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July 27, 2015

Having Your Surrogacy in California with SPS? Surprising Things About Your Newborn You May Not Know

Thinking about having your surrogacy in California? Surrogacy is a wonderful, life-changing experience—thanks to the amazing process of birth. Babies play no small part in that process, and, if you think about it, babies just don’t get enough credit. Even though they depend completely on someone else for food, shelter and safety, it may surprise you to find out how much newborns know and can do—even just minutes out of the womb!

Here are some amazing things about newborns Intended Parents probably don’t know:

Instinctive Rooters. Almost immediately after birth, newborns begin instinctively looking for food. New moms will notice the baby turning her head to the side, opening their mouths wide, and even sucking on their own hands.

Little Movers and Shakers. You may already be aware that newborns are capable of lifting their heads and chest up when laying on their tummies, but did you also know that some newborns can even “crawl” around—although not in the same way as older babies.

No Need for Fiber! Newborn babies, on average, poop several times a day, with the fourth day after birth peaking at 6-10 times per day! This is because breastfed babies digest milk so easily. Their breastfed diet is also the reason for their squishy, soft bowl movements.

A Lack of Eye Coordination. Newborns’ eyes are not coordinated in the slightest and it is very normal for babies to cross their eyes, mainly because their eye muscles are still in an early stage of development. Talk to your child’s healthcare provider if this goes on for an extended period of time.

No, They Don’t Have Rickets. The feet and legs of newborns are often bowed and turned in, because their bones are softer than an adult’s. After all, they have spent the last few months before birth in a very tight space, folded and tucked in the womb. Don’t worry though, your baby’s feet will straighten out in the weeks and months after birth.

A Face Only a Mother Could Love. Newborns aren’t always cute, as their features sometimes appear either over or under proportioned. Your child might not be a looker at birth, but give it a few days and you’ll see their looks change almost daily.

Heavy Weights. Babies, in a sense, are caterpillars who do nothing but drink milk, get fat, poop freakish amounts, and grow at an alarming rate—almost doubling in size in just five months after birth.

Superhuman Tasting Abilities. Babies are born with taste buds on the roof, back, and sides of their mouths—much more than adults do. They also have a high sensitivity to sweet and bitter tastes, but do not react towards salty foods until about 5 months. This near super human ability eventually fades with age, though.

Big Eyes. Babies’ are born with eyes that are about 75% the size of their adult eyes. Just take a good look at your baby, and see how overly proportioned their eyes are compared to their heads.

If you would like to schedule a consultation with Surrogate Parenting Services, or have questions about surrogacy in California, please call us at (949) 363-9525.

July 13, 2015

The Gestational Surrogacy Process: What Carriers Should Expect

Surrogacy can seem complex and confusing at first glance, but if and when you decide to work with Surrogate Parenting Services, you’ll learn a great deal more about the gestational surrogacy process, and the range of medical information available. In the meantime, however, here are just a few “up front” items that you should be aware of, if you’re not already. With any particular medical aspect of the surrogacy process, it should be understood that there is no such thing as a 100% “typical” case, and you should always expect the unexpected.

This particular article is written with a gestational carrier in mind, meaning that the surrogate mother’s eggs are not used, but instead come from either the intended mother or a third-party egg donor. These are the typical stages in a surrogacy, and, again, it’s important to remember that every journey is different and these steps are only a representative example.

Routine tests
Once the surrogate mother has been matched with her intended parents, she will undergo a full medical examination with a fertility doctor. At the fertility center, the surrogate will most likely be asked to have a vaginal ultrasound called a sonohysterogram, which allows the physician to examine her uterus. This will allow 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.
In rare cases, she may also be asked to have a hysteroscopy — in which a tiny camera painlessly examines her uterus — or other procedure to determine the general health of her uterus. Routine blood tests will be given to evaluate hormone levels and rule out the presence of infectious diseases, such as AIDS, herpes, and hepatitis. She will also be asked to provide an up-to-date pap smear, and might be requested to have a mammogram done.

The Gestational Surrogate’s Preparation
After all of the results have been assessed and they have met the required standards, the In Vitro Fertilization process can begin. The gestational surrogate mother and intended parent will consult with a fertility doctor, who will guide them through this process.
The intended mother and the gestational 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. These medications may include standard birth control pills. The surrogate will then be given estrogen at about the time the intended mother or the egg donor is being induced to ovulate if the embryo transfer cycle is a coordinated or “fresh,” one.

