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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.

January 29, 2015

The Overwhelming Benefits of Working with a Surrogacy Agency

Now that you’ve done an extensive amount of research, you’re ready to team up with a gestational carrier (or perhaps become a surrogate yourself) and a surrogacy agency—which is key to making this seemingly insurmountable feat really happen. A full-service surrogacy agency can guide you through the process of pregnancy. Here are the five best reasons to work with a surrogacy agency:

Legal Representation. Understanding the ins and outs of your state’s laws on surrogacy can be complicated, one reason being that they can differ drastically from state to state. Furthermore, reproductive laws change quickly because of the rapid advancement of reproductive technology. Considering this, a full-service agency may be the best option because they have legal staff on-hand who can work on your case.

Some of the services include:

Pre-birth orders
Post-birth orders
Contracts
Adoptions
Wills and estate planning

Screening. A full-service surrogacy agency offers a sophisticated screening process that enables you to learn about the personal and medical background history of your donor, or surrogate and intended parents. An agency has the resources to conduct a full financial and criminal background check, not to mention issuing the proper medical tests to determine whether a healthy pregnancy is possible. Also included in this process is a screening for sexually transmitted diseases, which comes highly recommended by The American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Beyond health and stability, you’ll want to work with individuals that share your values on relevant issues.

Mediator. Both the intended parents and the surrogate need to focus on the things that really matter in a pregnancy, like building positive relationships and caring for the new baby about to enter the world. That’s why an agency is there to distribute any fees passed between the two parties, such as stipends and reimbursement. Other issues include coordinating medical appointments, making travel arrangements, referring individuals to councilors and other professionals when needed, and organizing communication. All of this minimizes the friction and stress between parents and surrogates.

Support. When you work with a surrogate agency you get a dedicated and knowledgeable team, each a professional in their field. From matching and screening, to matters of social work and legal support, if any problems arise or if there is a job to done, an agency has the right tools and people to effectively handle the situation.

Now that you know the benefits of working with a skilled surrogate agency, the next step is to apply to become a surrogate, or if you are an intended parent sign up for a consult. The best thing you can do is find a caring surrogacy agency, like Surrogate Parenting Services, that will be there for you throughout the entire process, from finding the right surrogate (or intended parents) to birth.

December 9, 2014

Gestational Surrogacy or Traditional Surrogacy? That is the Question

A widely misunderstood concept relating to surrogacy is the difference between traditional surrogacy and gestational surrogacy. These words are mistakenly used interchangeably in order to describe a woman carrying a child for intended parents. How do you determine which one is correct to use?

 

Let’s start with traditional surrogacy, because it is the oldest form. In a traditional surrogacy, the surrogate mother shares half of her genes with the baby. The other belongs to either the intended father or a separate sperm donor. Because only the intended father or sperm donor contributes half of the genetic material, the pregnancy can be achieve through what is called artificial insemination. This is a procedure that allows sperm to be inserted directly into the surrogate’s uterus to fertilize the surrogate’s egg. The surrogate will then go on to carry and birth the child.

 

Until relatively recently, traditional surrogacy was the only type of surrogacy available. It wasn’t until 1978 that a procedure known as in-vitro fertilization (IVF) was developed, which allowed embryos to be created outside of the womb. In IVF, the eggs from an intended mother are cultivated and retrieved to be fertilized in a lab with the sperm from an intended father or sperm donor, and then placed inside the surrogate.

 

This advancement in reproductive technology led to the emergence and development of gestational surrogacy. Ever since the 1990s, gestational surrogacy has been the most popular choice among intended parents, and is now almost the only type surrogacy agencies will offer. Current statistical estimates suggest that 99 percent of all the world’s surrogacies are gestational.

 

As people started using IVF more and more, new terminology and labels were needed to distinguish between traditional surrogates and those who became pregnant through IVF. For about 20 years, surrogates have been referred to gestational carriers to set them apart in court from traditional surrogates. This helps alleviate the confusion of whether the surrogate contributed their own genes to the child, or are merely carrying the child for another individual. The use of “surrogate mother” in Baby M (1989), “gestational surrogate” in Johnson v. Calvert (1993), and “gestational carrier” in Hodas v. Morin (2004) shows not only the shift in the technology of surrogacy, but also a shift in the language of surrogacy.

 

So the term Gestational Carrier, or GC, was established for clarity and convenience. However, even though the popularity of surrogacy has exploded in recent years, thanks in part to celebrities becoming more open about their surrogacy experiences, many people are still unaware of this important distinction.

 

Today, some people still prefer the term gestational surrogate, or GS, because they feel the label comes off cold, and doesn’t capture the full surrogate experience, even though the carrier’s relationship with the baby, or babies, and the Intended Parents is a very personal one.

 

The question then becomes which is the correct surrogacy term to use, for which the correct response is: whichever makes you the most comfortable. Surrogate and gestational carrier are used without harm in most situations, except in legal circumstances. An intended parent or surrogate can openly discuss with each other their own preference. After all, it’s your surrogacy experience!

 

If you are interested in becoming a surrogate with Surrogate Parenting Services, contact us now at (949) 363-9525.

