Having a baby is one of the most exciting times in someone’s life, but let’s be honest it is a stressful time for expectant parents too. If on top of that, you are growing your family through surrogacy or overseas surrogacy, anxiety and fear are part of the journey every step of the way. But if you are also doing it in the midst of a worldwide pandemic that includes lockdowns, limited access to services, health concerns, vaccines, travel bans and more, it is for sure overwhelming and particularly challenging for all the people involved: IP’s, surrogates and egg donors.
The first thing we need to be aware of is the evolving state of the pandemic and the continuous shifts in laws and governmental regulations. From local to national level, regulations are changing as the pandemic evolves and it is not easy to plan ahead.
Back in 2020, travel restrictions and quarantine periods were introduced in many countries around the world, including Canada and the US creating very complicated situations and making it impossible for IP’s to travel for the birth, to take their baby home, even for surrogates to attend medical appointments. For these reasons, these two countries created some exemptions giving IP’s special permissions to enter America and Canada.
In most cases, lawyers (including fertility lawyers) have been very helpful in finding ways to help IP’s despite travel bans, by working closely with immigration officials. However, most of these cases are resolved on a case by case basis, so talking to your lawyer as the due date approaches should be on the top of your list.
Clinics and agencies
In response to our new reality, fertility clinics and surrogacy agencies are working with additional safety protocols in order to protect surrogates, donors, parents, and staff. Following recommendations from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), most protocols include:
- Utilizing telemedicine visits when possible.
- Using enhanced cleaning procedures.
- Requiring everyone to wear a face mask.
- Having surrogates and intended parents complete a COVID questionnaire previous attending to the clinics for appointments.
- Asking surrogates and intended parents to wait outside of the clinic or in their vehicles before appointments and be as punctual as possible.
- Limiting the number of people who can accompany surrogates and donors (meaning that IP’s who wanted to be present at transfer time, may be asked to watch using a videoconference platform).
In addition, some clinics may require surrogates to get tested for COVID-19 before an embryo transfer. If the test is positive, the surrogate can move forward with the cycle once she has a negative test result.
At the same time, some hospitals have limited the number of people who can be in the delivery room for baby’s birth. In some cases, the staff at certain hospitals have not allowed the baby’s IP’s in while their surrogate gave birth. You need to check hospital’s labor and delivery department policies close to the baby’s arrival and be mentally and emotionally prepared for the situation you may not be allowed in the hospital for birth.
What about the vaccines?
At the time of this post, it is still uncertain what consequences may or may not have been vaccinated during pregnancy. Although several studies claim vaccines have no negative effect on the babies, on the contrary, they may be born with some level of immunity to the virus, it remains unclear.
It is important to discuss with your surrogate, make a decision together all sides feel comfortable with, and when possible include it in the surrogacy contract to avoid any potential issue during pregnancy.
Should we start or journey now or wait?
Just be ready, the COVID-19 pandemic poses challenges for everyone involved in the surrogacy process, and the constantly evolving situation requires surrogates, egg donors, IP’s, lawyers, clinics, and surrogacy agencies to adapt to shifting government rules and regulations, not only in Canada and US, but also in the home country of international intended parents. You may not be able to make it on time for birth and if you do, you may need to think of someone to take care of your baby until you finally make it, you won’t be certain you will be able to be present at birth probably until the very same day, processes may have changed and take longer than scheduled, birth certificates and passports may take longer to obtain, etc.
In normal times, embarking on a surrogacy journey as an intended parent or a surrogate can be an emotional rollercoaster. However, pursuing surrogacy during COVID times can seem downright overwhelming. And it is totally understandable if you’re asking yourself whether it’s the right time to follow your plan and create a family through surrogacy, but don’t forget the average time for a surrogacy journey can be between 18 months and a few years (depending on many factors). So if you are emotionally and financially ready now to start your journey, surrogacy is still an option! Go for it!