In Vitro Fertilization or IVF
Just before the intended mother’s eggs are harvested, the gestational surrogate will take the hormone progesterone to further prepare for implantation, and will continue to take hormones (usually by injection) even if the embryo has already been created and are frozen for future use by the intended parents.
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 via aspiration guided by ultrasound. Then the eggs are taken to an embryologist, who combines them with 50,000 to 1,000,000 of the intended father’s sperm and are left to incubate in a laboratory for three to five days.
Fertilization occurs, and when the timing is right, the resulting embryos are transferred into the uterus of the gestational surrogate by using a very fine catheter. The procedure is not considered painful, and the surrogate is fully awake for the entire time. Medications that the surrogate has taken will cause the lining of her uterus to thicken, in order to accept the transferred embryos. The doctor will use ultrasound to help with placement of embryos, and afterward the surrogate will be instructed to remain lying-down for a period of time.

After the Transferring of the Embryos
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. Ten days after the embryos have been transferred, the gestational surrogate will have a simple blood test to determine whether pregnancy has been achieved. If the test is positive, the surrogate will be advised about what further medication or hormone support she’ll need – usually estrogen and progesterone. Blood tests will be done on a regular basis to monitor the fetus’ development.
Once the fertility doctor considers the pregnancy stable – usually after 12 weeks – the surrogate will be referred to her preferred obstetrician for monitoring for the remainder of the pregnancy and the birth. She’ll undergo regular hormone monitoring and ultrasounds during the surrogacy process to check on the status of the pregnancy and the intended parents’ baby.

If you would like to learn more about the surrogacy process or if you would like to become a surrogate, please call Surrogate Parenting Services at (949) 363-9525.

July 13, 2015

The Gestational Surrogacy Guide: Preparing For a C-Section

Sometimes in gestational surrogacy, a carrier may face the prospect of having to get a cesarean section. The procedure is actually more common than you think. After steeply increasing over more than a decade, the number of women who get a C-section leveled off at 33%, as polled in 2010 and 2011 (rising nearly 60 percent since 1996.) For many carriers on the journey of gestational surrogacy, a cesarean section may become a very viable or necessary option for delivering a baby, but what are they and why would someone want to get one, as opposed to a vaginal birth?

A cesarean section, or C-section, is the delivery of a baby through a surgical incision in the mother’s abdomen and uterus. In certain circumstances, a C-section is scheduled in advance, like if you’ve had a previous cesarean with a “classical” vertical uterine incision, more than one previous C-section, or have had some other kind of invasive uterine surgery, such as myomectomy. These significantly increase the risk that your uterus will rupture during a vaginal delivery.

In other circumstance, it’s done in response to an unforeseen complication as a result of the baby, or babies. Many mother’s carrying more than one baby require a C-section. Sometimes if your baby is to be very large (a condition known as macrosomia), or if your baby is in a breech (bottom first) or transverse (sideways), or if the baby has a known malformation or abnormality that would make a vaginal birth risky, a C-section become a necessary part of the delivery process.

Ultimately, the goal of a C-section is the safety and well-being of the baby and the mother. In saying that, preparing for a C-section delivery is very important, and there are some essential steps to include in the preparation process, including:

Mental preparation. Begin to break down any fear you have about a C-section by watching a video of an actual C-section. It may cause you some mental stress at first, but wouldn’t you rather know what you are in for?

Internal preparation. Many doctors recommend that you start taking stool softeners a little less than a week before the delivery. You should also increase your iron about 2-3 weeks before because, as with having any major surgery, you will lose blood. Being anemic and recovering from a C-section is not a pleasant experience.

Ask any and all questions. Don’t worry about how silly they may sound! There are no dumb questions when preparing for a C-section. You have the right to know each and every detail about your upcoming surgery, so talk with your provider/doctor about the expectations of a C-section delivery. Start by asking questions about the process, the medications you will probably be prescribed, and the roundabout timeline for recovery.

Talk with your support system. Once you obtain information from your provider, you can should share this information with your support system. Many carriers and mothers-to-be like to discuss the process with their partner or children to be prepared. After all, some younger family members may not fully understand what a C-section entails.

Eating and drinking. You should ask your doctor to clarify exactly how many hours before you need to stop eating for your surgery. Even though hospitals tend to throw out an arbitrary time because of the unpredictable nature of childbirth, it may not apply to you depending on your C-section time. Many doctors ask that you do not eat after midnight, regardless of whether or not your surgery is at 7am or 5pm. Though it may seem less important, planning you dietary schedule is a must. After all, no one wants a hungry pregnant woman.

Your life plan. Plan to be at least 2-3 days away from home. You should make a logistical plan ahead of time and discuss any work arrangement, childcare arrangements, pet care considerations, and other any other logistical considerations. Everyone in your support system needs to be on the same page concerning the dates surrounding the delivery, so share this plan with them.

Your hospital plan. Before delivery, you should find out who can be in the operating room, which includes when they can enter and when they have to leave. Don’t assume your OB makes this decision. When asking, try and be generally nice and open about who you want and why you want them present, and they may be open to more than just one.

