In order for a woman to carry a viable pregnancy, the uterus must be both normally developed and functioning properly. Women that have a damaged, or absent, uterus can experience the joy of creating a family by using a surrogate mother.
At the Washington Center for Reproductive Medicine, we have a very active third party parenting program including surrogacy and donor egg. We pride ourselves on offering an understanding and supportive environment for patients undergoing these treatments. We have successfully helped many women when conventional fertility treatments were not feasible.
Who is a candidate for surrogacy?
- A woman born without a functional uterus or vagina
- A woman who has undergone surgical removal of the uterus (hysterectomy) and has functioning ovaries
- A woman whose uterus is diseased and nonfunctional
- A woman who is incapable of bearing a child because of chronic ill health
Sometimes a woman may not be physically able to carry a pregnancy to term. Her uterus may be damaged and unable to support implantation and embryonic development. She might also have health problems, such as heart disease, that would place her at risk if she were pregnant. Surrogacy is an option for many of these women.
A surrogate is a woman who carries another couple's baby to term, and once delivered, gives it to the parenting couple. There are two types of surrogacy known as gestational surrogacy and traditional surrogacy.
- In traditional surrogacy, the surrogate is inseminated with the sperm of the father via intrauterine insemination. The resultant baby will have the genetic structure of the father and the surrogate.
- The second type of surrogacy is known as gestational surrogacy, which is where the surrogate carries the embryo (created in an IVF cycle) produced by the infertile couple. The infant will have the genetic makeup of the infertile couple. In gestational surgery, the mother undergoes an in vitro fertilization cycle where she receives medication to stimulate her ovaries to produce multiple eggs. If the mother does not have viable eggs, an egg donor may be used.
The eggs are withdrawn through the vagina and combined with the male partner's sperm in a Petri dish. The dish is then placed in an incubator until ready for transfer, usually 3-5 days. The gestational surrogate receives hormones to synchronize her cycle with the mothers. The mature embryos are transferred to the surrogate mother using a small catheter.
Most women volunteer to be surrogates for altruistic reasons and many times may be related, such as a sister.
The process of surrogacy is complex from both the physical and psychological standpoints. Selection of a suitable surrogate, who understands the process and its ramifications, and is supported by her family, is paramount to the success of the program. A surrogate is usually an extremely diligent and devoted person who wishes to endow a special gift to another woman, and many of these women have their own children.Women who are willing to act as surrogates are often friends or are recruited through the media or surrogacy agencies. We have helped patients recruit suitable women to serve as surrogates.
Once a suitable surrogate has been selected the following steps are mandatory:
- Medical evaluation, including evaluation of lifestyle and previous pregnancies.
- Psychological evaluation
- Blood testing and cultures to exclude STDs
It is imperative that the intended parents and surrogate sign a legal contract outlining the responsibilities and obligations of each party. Surrogacy laws vary widely between states and a lawyer experienced in reproductive law must always be consulted. Surrogacy for financial gain is illegal in Washington State.
The surrogacy process must be embarked upon carefully, as often two families with their own separate issues become intertwined. Our experience in dealing with surrogates over many years has been very positive. Wonderful human relationships have developed and all parties involved have experienced great joy. However, this is not a journey that should be embarked upon without great thought and care.
Very interesting stuff. Have you thought about surrogacy as an option? What do you think about it? Do you have any helpful information to share with the rest of us just beginning to explore it as an option? Do you know anyone who has built their family using surrogacy?