If you are thinking about making the amazing decision to become a surrogate mother and help someone complete their family, you may be unsure about how the surrogacy process works.
Surrogacy works in ten easy steps, starting with preparation and looking for a match and ending with pregnancy and childbirth. In addition to these steps, you will need to undergo a medical exam and psychological evaluation and complete all legal requirements.
In this step-by-step surrogacy guide, you’ll find all the information you could ever need for becoming a surrogate.
Step 1. Educate Yourself
Surrogacy can be a very fulfilling journey, but it also comes with some challenges. The first step of every surrogacy journey should be learning about how surrogacy works, the timeline, and the professionals involved, and reading through the requirements you need to meet to become a surrogate.
What Is surrogacy?
Surrogacy is a method of assisted reproduction where a surrogate mother helps prospective parents by carrying and caring for their child until birth.
Some common requirements for surrogates are that they must:
- Be between 21 and 38 years old
- Have a healthy body mass index (BMI)
- Experienced at least one healthy pregnancy without complications
- Not take drugs or smoke
Research is the key! There is a lot of information and education available online, from surrogacy blogs to specialized sites. You can research on your own or contact a surrogacy agency to learn more about this process in detail and connect with experienced surrogates who can answer most of your questions based on their experience.
It’s important not to rush this step. You need to be sure you understand the commitment and determine if and how surrogacy will fit into your life
Step 2: Decide on the Form of Surrogacy
At this point in your journey, you must determine the type of surrogacy you want to do.
Gestational vs. Traditional
The main difference between these two forms of surrogacy is the genetic link between the surrogate mother and the baby.
Gestational surrogates (also known as gestational carriers) don’t provide their oocytes to create the embryos through in vitro fertilization (IVF), so they aren’t genetically linked with the child. Conversely, in traditional surrogacy, the surrogate carries and provides the oocytes.
Most surrogates today prefer gestational surrogacy because it is less complex from a legal and emotional perspective—the surrogate is not the baby’s biological mother.
Independent vs. Agency-Supported
There are two forms of surrogacy. In agency-supported surrogacy, you work with an agency that guides you through the whole process. In private surrogacy, you go through the processes on your own with the support of a lawyer specializing in third-party reproduction.
Commercial vs. Altruistic
When it comes to surrogate compensation, the main difference between these two forms of surrogacy is that an altruistic surrogate is compensated for pregnancy-related expenses only, while in commercial surrogacy, carriers get additional monetary compensation on top of the pregnancy expenses.
Step 3: Prepare Your Surrogacy Plan
This step is especially important because it helps you determine your desires, goals, and expectations.
When writing down your surrogacy plan to analyze how does surrogacy work, think about the type of prospective parents you would like to help, how involved you want your intended parents to be, your feelings regarding selective reduction and termination.
Step 4: Find Intended Parents
This step is probably one of the most thrilling phases of your journey.
If you already have a family member or friend you want to help, you may only need to work with a surrogacy attorney. If not, you can look for intended parents using a surrogacy agency or on your own through classified ads, Facebook communities, and so on.
When looking for prospective parents, remember to ask a lot of questions to ensure you share the same expectations and values. The parents you decide to help will shape your journey, so it is important that you share the same expectations to have a smooth and positive experience.
Step 5: Undergo Medical Screening
At this point, you will undergo a complete medical exam to ensure you are healthy enough to carry a child to full-term. Some of the procedures you can expect are pap smears, physical exams, bloodwork, and hysteroscopies. These procedures may vary depending on the IVF clinic.
Step 6: Undergo a Psychological Assessment
Being a surrogate means that you will deal with stressful situations. A psychological evaluation ensures that you are mentally ready to overcome any challenge that may arise during the pregnancy.
Step 7: Write and Sign a Surrogacy Contract
After passing your psychological and medical exams, it’s time to start with the legal process. You and the prospective parents will work with your attorneys to draft a legal contract. This contract will guide the entire surrogacy process, clearly stating both parties’ rights and responsibilities before, during, and after the pregnancy.
Step 8: Start IVF Treatments
After getting clearance from the clinic and signing the legal agreement, it’s time to start preparing your body for the embryo transfer. You will be prescribed fertility medications to take before the transfer. When your body is ready, a doctor will transfer an embryo to your uterus.
About two weeks after the transfer, a beta test will be done to confirm pregnancy. If confirmed, you will continue with regular blood tests and ultrasounds to track the evolution of the pregnancy until the heartbeat is detected (typically six weeks after the transfer). Then, you will be released to your OB-GYN.
Step 9: Carry a Pregnancy
Your pregnancy will be like any other pregnancy. You will go for regular prenatal checkups to track the baby’s health. Most prospective parents and surrogates also check in with each other weekly through Skype or WhatsApp throughout the pregnancy.
Step 10: Give Birth
After the long surrogacy process, the birth of the baby is an exciting time for both the surrogate and the prospective parents.
To ensure this special moment goes smoothly, professionals recommend that you work out a birth plan before giving birth to ensure all parties’ requirements, expectations, and needs are fulfilled when the baby is born.
Becoming a surrogate for someone in need is a beautiful choice. You will help a couple or individual achieve their parenthood dream. Preparation and education are key to a positive and smooth experience.