Post-birth plan. Planning for the days following birth is almost as important as planning for the actual delivery. Remember that a C-section is considered major surgery, and as such there are recovery-related considerations that need to be made. Many C-sections have a longer recovery time, meaning there is a good chance you will not be able to drive for a while or perform other duties because of your prescription pain medication, so prepare for this period of time in terms of household tasks (i.e., grocery shopping, driving kids to school or daycare, etc.). You should also carve out that time for yourself and your family to ensure a safe and healthy recovery. Most mothers have a tendency to want to jump right back into the flow of life, but keep in mind your body needs ample time to recover.

Don’t forget the intended parents. Ask your IPs what their expectations of the delivery are. Do they want to be in the operating room? What is the plan for post-delivery? This is a personal decision between you and the IPs that needs to be decided upon before you step foot in the operating room.

If you would like to learn more about C-sections in gestational surrogacy or if you have other questions relating to the process of surrogacy or would like to become a surrogate, please call Surrogate Parenting Services at (949) 363-9525.

May 18, 2015

Can a Gestational Surrogate Prevent Birth Defects?

The qualifications to become a gestational surrogate are somewhat rigorous. Besides being financially secure and having already gave birth, certain physical attributes are a must: age, BMI, being completely free of STDs, and all around general good health are all common requirements. These restrictions are intended to protect the health and well-being of both the surrogate mother and the child. After all, gestational surrogates and agencies are being trusted to take care of someone else’s child. Intended parents basically want to make sure their gestational surrogate is taking care of the pregnancy like they would if it was their own child they were carrying. There are, however, certain factors which are out of the both the surrogate’s and the agencies’ hands, such as birth defects.

How birth defects occur

A birth defect is a complication that changes the way the human body appears, functions, or both. Birth defects usually occur during the first trimester. Doctors can detect some birth defects at any time over the course of child’s life: during gestation, at birth, or at any period after birth, ranging in severity from moderate to severe. Some birth defects may even cause death. Though this is a terrible reality for any intended parent, there are actually steps a surrogate can take to increase the chances of giving birth to a healthy and happy baby.

Plan for the baby’s arrival.

Becoming a surrogate is a big undertaking and doesn’t happen immediately. This allows the surrogate enough time to break bad habits, such as drinking and smoking, in addition to physically and mentally preparing herself.

Visit the doctor regularly.

Proper medical care is one of the most important things a surrogate can to ensure a healthy bay. Prenatal care assures that the gestational surrogate’s health is maintained, while safeguarding the health of the fetus. If the surrogate mother sees a doctor regularly, some birth defects can be treated during the pregnancy, or even prevented.

Maintain a healthy body.

Surrogates should take care of the child by following a sensible, wholesome diet program, consisting of the five basic food groups: grain products, vegetables of all kinds (especially dark green), fruits (though not fruit juice), meat and protein rich foods, and milk and dairy products. Oils found in fish, nuts and through vegetable sources can also be nutritious in small amounts. The rule of thumb is low fat and high fiber.

Exercise regularly.

Surrogates should be cleared by a doctor before engaging in any exercise routine. Light to moderate exercises, such as walking, swimming, and riding a stationary bike, are usually recommended and can help improve posture and maintain a healthy pregnancy weight.

Get plenty of rest.

Surrogate mothers should take naps frequently and get at least 8 uninterrupted hours of sleep each night. When sleeping or resting, surrogate mothers should lay on their side as often as possible, especially on the left side. Resting or sleeping on the left side of the body improves the circulation to your baby and helps decrease any swelling that may occur.

Take iron and folic acid.

Prenatal vitamins are vital during a surrogate pregnancy. Taking folic acid daily has been shown to reduce the occurrence of birth defects in the baby’s brain and spine. Likewise, taking iron daily can reduce the risk of anemia later in pregnancy.

Drink plenty of fluids.

Gestational surrogate mothers should drink at least 6-8 glasses of water, fruit juice, or milk daily. One of the best ways in determining whether adequate fluid intake is by urine coloring: nearly-clear colored urine is fine but anything darker than very light yellow is a sign of dehydration.

Relax.

While pregnant, it’s best to stay away from emotionally stressful situations, because too much can inadvertently have negative impact on the development of the baby. Incorporate stress relief methods such as mediation, if necessary.

If you have any questions about becoming a surrogate, call Surrogate Parenting Services today at (949) 363-9525.

May 9, 2015

Becoming a Surrogate Mother: Don’t Eat For Two

When becoming a surrogate mother, applicants have to meet certain qualifications, including BMI, calculated from a person’s weight and height. With this number, surrogacy agencies are accurately able to screen for weight-related health problems, such as diabetes, that can complicate a pregnancy. What about during the pregnancy? How can a gestational surrogate’s weight affect the health of the intended parents’ child?

