At first glance, surrogacy can appear overwhelmingly complicated. The prospect of managing lawyers, social workers, surrogacy agencies and IVF clinics can be enough to scare off even the most enthusiastic intended parents. However, surrogacy should be an experience of great hope and fulfillment.
Looking at the individual steps that make up the surrogacy process is a great way to learn about how it all works. Most surrogacy journeys can be broken down into eight simple steps.
Learn about Surrogacy and Ask Questions
This first step sets you up for the rest of your journey, so it is worth taking your time with it. There are many free resources available to help you learn more about the surrogacy process. You can start reading through all of the information available online about surrogacy. You may also want to attend an intended parents’ support group or surrogacy conference.
Surrogacy is a distinctly unique experience, and it’s totally normal to have many questions. You have to feel completely free to ask as many questions as necessary so that you know what to expect.
We recommend getting in contact with some surrogacy professionals such as a reproductive lawyer or a surrogacy agency to get more information about the process and the surrogacy regulations in your state. For example, in New York State, the Child-Parent Security Act is a law that recently legalized gestational surrogacy. It provides a simple path to establish legal parental rights for the intended parents.
This is also an important time to meet with a reproductive endocrinologist who can explain more about the next steps and help create a timeline for the process.
Prepare for Surrogacy
If you decide to move forward with a gestational surrogate, you can create a surrogacy plan outlining exactly how you would like the journey to go.
Your surrogacy plan will help you to understand your goals and expectations, and it should include:
- The surrogacy professionals you will need to complete the process. Regardless of whether you choose to work with a surrogacy agency or find a surrogate yourself, you need the professional help of a surrogacy attorney. This will ensure both you and your surrogate are protected legally and are in full compliance with the laws in your state.
- How involved you want to be during the journey; meaning how much contact you would want between yourself and the carrier.
There are more things to consider, but those listed above will give you a good understanding of what your expectations are.
Find a Match
Once you have decided surrogacy is the right option for you, the next step is finding a surrogate. There are several ways to find a match. You can use the matching services of a surrogacy agency or do it on your own.
There are pros and cons to each option. So it’s important you evaluate not only the costs but also the implications of the two options and your personal circumstances to determine which one will be the best choice for you.
Medical and Psychological Screening
Before undergoing any of the medical procedures related to surrogacy, the surrogate will need to undergo a medical evaluation to verify her ability to carry a healthy pregnancy to term.
In addition, she will need to pass a psychological evaluation too. This evaluation is typically aimed at identifying emotional problems, assessing surrogate motivations, and confirming that she knows the physical, psychological and legal risks that could arise.
These processes are in place to protect both you and your surrogate.
A surrogacy contract is a legal agreement between the prospective parents and the surrogate. It states the rights and obligations of both parties throughout the arrangement. Before starting with the fertility treatment, it is critical that your surrogacy lawyer has drafted a contract that is compliant with local laws and that protects the rights of all parties.
Keep in mind that during this phase, both the intended parents and the surrogate should have individual legal representation to ensure their rights are protected. Both can be provided by the same legal office.
As soon as you get the clearance from the fertility clinic and all the legal paperwork is completed, the IVF cycle can begin.
This phase involves the intended mother (or an egg donor if the intended mother cannot provide the eggs) going through required screening, medication and an egg retrieval. After the egg retrieval, the eggs are fertilized with sperm (from the intended father or a sperm donor).
Once the embryos are created, one embryo will be transferred to the surrogate’s uterus. A single embryo transfer is recommended to minimize the risk of a multiple pregnancy; which can carry serious complications for both the surrogate and babies. The goal of fertility treatment is always one healthy baby at a time.
About two weeks after the embryo transfer, a pregnancy test is done.
This two-week wait period is a thrilling time as everyone waits expectantly, so it is worth aligning how things will be managed on test day. Hopefully, the embryo transfer will have been a success and you will be expecting a new addition to your family! However, it is worth bearing in mind that the surrogacy process is delicate and expectations should be managed.
If the test results are positive, a few weeks later the fertility clinic will schedule an ultrasound to check the pregnancy and if there is a heartbeat.
At GENESIS pregnant patients are managed until they are 8 – 10 weeks along. If everything is normal the surrogate will be discharged to her OB/GYN to continue regular prenatal care.
If the test results are negative, your surrogate will discontinue medications and the doctor will discuss with all parties the next available options that work best for you and your family. Further planning will include medical recommendations and your future goals. Future planning is made as a team effort.
The most exciting moment of the journey arrives. It’s important to have “delivery plan” in place that includes input from the parents, the surrogate and the hospital. The delivery plan should be discussed with the legal team as there may be important steps to be taken while still in the hospital.
Typically, a delivery plan will outline who will be present during the delivery, who will cut the umbilical cord, who will hold the baby first and much more.
This plan is important because it’s possible not all the intended parents’ desires will match the hospital’s policies. The surrogate may also not be comfortable with some wishes. Discussing those topics in advance will help to ensure good memories of the beautiful moment.
The process of becoming parents through surrogacy can be time consuming and requires persistence. It’s important you are well prepared to give yourself the best chance for a successful journey.