Time for Part Three of my Understanding Fertility Buzzwords blog series! Today I’m talking all about Surrogacy. If you’re just catching up, check out the previous posts below:
Understanding Fertility Buzzwords : Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)
Understanding Fertility Buzzwords : In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)
Upcoming topics will include:
Understanding Fertility Buzzwords : Most commonly used drugs in Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART)
Understanding Fertility Buzzwords : Risks of Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART)
Understanding Fertility Buzzwords : Preparing for Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART)
There are two kinds of surrogacy – traditional and commercial.
A traditional surrogacy is when a woman uses her own egg and is artificially inseminated by the intended father’s or donor sperm. The surrogate mother carries and delivers the baby, and then gives the baby to the intended parents to raise.
Commercial surrogacy is the one that most people think of when they think of a surrogate. Commercial surrogacy means that a woman carries your baby for a fee. This is also known as a Gestational Carrier or Gestational Surrogacy. A gestational carrier is a woman who carries a baby that has been conceived using the egg of the intended mother (or an egg donor) and sperm from the intended father (or a sperm donor). A gestational surrogate mother has no genetic connection to the baby because it wasn’t the gestational surrogate’s egg that was used during the IVF cycle.
A gestational surrogate is referred to as the birth mother because she carried the baby and in traditional surrogacy the surrogate mother is referred to as the biological mother because her egg was used.
For all intents and purposes, in this blog post, I’m going to refer to commercial surrogacy as a Gestational Carrier or simply Surrogacy.
Did you know about 1400 babies are born annually in the USA through gestational surrogacy?
Surrogacy is used when the intended mama-to-be has unexplained infertility or uterine issues, premature ovarian failure, has had a hysterectomy, or has experienced several miscarriages and has been unable to carry a baby to term. Couples may choose to use a surrogate due to their age, lifestyle, or sexual orientation.
Typically an agency is used to find you a surrogate. An agency ensures that the surrogate meets all of the required physical and mental regulations prior to introducing them to the intended parents. The surrogate must be deemed healthy, physically and mentally. Surrogates must always pass a psychological screening by a mental health professional. This is so that a mental health professional can explore or uncover any sort of potential emotional issues the surrogate may have regarding releasing a baby to the intended parents after birth.
All surrogate mothers should be the minimum age of 21 years old and have already given birth to at least one healthy baby, and have at least one child under the age of 18 still living in the household. This is so the surrogate understands what pregnancy and childbirth are about, what it means to have a baby, and to be a parent.
Within the practice of gestational surrogacy, an embryo (created from another woman’s egg and a man’s sperm) is implanted via IVF into the surrogate mother. The egg and sperm in question may be those of the intended parents. This is often the way that intended parents prefer to proceed when possible. Depending upon the issues faced by a particular intended parent or couple – if there are genetic diseases that could be passed on – either the egg, the sperm, or both may have been donated.
To find out more about how In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) works, check out last week’s blog post here: Understanding Fertility Buzzwords : In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)!
Donor Sperm. In most cases, donor sperm is obtained from a sperm bank. Sperm donors undergo extensive medical and genetic screening, as well as testing for infectious diseases. Donor sperm is frozen and quarantined for six months, the donor is retested for infectious diseases including the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and sperm are only released for use if all tests are negative.
Donor Eggs. Donor eggs are an option for women who are unlikely or unable to conceive with their own eggs. Egg donors undergo much the same medical and genetic screening as sperm donors. Until recently, it has not been possible to freeze and quarantine eggs like sperm. Recent advances in oocyte freezing, though, have made this a possibility, and there are a few companies and clinics that are using such an approach.
The egg donor must undergo ovarian stimulation and egg retrieval. During this time, the gestational carrier receives hormonal medications to prepare her uterus for implantation. After the retrieval, the donor’s eggs are fertilized by sperm from either the recipient’s partner or the sperm donor and transferred to the recipient’s uterus.
Donor Embryos. In some cases – the mama and papa-to-be might be unable to use their own eggs and sperm, or the soon-to-be-parents are a same sex couple – so donor embryos may be used. Some IVF programs allow couples to donate their unused frozen embryos to other infertile couples.
Gestational surrogacy births have more than doubled in the last decade due to its incredible success and impact on both the new families and surrogates. With success rates as high as 60% (live birth rate for egg donation) and with implantation methods getting better every day, it’s important to note that younger women who can manage health risks more easily will be the most successful. Overall, donor eggs are used in nearly 10% of all Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) cycles in the United States.
Your chances of conceiving with a Surrogate or Gestational Carrier can definitely be increased by looking closely at your diet, lifestyle, environment, stress levels, nutrients, etc. That’s where I come in! You’re inherently designed to conceive the baby you’ve always dreamed of but you need a plan of action that WORKS. There may be things in your diet and lifestyle that are blocking your natural fertility, inhibiting your hormonal function, and preventing you from getting pregnant, even with the use of Assisted Reproductive Technology. Read more about how I help gestational carriers prepare for embryo transfer and pregnancy, as well as women preparing for egg retrieval. You can also schedule an Initial Fertility Assessment to work with me directly.
I’d love to use this space as a forum of sorts, providing inspiration and community among my readers, so … I want to hear from you!
Have you successfully used a Gestational Carrier?
Are there any fertility buzzwords that you’d like explained?
Spread some Fertility Buzzword lovin’! Sharing is caring, and I bet you have some friends who would love to read this too :).
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Looking to have a more in-depth conversation about how to prepare for Surrogacy and Gestational Carriers? Schedule a consultation with me!