In the 1980s when surrogacy first began, it was surrounded by secrecy and legal red tape. But now, changes in law, advances in medicine, and public awareness have allowed IVF surrogacy to be considered  a routine option for many people who might otherwise never had the chance to become pregnant or to have a baby who shares their genetic heritage.

More than a million babies have been born through IVF surrogacy in the last decade, and even celebrities such as Nicole Kidman, Kim Kardashian, and Sarah Jessica Parker have been open about opting for surrogacy as the ideal way for building their families. Patients often have questions about how surrogacy works and whether it is the right choice for them.

This article will introduce you to the IVF surrogate process so that you feel comfortable discussing this option with your partner and fertility team.

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What is IVF surrogacy?

IVF surrogacy implies the use of a third party “gestational surrogate” to carry the pregnancy when an intended mother is unable to carry the baby to term herself. The gestational surrogate may also be referred to as the “gestational carrier” or “gestational mother”. Gestational surrogates must sign a contract that has all the terms and conditions provided by the Intended Parents. Using embryos created through IVF, they also agree to undergo an embryo transfer procedure and carry the resulting pregnancy.   The embryo is fertilized and created in a laboratory.

For heterosexual couples, this means that they can use their own eggs and sperm to develop an embryo. If the pregnancy is successful, the baby will be 100% genetically related to both parents, just as if they had been able to conceive and carry the pregnancy on their own.  Single women, who want to have a baby may use donor sperm and their own eggs. Lesbian couples may also choose IVF surrogacy, if neither partner can carry the pregnancy themselves. They would use donor sperm, and the eggs of one partner.

In each case, the surrogate has no genetic ties to the baby she carries. Gay couples often use a surrogate.   They will use donor eggs, or the surrogate will provide the eggs. This is usually referred to as traditional surrogacy.

Why IVF surrogacy?

The main focus of IVF surrogacy for most couples is the ability to share the genetics of both the mother and father with the child, even if carrying the pregnancy is out of the question for the woman. A biological link is not at all necessary to develop a family bond, but it’s a natural desire to share your genetic heritage with your child.

Some women are medically unable to carry a pregnancy to term, but can produce healthy and quality eggs.  This may be because of a congenital problem with their uterus, or unexplained miscarriages. Others may have been advised to use a surrogate because of medical issues such as hypertension, diabetes or heart disease. Whatever the circumstances, using an IVF surrogate can offer hope for patients when other methods have failed in giving them a baby.

There’s another benefit when using a surrogate.  It is less complex compared to traditional surrogacy, since the surrogate is not genetically related to the baby. Hence, it’s a more accessible and easy choice for many couples.

The surrogate selection process

Selecting a surrogate is obviously a very important decision. Some fortunate Intended Parents have close friends or family members who may offer to carry the pregnancy for them. Others advertise privately for a gestational carrier, but most decide to go through a surrogacy agency. Good surrogacy agencies can provide you with profiles of carefully screened individuals and guide you through the process of choosing the right surrogate. They also provide you with information on any legal considerations in your state concerning surrogacy. They may even introduce you to a  lawyer who specializes in reproductive law and can prepare the necessary paperwork and contracts for you.

Surrogates must undergo a strict screening procedure that ensures they are emotionally, physically and mentally healthy enough to carry a pregnancy without any risks.

These are the general attributes that an ideal surrogate must have:

  • Be between 21 and 37 years old
  • BMI under 32
  • Has had at least one successful pregnancy, without any complications
  • Must pass medical and psychological tests
  • U.S. citizen or U.S. permanent resident
  • Must be a resident of CA, CO, IL, OR, NV, WA or TX

Before a surrogate can be matched with an Intended Parent through Physician’s Surrogacy, they must go through the following process:

  1. Application Process: All potential surrogates must fill out an online application, which is then reviewed by our coordinators. Once a surrogate’s application has been accepted our coordinators will than conduct and interview over the phone.
  2. Screening Process: Our potential surrogates go through a stringent screening process before being presented to our Intended Parents. Our screening process includes a background check, psychological screening, and a medical records review by our in house physician.
  3. Matching Process: Once a potential surrogate has gone through our screening process and is deemed ready, she will be entered into our database for selection. A surrogate and Intended Parents are matched based on detailed criteria. Once a match is made a contract is signed with clear legal guidelines for each party.  Once the contract is signed, the IVF process begins

How does IVF surrogacy work?

In the beginning of the IVF surrogacy process, the Intended Parents and gestational surrogate will have to undergo assessments and laboratory tests to ensure that they are prepared mentally and physically, and that there are no transmittable diseases that could damage potential embryos.  From here, the process is relatively simple:

The IVF process

  1. The person providing the eggs and the gestational carrier will take medications to synchronize their menstrual cycles.
  2. Once their cycles are synchronized, the egg provider will begin IVF protocol to stimulate her ovaries for egg production.
  3. The egg provider will undergo a short procedure to retrieve the eggs.
  4. The retrieved eggs will be mixed with the intended father’s (or donor) sperm and cultured for 3 to 5 days.
  5. The gestational carrier will begin taking progesterone to prepare her uterine lining for the embryo transfer.
  6. When the embryos are ready, one will be transferred into the surrogate’s uterus.
  7. In two weeks, a pregnancy test will determine if implantation was successful.  
  8. Monitoring will be conducted for the first trimester by Physician’s Surrogacy. After the first trimester, the surrogate is able to see the OB/GYN of her choice for the remainder of the pregnancy.

OB/GYN supervised pregnancy

  • The surrogate will be closely monitored on a regular basis to ensure there are no complications
  • A Physician’s Surrogacy case manager will be available 24 hours a day if the surrogate has any questions.

Delivery and after deliver support

  • A birth plan will be created by the Intended Parents and surrogate with the assistance of their case manager
  • The surrogate will deliver the baby at the hospital of her choice.
  • Physician’s Surrogacy will provide continued support after the delivery

Physician’s Surrogacy is one of the top surrogacy agencies in California. We have successfully helped thousands of couples and individuals realize their dream of creating a family.   If you are thinking about IVF surrogacy or have questions about the process, you can contact us at www.physicianssurrogacy.com or  call  858-342-3327 to schedule a free consultation.

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