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What to Expect in the Surrogacy Process: Everything to Know About Surrogacy

There are many paths to a family for those unable to carry a child on their own. Surrogacy—wherein a woman agrees to carry a child for an individual or couple—is one of them. The surrogacy process can be a beautiful, life-changing one. It can also be overwhelming. Here’s what you need to know.

How to Prepare for Becoming a Parent via Surrogate

Planning for surrogacy  is good practice for parenthood; there are many things to consider and a lot to prepare for as you enter this journey.

  • Plan for the expense. The surrogacy process can get pricey. While surrogacy cost varies, the entire process may run between $100,000 and $200,000.
  • Make sure you’re physically prepared. If you’ll be providing the eggs or sperm, you’ll want to schedule a medical exam to ensure that there are no concerns to address before beginning. 
  • Prepare for hard emotions. Like any fertility journey or pregnancy, there will likely be anxiety, stress, and fear paired with the joy and elation of becoming a parent. Seek support when you need it from loved ones or a therapist.  
  • Get organized. The process of surrogacy is full of details. From finding a surrogate to signing contracts, you’ll have a lot to keep track of. Get a calendar, file folders, and whatever else you need early on to stay on top of things.

Traditional vs. Gestational Surrogacy: What to Know

In gestational surrogacy, an embryo created by in-vitro fertilization (IVF) is implanted in the surrogate, and the child is not genetically related to the surrogate. This may be a preferred choice for parents who want their child to be genetically related to them, and an industry-standard in the United States today.

Traditional surrogacy involves artificial insemination of the surrogate’s egg by the father’s (or other donor’s) sperm. With traditional surrogacy, the child will be genetically related to the father and to the carrier.

Gestational surrogacy is much more common today than traditional surrogacy, which is illegal in multiple states and can get legally complicated very quickly. When we refer to surrogacy in the rest of this article, we are discussing gestational surrogacy. 

The Surrogacy Process Step by Step

While the process can be complicated, knowing what happens during surrogacy can help prevent unnecessary stress. Here is a brief breakdown of the surrogacy steps.

Finding a Surrogate

Many professionals recommend going through a surrogacy agency vs. finding a surrogate on your own. Agencies work with women who have successfully carried pregnancies to term and can help connect you not only with a viable surrogate but with donor egg and/or sperm, if needed. In addition, some agencies will help coordinate all steps of the process, including legal support, connecting you with an egg donor, and coordinating with your medical clinic.

Sunfish can help you find an agency that is right for you – be it a local agency in your area, a large national institution, or someone who focuses on specific population groups, such as same-sex male parents.

Finding an Attorney

You’ll need an attorney during the surrogacy process for the surrogacy contract, which should outline costs, coverage of prenatal and postpartum care, parental rights, and other legal considerations.

Surrogacy laws differ by state. An experienced attorney can help you make sure you understand your local laws, as well as your rights. Some surrogacy agencies have attorneys to whom they can refer you. 

Egg Retrieval from the Donor 

Once agreements have been finalized and you’re ready to begin the medical surrogacy process, the first step of gestational surrogacy is egg retrieval from the donor (either the intended mother or another approved egg donor). 

The egg donor will take medication to stimulate her ovaries and will subsequently go to a fertility clinic for an egg retrieval. The medical process takes several weeks, but with an egg donor, plan on about 4 – 5 months to complete paperwork and a retrieval.

Embryo Creation

All viable eggs are fertilized by donor sperm in a lab to create an embryo. The embryo may then be genetically tested and prepared for transfer.  

Embryo Transfer

About 3-5 weeks after the surrogate begins medications preparing for the procedure, the embryo will be implanted in her uterus in a quick and painless procedure. After that, the “two-week wait” begins.

Confirming the Pregnancy

A pregnancy test given about two weeks after the embryo transfer can determine whether the surrogate is pregnant.

What to Expect at Birth Via Surrogate

In a successful surrogacy journey, the final step is the birth of the child. The intended parents are often present at the birth to share in this joyful moment. There may also be a separate room for new parents to bond with their child.

Your surrogacy contract can be extremely helpful in knowing what to expect, as it should outline all arrangements for the birth, as well as postnatal details, such as how long the surrogate will breastfeed (and ship breastmilk). The intended parents are usually handed the baby upon birth and can often even request a special private bonding room at the hospital for them and their new baby.

How to Start the Surrogacy Process

You don’t have to navigate the world of surrogacy alone. We work with many surrogacy agencies nationwide and can point you to resources when you don’t know where to begin.

We’re also here to help when the cost feels too big. One of our financial advocates can set up a complimentary consultation to walk you through the surrogacy expenses, discuss financial planning, and review financing and loan options with you.