The female reproductive system is a complex piece of bio-machinery. And assisted reproductive technologies (ART) have brought a sliver of hope for women who are unable to carry a pregnancy to term. IVF and gestational surrogacy has helped many couples realize their dreams of bringing their child into this world. But how does gestational surrogacy work? Let us discuss.
How Does Gestational Surrogacy Work?
Gestational surrogacy is when a female (gestational carrier, or GC) carries and gives birth to a baby for another couple (intended parents). The baby is usually linked genetically to one or both intended parents.
Advances in ART have made gestational surrogacy a popular option among couples who face infertility issues. According to CDC data, the number of GC cycles increased from 1% in 1999 to 2.5% in 2013.
Unlike in traditional surrogacy, where the surrogate mother receives artificial insemination with a sperm sample of the male intended parent, in gestational surrogacy, both the egg(s) and sperm are provided by the intended parents (or donors for either). They are then mixed under artificial conditions to form an embryo. This embryo is then transferred into the uterus of the GC. If the embryo implants, the GC becomes pregnant. She then carries the pregnancy to term to deliver the baby which is then handed over to the intended parents.
In this case, the surrogate is not biologically linked to the baby (in the case of traditional surrogacy, since the egg belongs to the surrogate, technically, she is the biological mother of the child).
Is Gestational Surrogacy Right for You?
There is no doubt about the fact that gestational surrogacy and advances in ART have contributed immensely to the happiness of thousands of couples who have been able to expand their families. However, gestational surrogacy is usually the last option for heterosexual couples who have a medical condition that hampers natural pregnancy. It could also be the only route for same-sex couples. Reasons for using the GC route could be manifold.
- A gay couple wants to have a baby
- A single male wishes to be a parent
- The female partner of a heterosexual couple cannot get pregnant, or may be in danger of pregnancy-related complications, due to,
- No uterus (due to a prior hysterectomy)
- A medical condition in the uterus (due to scarring from an infection or surgical intervention)
- Advanced age
- Previous history of non-implantation problems
- History of miscarriages
- Any other medical condition that makes pregnancy difficult (such as severe heart disease)
In the case of a same-sex female couple, there is a process called reciprocal IVF in which one partner donates the egg and the other carries the embryo (formed from the fusion of the egg and donor sperm) to term. The latter partner is also referred to as the gestational carrier.
Decided To Go for Gestational Surrogacy? Here’s What You Should Know
The gestational surrogacy process is complex because it also involves a third-party individual who plays a very important role of carrying the embryo of the intended parents to term. If you have exhausted all other options to achieve pregnancy and getting the help of a GC is your last option, here’s what you should know about the process.
Selecting the Right Gestational Surrogate
The best way is to approach someone who is already known to you – a friend or a relative. Surrogacy is legally complex and very expensive, so if the surrogate is known to you, it will ease the process.
The second option is to search through an agency. A surrogate agency has a list of screened candidates you can choose from. There are more than 100 such registered agencies in the U.S. that act as mediators to help intended parents find the right surrogate and manage the relationship.
At Dreams Fertility, we have extensive relationships with top surrogate agencies. After understanding your case and your specific requirements, we direct you to the appropriate agencies and help find the right candidate for you.
There are many factors that a potential surrogate must fulfill in order to be chosen. She must be (ideally) between 21 and 39 years of age, must have delivered a healthy baby before (at least one successful prior pregnancy without complications), should be medically fit, must be financially stable, and has a caring and supportive family.
Apart from these factors, the potential GC must undergo background screening, medical screening, and psychological screening.
Finally, the most important aspect is legal representation. At Dreams Fertility, we encourage both the intended parents and the GC to have their own lawyers draft a comprehensive surrogacy contract. We work with a network of top family lawyers who are experts in surrogacy laws to help draft an agreement that protects the rights and interests of all stakeholders so that there are no legal complications or objections once the child is born.
Gestational Surrogacy Cost
As stated earlier, gestational surrogacy is a costly process. On average, the entire process may cost around $150,000, if everything goes as planned. The total cost may include surrogacy agency fees, remuneration to the GC, medical procedure fees and expenses, legal process fees, and miscellaneous costs.
Most insurance policies do not cover this process, although they may have special coverages for IVF or other fertility treatments. It is best to see what your policy covers and then try to manage the balance expenditure.
At Dreams Fertility, we have in-house financing options that help you in your process of gestational surrogacy. We offer a one-of-a-kind in-house financing program that includes multiple loan plans, including 0% and low-interest terms exclusively for our patients. We have special rates for teachers, active military, police officers, and firefighters.
What Happens During Gestational Surrogacy?
Once you have selected the right GC candidate and she has undergone all testing and screening, the actual process starts.
- The GC will be put on medication that will allow her uterus to be ready to accept the embryo. If the intended mother is the egg donor, both she and the GC will be given medication to sync their menstrual cycles, so by the time the eggs are harvested and fertilized in vitro, the surrogate’s uterus should be ready for the embryo implantation.
- The harvested (or donor) eggs are mixed with sperm (from sperm donor or intended father) in a lab for embryos to be formed. The embryos are then transferred to the uterus of the GC.
- If the embryo implants successfully, the GC is said to have achieved clinical pregnancy. During the first week or so, she will experience certain signs and symptoms that indicate a successful embryo transfer. After two weeks she will be tested for pregnancy.
- She will then be monitored for 10 weeks by the fertility clinic to ensure that the pregnancy is progressing properly.
- Once the baby’s heartbeats are heard, the GC is then transferred to the care of an obstetrician-gynecologist, until she delivers the child.
Assisted reproductive technologies have come a long way and are helping thousands of couples realize their dreams of bringing a child into their families. At Dreams Fertility, we believe that the desire of becoming a parent should not be muted as long as there is a way to achieve it through assisted reproduction. To this end, we are committed to guiding you towards success with the best possible family-building options.
The path of gestational surrogacy is complex, but we will help you make the right decisions and streamline the entire process for you – right from assessing your fertility status to selecting the right GC candidate to the entire IF procedure through our skilled and experienced fertility experts – so that you go home with your bundle of joy, your child.
To experience the Dreams difference, schedule a consult with a Dreams Fertility physician today.
Dr. Luis Murrain joined Dreams Fertility in 2021, providing specialty services in Fertility and Reproductive Genetics. With a shared vision that everyone deserves to have the family of their dreams, we are dedicated to helping all of our patients. We believe that families come in all shapes and sizes, and all of them are beautiful. We are proud to have a long history of providing services to all, including gay, lesbian, and transgender individuals and couples on their road to parenthood.