the surrogate at the hospital during these critical times. After successful delivery, the baby and the surrogate mother can be discharged from the hospital. The intended parents and the surrogate mother can maintain a relationship as the child grows. Surrogacy agencies play a key role in facilitating this relationship that benefits the child, intended parents, and the surrogate mother.
The process of surrogacy varies with each case. There are plenty of aspects like the health of the intended parents, the surrogate mother, local regulations, the success rate of pregnancy, and much more that influence the result. Therefore, the experience of surrogacy might be unique in each case.
Surrogacy is truly a life-changing decision so make sure you are ready to support the whole process, embrace the baby, and that you are ready to take full responsibility. Lastly, always remember to choose a surrogacy agency that has already made a name for itself in the industry. You can always ask for recommendations from your healthcare provider, search online, compare the services, and read testimonials from previous clients. Doing that research will assist in making an informed decision that will surely produce fruitful outcomes.