Some women are made for pregnancy. They have no problems conceiving, experience few of the less appealing side effects and somehow look effortlessly chic while pregnant. If you’re one of those women you could be in a unique position to make the most of your pregnancy talents by helping others have children.
For 10% of women in the U.S. between the ages of 15-44, infertility makes it difficult or impossible to get pregnant and carry a baby to term. Even after going through in-vitro fertilization (IVF), artificial insemination and many medications, pregnancy still isn’t possible. For some, the only way to become a parent is through a surrogate mother.
A surrogate is a woman who carries and bears a child for someone else. There are two forms of surrogacy: traditional and gestational. Traditional surrogacy involves the surrogate mother providing the egg. In gestational surrogacy, the more popular option, the surrogate mother becomes pregnant through in-vitro fertilization using an egg from the intended mother or a donor.
The question then is how to become a surrogate mother.
Steps to become an ideal surrogate include:
- Eating a healthy diet
- Not smoking
- Getting regular, moderate exercise
- Stabilizing your living environment
- Refraining from drugs and alcohol consumption
Basically, hopeful surrogate mothers should already be doing everything they’d do while pregnant. You’ll also need to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally. Surrogacy is an emotional process for everyone involved. Before reaching out to agencies try to find a few surrogate mothers to talk to candidly. If you don’t know anyone personally there are forums online with discussion boards that can give some insight.
The Process of Becoming a Surrogate Mother
Step 1 – Find a Surrogacy Agency
Today there are surrogacy agencies that help ease the process. They connect intended parents with compatible surrogate mothers, process payments, handle the legal requirements and set up the IVF cycles. So, the first step is to research surrogacy agencies to find a legitimate, reliable resource.
Step 2 – Fill Out the Introductory Application or Contact Form
Once you’ve found a surrogacy agency you want to work with, it’s time to start the process by submitting an intro form. Most reputable agencies will have a preliminary screening procedure where they gather basic information. It only takes a few minutes to fill out and will put the ball in the agency’s court.
Step 3 – Wait for a Response
The agency will check your information then reach out to you if it seems you’ll be a good fit. The short discussion is usually over the phone and serves as a formal introduction.
Step 4 – Fill Out the Full Application
After the introductory call or email, you’ll typically be asked to fill out a much more extensive application. It will include questions about your current health, past medical history, pregnancies, etc. A fertility specialists reviews your information to decide if you’re a candidate for surrogacy. You may also be asked to send pictures of yourself for a database that’s used by intended parents.
Step 5 – In-Office Consultation
If the IVF physician determines you’re eligible for surrogacy the agency will set up an in-office consultation. Potential surrogates that live out-of-town can arrange a meeting over Skype. During the consultation the agency representative will explain the process in detail, how payments are submitted and answer any questions you have.
Step 6 – Pairing With Potential Parents
Here’s where the process can become extended. After the consultation, you’ll be added to the surrogacy agency’s database of potential surrogate mothers. Rest assured only your basic information is accessible to potential parents. The agency will also work to pair you with clients, but ultimately it’s up to the intended parent(s). It could take some time, but with some luck, you’ll be matched.
Step 7 – Psychological and Medical Screenings
Some agencies take this step before pairing surrogates with parents while others do it after making a match. Regardless, at some point before the first IVF cycle, you’ll have to go through a psychological screening and a medical screening. Usually, this is the point where you’ll also be setup with or reimbursed for medical insurance and have to sign the paperwork that officially makes you a surrogate mother.
Step 8 – Meeting With the IVF Physician
If all the screenings go well you’ll then meet with the IVF physician. They’ll explain how IVF works and create a calendar of events for your first IVF cycle.
Step 9 – Start Medication for the First IVF Cycle
Now is the time that things get real. The physician or a nurse will give you medication and directions on how to use it. You’ll need to follow the directions to the T.
Step 10 – IVF Cycle Completion and Pregnancy Testing
At the end of the cycle, the physician will decide if the IVF cycle was a success. If so, you’ll move on to the next step. If not, you and the intended parents will need to decide if you want to try another IVF cycle.
Step 11 – Continue IVF Medication and Follow-Up Visits
If the embryo transfer resulted in a pregnancy you’ll need to continue taking the IVF medication until the physician directs you to do otherwise. They’ll monitor how things are progressing, and once the coast is clear you can stop the medication and begin seeing the OB of your choice.
Step 12 – OB Appointments
At this point, it’s kind of business as usual. You’ll see your OB for regular checkups to make sure everything is on track and the baby is healthy. You can expect to be in contact with the intended parent(s) who will be very eager to know how everything is going.
Step 13 – Delivery
You may have already guessed that the last step in the process is delivery. By this time all the legal matters have already been worked out, and you just need to let nature take its course!