Surrogacy is, with no doubt, one of the most strenuous and complex processes of all fertility treatments, but it can also be one of the most exciting for all the people involved. Your approach, expectations and personal circumstances will make the surrogacy journey unique, and a great first step to start is by talking to one or many surrogacy professionals for advice and guidance.
While there are no two same surrogacy journeys, they will all follow the outlined 7 steps listed below.
Step 1: Decide If Surrogacy Right For You?
The first thing to do in any surrogacy (and arguably the most important thing) is to decide if it is the right option for you. How do you decide?
By learning about the basics of this reproductive technique, you can gain important information about the medical and legal phases of the process, as well as what it will demand of you from an emotional, legal, medical, and economic perspective. Additionally, women considering being a gestational surrogate need to keep in mind that all IVF clinics have certain requirements they need to meet for them to qualify. Some of these common requirements are being of legal age, having had at least one healthy pregnancy, being a non-smoker, and being in good health.
Step 2: Create Your Surrogacy Plan
Once you have decided to start your journey, you must determine on your expectations, list your preferences, and secure the surrogacy experts you want to assist you. The goal is to draft a plan of what you ideally want your journey to look like.
The first thing to do when formulating the plan is to decide whether you want to proceed with a traditional surrogacy (also called straight or partial surrogacy) or a gestational surrogacy (also called host or full surrogacy). The main difference between the two forms of surrogacy is if the surrogate’s egg is used and, therefore, the implications related to the biological connection with the baby.
The next decision to make is whether you want an indie process or to work with a surrogacy agency. The support that an agency can offer is very comforting for prospective parents and surrogates, especially if it is their first surrogacy journey. As with the first step, education is important. Research the costs and services that the agency provides and contact references.
Whether you choose to use an agency to handle the complexities or go the independent route for cost efficiency, a surrogacy lawyer is a must for all the legalities and paperwork inherent to the process.
It’s crucial not to rush through this second step. You have to have a clear definition of your objectives and preferences before moving to the next phase.
Step 3: Find Your Match
The key to finding your perfect surrogacy soulmate is to know what you are looking for. This step is possibly the most thrilling phase of the surrogacy process, and a lot of conflicting emotions could emerge during the search.
Finding a match can be a long process, or it could take only days. If you are choosing to go the independent route to surrogacy, then your options of finding a match are the online communities; Facebook, classifieds, or recommendations from relatives and friends. However, if you choose to work with a reputable agency, you will probably match faster than with the indie route because you can take full advantage of the agency’s pre-established networks.
Regardless of the path you choose to follow, remember that before starting your search, you must already know what you are looking for in a surrogate or prospective parents. These parameters could be religion, education, location, or marital status, among others. All this information is needed to help you choose the right person.
Step 4: Go Through the Screening Process
Once you choose your match, both parties must undergo a psychological evaluation and medical screening to verify that both the prospective parents and the surrogate are in a healthy place mentally and physically.
Including bloodwork and a physical exam, the medical screening will be performed by the medical staff at the IVF clinic, while the psychological evaluation will be performed by a licensed therapist.
Typically, the IVF clinic will be chosen by the prospective parents. If you’re working with a surrogacy agency, they can recommend some reputable IVF clinics and a therapist who specializes with surrogacy. Nevertheless, you can choose a different clinic or therapist if you wish. However, before choosing your medical specialists, You must do your own research and learn about their success rates, procedures, and fees. You may also want to look for referrals.
These exams, medical and psychological, are mandatory. They are there to reduce the possibility of complications during the journey while helping to increase the odds of having a healthy full-term pregnancy.
Step 5: Create and Sign a Surrogacy Contract
Surrogacy regulations can be a complex and confusing from a legal standpoint, especially because laws vary from country to country. For example, in the US, there are no federal laws that govern the legal process of surrogacy, and each state holds its own regulations involving the process. Similarly, all surrogacy agreements in Australia are regulated by the states, which means there is no unified regulation that governs surrogacy across the country. Canada has a federal law that states that only altruistic surrogacy is allowed; however, each province and territory has its own laws regarding the birth registration process. In the UK, surrogacy must be altruistic, but surrogacy agreements are not enforceable by law. Finally, in Ukraine, surrogacy is enforceable under federal legislation, but it is limited to heterosexual couples.
As you can see, the legal aspects of the process can be pretty confusing. Because these laws vary from country to country—and even region to region within the same country—it is important to have the guidance of an experienced lawyer that specializes in surrogacy in the specific region in which the process is taking place. This guidance will help you avoid potential missteps.
A surrogacy agreement is meant to guarantee that both parties—the prospective parents and the surrogate—are informed of their rights and obligations. Your lawyer will help oversee the process, and explaining whatever is not clear enough. This step also defines compensation and the actions to be taken in unexpected events. During this process, all parties should be individually represented to protect their legal rights and interests.
For prospective parents pursuing a surrogacy process abroad, professionals recommend seeking legal advice in both their home country and abroad to ensure they fulfill all the legal requirements to register the birth of the child.
Step 6: Undergo the Surrogacy Medical Process
Once the medical and psychological screenings are completed and all the legal paperwork is signed, the surrogacy medical protocol will proceed. Most fertility clinics require a legal agreement to be in place before the medical proceedings continue.
What does the surrogacy medical process consist of? We can break down this complex process in five stages:
- Create the Embryos. IVF is probably the most common fertility procedure used in gestational surrogacy to create the embryos.
- Prepare for the Embryo Transfer. Depending on the surrogate’s and the IVF physician’s circumstances; the surrogate will take medicine to prepare her body for three or four weeks before the transfer.
- Transfer the Embryo. When time is right, the embryos are transferred to the surrogate’s uterus. Depending on the country in which you are pursuing your surrogacy process, there are legal limitations regarding the number to embryos you can transfer. For example, in the UK, no more than two should be transferred, while in the United States, the number varies depending on the age and quality of the embryos. You can find more info about the maximum number to embryos that can be transferred by country here.
- Confirm the Pregnancy. Ten days after the transfer, the IVF doctor will test the pregnancy hormone levels. Once pregnancy is confirmed, an ultrasound is performed six weeks later to confirm a heartbeat.
- Provide Prenatal Care. Similar to any other pregnancy, the surrogate will receive hormones throughout the first trimester, as well as prenatal care throughout the pregnancy up to delivery.
Step 7: Prepare for Delivery
As long as there are no complications, the delivery will take place at the agreed-upon hospital or birthing center. Most times, the prospective parents are a part of the delivery.
The surrogate and prospective parents will discuss and agree upon the details of the birth plan during the legal agreement phase so that everyone is on the same page when the delivery moment arrives.
The full journey will take a year, in the best case, so it is vital that you learn about how it works and be completely prepared. However, there are a great number of professionals who specialize in surrogacy, and they are willing to take you through the entire process and assist you into taking the best decisions.