Becoming a Surrogate Mother: How Weight Affects You and Your Baby

Before the surrogate takes the expectant mom maxim “eating for two” a little too seriously, and start doubling what she would normally eat, she should consider that gaining too many pounds can cause serious problems—including an increased risk of hypertension, gestational diabetes and a laundry list of nasty complications. A surrogate who gains too much weight too quickly can result in a baby that is too-large, resulting in a difficult delivery. Not to mention that too many pregnancy pounds leaves the surrogate with too many postpartum pounds, which can be extremely difficult to lose after she delivers.

But your extra pounds don’t only affect the gestational surrogate. The developing fetuses of obese women also are at increased risk for health problems. For example, researchers found a connection between maternal obesity and neural tube defects, in which the baby’s spinal column and the brain do not fuse properly. Also, some research suggests that the child carried by an obese woman has a 15% increase of being born with a heart defect, in addition to the potential of being born with dangerously low blood sugar, high bilirubin levels, being obese and having type 2 diabetes.

Becoming a Surrogate Mother: How to Keep Those Extra Pregnancy Pounds Off

Pregnancy is never a time for weight loss. The baby needs a steady shipment of calories and nutrients throughout the pregnancy. As a general rule, doctors advise that a surrogate should gain at least a handful of pounds during the first trimester. In the following stages of pregnancy, she should be gaining an average of a pound a week in months 4 through 8, and usually taper off at about month 9.

So, what should a gestational surrogate do if she finds herself gaining weight too quickly? Instead of a crash diet, she should aim to slow down her weight-gain rate so that it meets the baby’s growing needs. The surrogate should always keep an eye on what she eats, as well as the scale, to make sure her final weight is within the optimal range. If a surrogate is worried about her weight gain, here are some things she can do to get her weight under control:

Cut empty calories.

It should be made crystal that the goal isn’t to lose weight, or even to stop weight gain — it’s only to slow it down to a healthier rate. To do accomplish this, the surrogate should start by replacing foods that contain empty calories with food packed with nutrition. After all, nutritious foods have a tendency to make a person feel full faster and longer than junk foods, so the surrogate will consume fewer calories without even trying. It’s a win-win because the baby will be getting more nutrition at the same time.

Size up your food.

Too many calories, no matter their source, can add up to too many pounds. The key is scrutinizing the serving sizes. “Extra value meals” may mean more bang for the buck, but it also means an extra side of calories, too. A health conscious surrogate needs to really asses her portions; for instance, a serving of meat or poultry should be about the size of a computer mouse; a serving of cheese about the size of a nine-volt battery. As mentioned before, exceptions should be made for foods that fill up a surrogate’s belly and meet you’re the intended parents’ baby’s nutritional requirements.

Get moving.

Before a surrogate signs up for that gym membership, she should make sure she gets the greenlight from her practitioner. After that, she can enjoy regular cardio workouts, which will help her stick to her weight-gain target. And the best thing about that daily pregnancy workout is the opportunity to load up on some more delicious snacks.

Trim the fat.

It isn’t surprising to learn that the most concentrated source of calories is hiding in food’s fat content? The biggest problem in trimming the fat is finding it, which can be especially difficult since fat is such an integral part of the American diet.  Obviously, fried chicken and buttered biscuits are easy to spot, but what about the dressing on a salas? One to two servings of fat from unsaturated sources is what a gestational surrogate should limit herself to for a heath weight gain. She should not, however, cut fat out altogether, hence the term “essential fatty acids.”

Make some substitutions.

A few simple switches in the food a surrogate mother eats can actually make a world of difference and slow her weight gain down to a healthy pace. She can top her cereal with skim milk instead of regular or low-fat milk; choose fresh or frozen fruit instead of sugary, dried fruit, etc. The mix-and-match combinations are endless. Here’s a substitution no woman should make during pregnancy, though: giving up all carbohydrates for a high-protein diet because the intended parents’ baby needs nutritional balance.

May 1, 2015

Breastfeeding Your Baby Born by a Surrogate Pregnancy

Are you an intended mother who would like to breastfeed your baby born via a surrogate pregnancy? Not only is it possible to do so, chances are you will even produce a significant amount of milk. It’s a great decision because breast milk is considered by many experts to be the best option for your baby, and the benefits of breastfeeding extend well beyond basic nutrition. In addition to containing all the vitamins and nutrients your baby needs in the first six months of life, breast milk is packed with disease-fighting substances that protect your baby from a long list of illnesses.

Breastfeeding a baby born from a surrogate pregnancy is different, however, than breastfeeding a baby with whom you have been pregnant for many months. With some tenacity and perseverance, you and your baby will enjoy the wonderful health benefits, not to mention the emotional bond, that breastfeeding provides.