December 2, 2014

5 Signs You Are the Perfect Surrogate Mother

Before applying for surrogacy, it is important to gauge whether you possess the emotional and intellectual temperaments necessary for the successful completion of the monumental task of becoming a surrogate mother. Here are some of the character attributes every surrogate mother should have:

Organization

A good surrogate mother should have scheduling down to an exact science. Period. After all, gestational surrogates are responsible for a slew of important medical appointments, telephone calls with intended parents, and important documents to gather and send out. So whether you thrive best in a controlled chaos or have a calendar finely tuned to down to the millisecond, an excellent surrogate mother will be on the ball when it comes to organization.

Family Oriented

Yeah, it’s kind of in the job description. To be a surrogate, you have to be a natural mother and caretaker. Tantrums, spit-ups, massive piles of diapers—if you could, you would list these skills on a job application under experience. Being family oriented is essential when you take on the surrogate role. Think of it as an extreme form of babysitting for the intended parents, that lasts over nine months.

Generally Healthy

As with most any reputable surrogacy agency, when you apply to become a surrogate, you should expect a little probing. Certain physical qualifications need to be met, such as a healthy body mass index (BMI), not being a smoker or drug user, and within a certain age limit. But really, that’s just a snippet of the requirements we ask from our surrogates. Intended parents really want the most physically and mentally healthy surrogate possible to have their child. Wouldn’t you?

Open-minded

One of the best things you can have is an open mind, whether you are the gestational surrogate or the intended parents. Consider that, just like in real life, there are some events in surrogacy that are completely out of your control. We are, after all, talking about a human baby who is on their own schedule—not the agency’s, the intended parent’s, and definitely not your own.

Motherhood

Probably the most important qualification a surrogate mother can possess is a successful previous birth. This prerequisite is usually unwavering for most any serious agency, and for good reason. A surrogate must prove that she is capable of carrying her own child before she can carry someone else’s child. What you must understand is that infertility is rather common, and with the cost of surrogacy being so high, a woman without any successful births has an unpredictability that most intended parents don’t want in a situation that is already so unpredictable.

Think you’ve got some or all of these qualities? If you are interested in becoming a surrogate with Surrogate Parenting Services, and want to learn the exact requirements, contact (949) 363-9525 or info@surrogateparenting.com.

November 25, 2014

Terms to Know in the Surrogacy Process: FSH

Follicle Stimulating Hormone, or FSH, is an important hormone monitored during the surrogacy process. Naturally occurring, it secretes from the pituitary gland and, along with Luteinizing Hormone (LH), plays an incredibly important role in normal female reproduction. The primary purpose of FSH is to stimulate the growth of the ovarian follicle in the development of eggs. The pituitary gland receives messages from the ovaries and the developing egg and releases FSH to stimulate the growth of a dominant follicle (containing an egg), which is subsequently ovulated.

In the beginning stages of the menstrual cycle, FSH stimulates many eggs to start growing from their immature, dormant state. During this initial phase, the largest, most developed follicle containing the most mature egg starts secreting Estradiol which will trigger ovulation so that the most mature egg can be released for potential fertilization. The immature eggs will also be released at the same time.

Menopause: The Increase of FSH and the Decline of Egg Count

Women are born with a number of eggs, ranging from 1-2 million. By the time a woman reaches puberty she has around 400,000 eggs remaining. During a woman’s reproductive lifespan, she should have an average of 400 ovulatory cycles, during which the 400,000 eggs will be relased. As a woman gets older, these dormant eggs eventually deteriorate in genetic quality and can cause their baby health problems should they conceive. Also as the ovaries age, the pituitary gland senses this change and has to secrete higher amounts of FSH to achieve the monthly ovulation. At one point, when all eggs are exhausted, menopause manifests and the serum FSH levels are extremely elevated, but to no avail. In the premenopausal years, this decline in number and quality of eggs can be checked by measuring circulating blood FSH levels. The higher this level is, the poorer the prognosis to conceive.

How FSH works in the Surrogacy Process

Following the menstrual period, you will begin Controlled Ovarian Supra-ovulation with daily injections. During this time you will also continue taking other medication to prevent ovulation prior to surgical retrieval. You will make several visits to the doctor’s office to monitor your ovarian response by transvaginal ultrasound and by blood tests, which measure your hormone levels. In the unfortunate event that you are not responding well to the stimulation medication, the mediation dosage will continue to be adjusted. In a typical situation, after 8 – 13 days of stimulation medication, enough eggs should have reached the maturation range.  At that point, you will be instructed to take in intra-muscular injection to induce the final maturational changes in the eggs and prepare them for retrieval approximately, about 36 hours later.

FSH’s Effect on Eggs

As a general rule, the younger the woman and the higher the complement of eggs to start with determine the number of eggs that will reach maturity under the influence of FSH. As a typical example, a 25-year-old woman can produce 20-30 eggs after receiving stimulation medications for about two weeks.

In general, FSH and other fertility hormones administered under controlled medical supervision are very safe to use in the surrogacy process. The patient is closely monitored by ultrasound examinations and blood hormone levels until the time of egg retrieval, which involves the harvesting of all the maturing eggs from both ovaries.

The Side Effects of FSH

FSH has a tendency to disappear quickly, in addition to having a short half-life in the body. Some minor side effects are not uncommon while taking these fertility hormones. These include headache; mild nausea or stomach pain; mild numbness or tingly feeling; mild pelvic pain, tenderness, or discomfort; stuffy or runny nose, sore throat; breast swelling or tenderness and premenstrual like symptoms.

Want to learn more about surrogacy? If you are interested in becoming a surrogate with Surrogate Parenting Services, and want to learn the exact requirements, contact (949) 363-9525 or info@surrogateparenting.com.