Once the legal contract is in place, the surrogate and her intended parents can begin the medical aspect of surrogacy. This can be confusing for first-timers – a good understanding of how these procedures work might give useful insights into what to expect in the surrogacy process.
1. Once the surrogate mother has been matched with her intended parents, she will undergo a full medical examination with a fertility doctor. She’ll have blood drawn to evaluate her hormone levels, and to see if she might have any infectious diseases.
She’ll also undergo a sonohysterogram, which allows the doctor to evaluate the capability of her uterus to carry a pregnancy to term. If the doctor finds cysts, fibroids or endometriosis in her uterus, the process with that particular surrogate may be delayed or cancelled.
2. After all of the results have been assessed and they have met the required standards, the In Vitro Fertilization process can begin. The surrogate mother and intended parent will consult with a fertility doctor, who will guide them through this process.
The intended mother and the surrogate will receive medications – some oral, some injected – that will synchronize their menstrual cycles, stimulate the intended mother’s eggs and prepare the surrogate’s uterine lining to receive the embryos.
3. The eggs are conveyed from the intended mother in a procedure called ‘egg retrieval.’ She’s usually sedated for about an hour while the eggs are harvested.
The eggs are then taken to an embryologist, who combines them with the intended father’s sperm in a laboratory. These new embryos are then cultivated for three to five days.
4. Using a very fine catheter, the cultivated embryos are then transferred into the surrogate’s uterus. The surrogate is awake for this procedure, which isn’t painful. Medications that the surrogate has taken will cause the lining of her uterus to thicken, in order to accept the transferred embryos.
5. The surrogate mother may be advised to rest for approximately 24-72 hours following the embryo transfer, in order to ensure the best opportunity for the embryos to implant in her uterine lining.
6. Ten days later, the surrogate will have a blood test to determine whether pregnancy has been achieved. If the tests are positive, the surrogate will be advised about what further medication or hormone support she’ll need, if any.
7. Once the fertility doctor considers the pregnancy stable – usually after 12 weeks – the surrogate will be referred to her preferred obstetrician for the remainder of the pregnancy and the birth.
8. Until she delivers the baby, the surrogate’s pregnancy will be monitored by an obstetrician. She’ll undergo regular hormone monitoring and ultrasounds to check on the status of her pregnancy.
These are the typical stages in a surrogacy, although it’s important to remember that every journey is different and these steps are only a representative example.