Breastfeeding and breast milk

Breastfeeding a baby born by a surrogate pregnancy presents you with two main problems. The first is producing breast milk and the other is getting your baby to breastfeed once you do. For the former issue, it’s best that you are reasonable with your expectations because the majority of intended mothers will not be able to produce all of the milk a baby needs, and thus you will have to supplement the remainder. As mentioned above, however, breastfeeding is more than providing nutrition, and many mothers will find enjoyment in the special bond that forms between you and your baby.

Producing breast milk

Again, please understand that it is likely that you won’t produce a full supply of breast milk for your baby, so it is important to contact the breastfeeding clinic and start your milk supply as soon as the baby’s birth is imminent. Do not be discouraged if your attempt at pumping milk is unsuccessful before the baby is born because a pump is never as good as a baby who is suckling. The purpose of pumping before birth is to draw milk out of your breast so that you will produce yet more milk, not just to put it on reserve. Here are some medications that can actually help prepare your breasts to make milk:

Progesterone and Oestrogen hormones.

If you start at least three or four months in advance, treatment with a combination of oestrogen and progesterone will help prepare your breasts to produce milk. Another way is to use oestrogen patches directly on the breast in addition to oral progesterone.

Domperidone.

The starting dose is 30 mg three times a day, but some doctors go higher. The domperidone is continued when the hormones are stopped. Usually it is necessary to continue it for several months after you start breastfeeding.

Pumping.

You can rent an electric pump with a double setup to pump both breasts at the same time. This takes half the time and also results in better milk production. It is recommended that you pump as often as possible. If twice a day is possible at first, pump twice a day. If you can pump once a day during the week, but 6 times during the weekend, that is also fine.

Getting the baby to take the breast

The sooner you can get the baby to the breast after he is born, the better, so forgo artificial nipples. Also, the more your baby avoids bottles before you start breastfeeding, the better; however, babies need flow from the breast in order to stay latched on and continue sucking.

So, what can you do to get your baby to take a breast?

You should speak with the staff at the hospital where the baby will be born as soon as possible, letting the head nurse and lactation consultant know you plan to breastfeed. They should be willing to accommodate you by having the baby fed by cup or finger feeding, if you cannot feed immediately after birth.

Try skin to skin contact, in which you are completely naked from the waist up and the baby’s naked except for the diaper. This method helps to establish the necessary exchange of sensory information between you and your baby, in addition to helping the baby stabilize several metabolic and physiological processes.

Latching on well is even more important when the mother does not have a full milk supply. A good latch means the baby will get more of your milk, usually through painless feedings, whether your milk supply is abundant or minimal.

If the baby does need to be supplemented, it should be done with a lactation aid while the baby is on your breast and breast feeding. Babies learn to breastfeed by breastfeeding, of course, not by finger, cup, or bottle feeding. Remember, you can use your previously expressed breast milk to supplement, and if you can manage to get it, stored breast milk can be an excellent supplement after your own milk. With a lactation aid used at the breast, the baby is still breastfeeding even while being supplemented.

If you are having trouble getting the baby to take the breast, come to the clinic as soon as possible for help. In fact you should be followed by a lactation consultant or someone experienced in helping mothers with breastfeeding.

April 18, 2015

First Trimester Tips for the Gestational Surrogate

As any gestational surrogate can tell you, the first trimester of pregnancy can be rough. A couple of weeks after you find that the embryo transfer was successful and you’re pregnant, the excitement slowly wears off and the reality of the situation sets in. From the moment of pregnancy, you’re likely to experience a whirlwind of bodily changes. It is hard work growing a person, and the first trimester can be a difficult introduction. These tips will help keep you comfortable:

Go out and find your tribe.

Even if you haven’t let everyone in on your pregnancy news, it’s incredibly important to have support from others who have gone before you, or even those who are also in their first trimester. If you’re keeping your surrogacy on the down low, you should consider seeking out a good supportive group of expectant or prior surrogates online, in forums or otherwise. When in the trenches, it’s good to know you’re not alone.

Pack the right snacks.

The hallmark of an early pregnancy is an increased appetite, so don’t let your hunger catch you off guard. It’s a good way to contract “hanger,” the lethal combination of hunger and anger. Curb your hanger by planning ahead and packing small snacks to take with you throughout your day. Grains, fruit, nuts, and dairy products will cover the essential nutrients you’ll need and keep you full for longer. Coconuts, in particular, have a zillion beneficial properties, including the ability to prevent dehydration, contain a ton of potassium, and are loaded with electrolytes – basically everything you need while pregnant. And coconut oil can help with stretch marks and boost your baby’s immune system, as well.

Sleep!

One of the things you undoubtedly notice in the first trimester is the feeling of pulling an all-nighter, but without the exam. Your best bet? Sleep! If you usually pull in around 7 hours a night, try and aim for 9. If you have a chance in the afternoon or early evening, take a brief, 15 minute cat nap. It can make all the difference in the world.

Document your surrogacy.

