5 Important Things to Know About IVF and Gestational Surrogacy
The world of surrogacy is a mystery to many. A lot people have only heard of surrogacy because of a celebrity using a surrogate or the media dramatizing a surrogacy arrangement that went wrong. Even most of our gestational surrogate applicants don’t know anything about the surrogacy process but they have such big hearts that they apply anyway and learn as they go. I was one of those applicants. You don’t need to be an expert in surrogacy to apply to become one or use one to grow you family. That’s why there are surrogacy agencies! We will help you every step of the way to make sure everything is done correctly and legally. Here are 5 important things to know about IVF and gestational surrogacy!
Genetics: The gestational surrogate will not be genetically related to the surrogate baby they carry. The egg and sperm will either be from the intended parents or from a donor chosen by the intended parents.
Screening: The screening process for both the surrogate and the intended parents is quite extensive. There will be an application that asks a lot of personal questions so be willing to be honest and open. There’s a list of other paperwork you’ll need to submit. Expect to miss some work for appointments. You and your partner will have multiple medical tests and at least one psychological screening. We will also run background checks for every adult living in your home. There isn’t a lot of privacy during the surrogacy process. Only a small percentage of applicants make it through the process.
IVF (in vitro Fertilization) is the process used in gestational surrogacy. The first step of IVF is removing eggs from either the intended mother (IM) or an egg donor. This requires the IM or egg donor to be on medications to stimulate the ovaries for egg retrieval. After the eggs are retrieved they are fertilized with either the intended father’s (IF) sperm or donor sperm in a laboratory dish, hence the a name “in vitro fertilization”. It’s common for the embryos to be tested to ensure that the healthiest embryos are being transferred into the gestational surrogate’s uterus. Before that can happen, the surrogate also needs to be on supplemental hormones to prepare her body to accept the embryo. This process can be costly and time consuming.
Medications: Questions about medications are the most commonly asked questions I receive from gestational surrogacy applicants. If you want to be a gestational surrogate you will be required to take medications to prepare your body to accept the embryo. You will be on these medications a few weeks before the embryo transfer and several weeks after, sometimes longer. Every fertility clinic has a different medication protocol so we can’t tell you exactly how you will be administering these medications or how long you will have to take them. The reproductive endocrinologist will make those decisions. For my first surrogacy journey I received estrogen through transdermal patches and progesterone in the form of a vaginal suppository. For my second journey I also received the progesterone in the form of a vaginal suppository but the fertility clinic I worked with the second time around required the estrogen to be in injection form. I HATE needles so this was daily torture for me for 15 weeks. My husband had to give them to me and I turned white as a sheet after. Some RE’s require all of the medications be done in injection form. If you apply to be a gestational surrogate, you need to be ok with getting multiple injections a day for many weeks because we can’t guarantee medications in other forms. Some clinics require other medications on top of progesterone and estrogen.
Pregnancy: The pregnancy can be very different from your pregnancies with your own children. Your body is on a lot of hormones that can change the way your body reacts to pregnancy. In my own experience, I have 2 children of my own. Both pregnancies were extremely easy. I annoyed other moms because I was so energetic and happy during my pregnancies. I only gained around 20 pounds, I was all belly. I never had morning sickness or other common pregnancy symptoms. I had that glowing pregnancy radiance that you hear about. My skin cleared up for the first time in my life! Then I had 2 drug free, out of hospital births that went exactly according to my birth plans. Then I was a surrogate and I gained 50 pounds, my body is covered from head to legs in acne and I had intense morning sickness and fatigue. I am not a nap taker but I cannot survive without taking a nap during my surrogacy pregnancies. I have had nearly every pregnancy symptom and progesterone/estrogen side effect that you can find. The first surrogate baby decided he was ready to come at 34 weeks gestation so I was required to go to the hospital. It was the longest and hardest birth of the 3. I’m hoping to keep this surro baby in until at least 37 weeks when he is full term! Even though both of the surrogacy pregnancies have been the hardest months of my life, it is completely worth it to see the joy on the IPs faces.