Even if you aren’t a Pinterest guru, documenting your surrogacy can be a fun and memorable way to pass the time. Something as simple as a picture or journal entry every week will be a treasure the intended parents to cherish for years to come. Also, you may not know this, but it’s a fact that being pregnant makes you have some of the weirdest dreams, which science can vouch for. Another interesting thing you can do is keep a dream journal. Besides soothing your nighttime anxieties and vivid subconscious, a dream journal can be a hilarious and insightful memento nine months from now.

Coping with nausea. 

There are absolutely no hard rules for pregnancy, but if you experience “morning sickness” during the first trimester . . . congratulations, you’re normal.  Up to 85 percent of pregnant women experience morning sickness, nausea and vomiting during their first trimester. For women who are severely affected, there are medicines, such as Zofran, that a doctor can prescribe to help with nausea and help mom get on with her daily life. For milder forms, try eating a small meal every couple of hours and keeping crackers, peppermints or gum close by, which can help in a pinch to keep down what you have put into your mouth.

Give your body a time out.

Even if you don’t look the part yet, your body is still hard at work being pregnant. Give yourself a break by allowing yourself to rest more than usual, and go easy on yourself during the day. Don’t feel obligated to say yes to every social event, and take a sick day if you have to. As a gestational surrogate, you’re already giving a lot of yourself to others.

Breast discomfort.

Swollen and sore breasts comes with the territory. They can be a problem, but normally only if you are a tummy sleeper and when you discover that you have grown out of your bras, or can no longer you’re your button up shirts. While you do not want to spend a fortune on new undergarments when you get pregnant, one of the smartest shopping decisions you can make is purchasing a couple of comfortable bras to wear out and some that you can sleep in can help better support your breasts and help with the pain.

Dressing for pregnancy.

This is a whole other art form altogether, especially during the first trimester. Your body will start changing, but not just yet. You’re still too be small to be sporting “bump” clothes, although some looser jeans may be in order. You’ll want to take advantage of this small window time and fill your wardrobe with slouchy tops, sweaters, and empire-waist dresses.

The good news for gestational surrogates is that most of the time the first trimester pregnancy symptoms will start improving towards the end of the first 13 weeks. By the time you hit the second trimester the nausea will be gone, and food will go back to tasting good again. Nature is kind to women and gives them the second three months to recuperate from the first three, and prepare for the last three which will bring a whole new set of issues.

April 9, 2015

What is PGD and How Does It Factor into the Surrogate Process?

If you are either a surrogate or an intended parent pursuing the surrogacy process and/or egg donation for family building, the term PGD may come up. PGD stands for preimplimtation genetic diagnosis, sometimes referred to as embryo screening, and this reproductive technology is used with an in-vitro fertilization (IVF) cycle to diagnose genetic diseases in early embryos prior to implantation into the surrogate mother. You may have also heard of the term preimplantation genetic screening (PGS), which doesn’t look for specific diseases, but uses PGD techniques to identify at-risk embryos. The PGD procedure is extremely helpful when screening for genetic disorders like Down syndrome, muscular dystrophy, cystic fibrosis, Tay Sachs, and sickle cell anemia, although it is not limited to these defects.

Who is a candidate for PGD?

There are several categories of intended parents that should consider PGD:

-The Intended Parents have ended previous pregnancies because of a serious genetic condition.
-The Intended Parents already have a child with a serious genetic condition.
-The Intended Parents have a family history of a serious genetic condition; or
-One or both of the Intended Parents have a family history of chromosome problems.

How is the PGD Procedure Done?

The procedure for PGD is usually as follows:
Step 1. You undergo normal in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment to collect and fertilize your eggs.
Step 2. The embryo is grown in the laboratory for two to three days until the cells have divided and the embryo consists of around 4-12 cells. (Typically this takes about three days.)
Step 3. A trained embryologist removes one or two of the cells (blastomeres) from the embryo.
Step 4. The cells are tested to see if the embryo from which they were removed contains the gene that causes the genetic condition in the family. Every doctor’s office has their own method of tracking the embryo to the one or two cells that was removed from it. Clearly each embryo biopsied and the removed cell(s) must be carefully tracked so that if a defect is detected the correct embryo is identified.
Step 5. The embryo unaffected by the condition is transferred to the womb 4-5 days following the egg retrieval, to allow it to develop into a pregnancy.
Step 6. Any remaining unaffected embryos can be frozen for later use. Those embryos that are affected by the condition are allowed to perish or, with your consent, used for research.

The Option of a Trophectoderm Biopsy

Recently, trophectoderm biopsy is gaining popularity as an alternative method of embryo biopsy, whereby it is possible to allow an embryo to develop for 5-6 days. 100-150 cells develop for harvesting, instead of removing and testing one or two cells from a two to three-day-old embryo. Trophectoderm cell removal is much less traumatic compared to blastomere removal.
With trophectoderm biopsy, cells within an embryo separate into two types: cells which will form the fetus (inner cell mass) and cells which will form the placenta (trophectoderm). The benefit is that more cells can be removed at this stage (about 16-32), as the trophectoderm is beginning to herniate through the zona pellucida, without compromising the viability of the embryo, possibly leading to a more accurate test. Instead of removing individual blastomeres, several trophectoderm cells are removed.

What are the Risks Associated with PGD in the Surrogate Process?

The techniques used to biopsy are generally thought to be safe with little risk to the embryo. The risk of accidental damage to the embryo during biopsy is typically thought to be approximately 1%. (Some embryologists have stated that their risk factor is less than 1%) There is a slightly lower likelihood of implantation after an embryo biopsy compared to an embryo not having been biopsied. (This remains debatable because so many factors need to be taken into consideration when identifying why an implanted embryos did not result in a pregnancy)

Since PGD is a relatively new technology, other risks may become apparent over time, but to date the risks appear to be quite limited and need to be weighed against the potential benefits for each couple.

PGD and Pregnancy

Some people feel that performing PGD and manipulating the embryo in some way is likely to lessen your chances of a pregnancy through IVF occurring. The PGD procedure is done so early in the development process that it does not affect the chances of pregnancy, or the health of the embryo; however, as with most medical procedure, the success rate depends on the skills of the embryologist involved.

Some doctors even believe that pregnancy success rates actually increase through the use of PGD because only those embryos that have been shown to be in good health are transferred back to the mother. Also, since genetic abnormalities are among the most common reason for a miscarriage, the transferal of embryos that are absent of any abnormalities decreases the risk of another miscarriage.
Should I do PGD with surrogacy?

As with any medical procedure, you should have this discussion with your physician. He or she will determine whether PGD screening is best for you, based on factors of age, fertility history and genetic history of your extended family. Usually, doctors will recommend PGD screening to patients with a history of unexplained infertility and recurrent miscarriages, genetic disease, recurrent miscarriages, unsuccessful IVF cycles, and advanced maternal age.

If you are a potential or existing Surrogate or an Intended Parent through Surrogate Parenting Services and would like to inquire about PGD screening, or you would like to learn more about the surrogate process, contact us at (949) 363-9525.

April 1, 2015

The Surrogate Mother and Postpartum Depression

When you’re an expectant intended parent, you’ll probably do a lot worrying about your surrogate mother and baby—but that’s to be expected. One of the biggest concerns among intended parents, however, is how the surrogate is going to react once the baby is born.  What is her bond with the baby going to be like after birth? Is she going to feel attached to the baby in any way? These questions are completely valid and you have every right to feel ask them.

In the initial Surrogate Parenting Services surrogate screening, it is crucial that the candidate already have at least one child that she has given birth to and parented. If she has not had a pregnancy and parenting experience, it would be impossible for her to give any level of informed consent and it may be difficult for her to empathize with the parent and the child. In addition to that, it is a risky endeavor for a doctor to endorse a women without any such obstetrical histories.

One of the reasons it’s great to work with a surrogacy agency like SPS is the screening process. When surrogates apply through us, they are interviewed by a skilled, licensed psychiatrist for about 3-4 hours. This psychological evaluation occurs before any medications are administered or any embryo transfers take place. This evaluation allows the potential carrier the chance to really think about these issues. At SPS, we feel that psychological stability is one of the most essential requirements for being a surrogate mother.

The clinical interviewer reviews the candidates’ history in an attempt to screen out women who have traumatic histories from which unresolved feelings may surface during stressful conditions. The interviewer also addresses the candidate’s motivation. It is crucial that the candidate obtain something for herself beyond financial remuneration. If she cannot focus on the greater good of the service she is performing, then traits such as low self-esteem, low intelligence and martyr patterns should be evaluated.

What’s Behind A Surrogate Mother’s Postpartum Depression?

Although many psychological issues are addressed during the screening, no test can determine issues regarded postpartum depression, which can be magnified by the surrogacy arrangement. A surrogate may not be worried about feeling detached from the baby, but instead may feel lonely for her intended parents. The reason for this sometimes stems from the relationship each party has built up over the course of the nine month pregnancy. It should be understood that the relationship between the surrogate and her Intended Parents is more than just phone calls and emails. In reality, personal details and intimate experiences may have been shared. Can you think of anything more intimate than carrying a baby for someone else?

Let’s take a look at some of the signs of postpartum depression:

-Postpartum depression occurs in about 10-20% of women, usually within a few months of delivery.
-Risk factors include previous major depression, psychosocial stress, inadequate social support, and previous premenstrual dysphoric disorder. (If the surrogate has had previous bouts with depression she may not make a good candidate in the first place)
-Symptoms include depressed mood, tearfulness, inability to enjoy pleasurable activities, trouble sleeping, fatigue, appetite problems, suicidal thoughts, feelings of inadequacy or rejection, and impaired concentration.
-Postpartum depression can interfere with a woman’s ability to care for herself or her family.

It really doesn’t matter if it is a surrogate mother or a woman carrying her own pregnancy, the root causes for postpartum depression are essentially the same: hormones. Hormones play a huge role with fluctuating levels of cortisol, estrogen, and progesterone, all decreasing rapidly within 48 hours after giving birth.

Surrogate Mother Postpartum Depression Recovery

The responsibility of recovery is mainly on the surrogate herself. She should start by setting realistic expectations for the surrogacy and how to recover post-birth. A good strategy is to try and avoid isolation by surrounding herself with supportive friends and family, and making time to talk to other surrogates about how they dealt with the situation. If her postpartum depression lasts for more than 2 weeks, then she should talk to her midwife or doctor. They may recommend that she take tests and medications to deal with her more severe form of postpartum depression.

It should be noted that just because postpartum depression is a possibility for a surrogate, it does not mean that the surrogacy was not a success. As mentioned above, postpartum depression can happen to anyone in a birthing situation. Being concerned and aware of this possibility is not only wise, but shows caring and respect for someone who has offered the greatest gift to her intended parents, the gift of life.

January 29, 2015

Surrogate Motherhood Throughout the 20th Century

In reality, surrogate motherhood goes back to the dawn of recorded history. Although ancient forms of surrogate motherhood were rarely documented, the one of the first examples comes to us from the bible. In one of the stories about Abraham, it is written that his wife Sarah experienced infertility. She asked her handmaiden, Hagar to carry a child for her and Abraham. Modern surrogacy, as it’s known today, however, didn’t really catch fire till the late 1970s. Here are just a few notable snippets from history, as we look back to the biggest moments in surrogacy.

1. 1978: The First Test Tube Baby

Louise Joy Brown was born after being conceived by in-vitro fertilization, which was performed by Dr. Patrick Steptoe and Robert Edwards—both of which were considered pioneers in their field. Prior to that, little Louise’s parents had been trying to have a baby for nine years before trying this new and experimental medical procedure. Later, Robert Edwards would go one to win the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his contribution.

2. 1980: The First Paid Traditional Surrogacy Arrangement

In this year, a 37-year old woman, whose pseudonym was Elizabeth Kane, made history as a the first documented traditional surrogate to receive compensation for birthing a son. She received $10,000 for the delivery.

3. 1983: The First Successful Pregnancy Through Egg Donation

Though not a surrogacy pregnancy, this remarkable procedure allowed a menopausal women to give birth by using donated eggs. Without this advancement, gestational surrogacy might not have been possible.

4. 1985: The First Gestational Surrogacy

This event was monumental moment in the history of surrogacy, as it was the first time a surrogate carried the biological child of a woman who had a hysterectomy, but still retained her ovaries.

5. 1988: The Baby “M” Case

This New Jersey Supreme Court case became the first American court case to rule on the validity of surrogacy agreements, when an infant’s parentage was called into question. To sum up the case, a married couple entered into a traditional surrogacy agreement, when Mark Beth Whitehead was inseminated by William Stern. Instead of carrying the baby to term and then handing it over to the intended parents, Whitehead delivered the child she named Melissa, changed her mind about the agreement and decided to keep the baby. The Sterns then sued for parental rights, but the courts ruled the contract invalid, making Whitehead the legal mother. The ruling acts as precedent in New Jersey till this day. Later, however, it was ordered that Melissa (known as Baby M) would be better off with her natural father and his wife, because the two could provide a more secure home.

6. 2001: The Oldest Recorded Surrogate Mother to Date

Viv, aged 54, became the world’s oldest surrogate, actually giving birth to her own grandchild. Since then the record has been broken.

7. 2005 Surrogate Gives Birth to Quintuplets

On April 26, 2005, Teresa Anderson delivered five boys as a gestational surrogate. Anderson was 54 years old at the time she agreed to the surrogacy arrangement, for a couple she had met online: Luisa Gonzalez and her husband, who had been battling infertility for over 10 years. Generously, when she found out that she was carrying quintuplets, she waived her $15,000 carrier fee. She felt that the intended parents could better use that money in raising their 5 children.

8. The Reigning Oldest Surrogate

In Japan, a woman aged 61 became the oldest surrogate mother ever, giving birth to her own grandchild. The woman’s daughter had no uterus, but doctors were still capable of harvesting her eggs. Though surrogacy is usually looked down on in Japan, she still made headlines because of the unusual circumstances.

From barely being mentioned to media sensations, surrogate motherhood has come a long way over the last century. Today, family member act as surrogate carriers, while celebrities and surrogacy agencies have brought the practice into the mainstream. Who knows where surrogacy will be in the next 20, 50 or 100 years.