Rochester Local

Wait, So How Does Surrogacy Work?


Editor’s Note: This post is Part 1 of a 3 part series (read part two and three), written from the perspective of a surrogate. We are so grateful to have this unique and personal glimpse into surrogacy.


Ever since I joined the world of surrogacy, I’ve been asked many questions.

Who is the couple? How did I find them? Is it my baby? Will I be able to give the baby up after birth?

These questions are natural and expected. I’ve joined several surrogacy communities full of women who are asked these same questions, and more. Naturally the people in my life wonder what is going on and how this works! Now that I’m pregnant and nearing my due date I’m often asked the usual questions about how I’m feeling and when am I due – then inevitably, the questions turn to – so how does this work? Allow me…

The world of surrogacy carries it’s own lingo. My husband still doesn’t know all of it, and needs me to clarify some of the lesser used terms, but here are some of the most frequently used abbreviations that are used when talking about surrogacy.

IPs– stands for Intended Parents. IM/IF – intended mother/intended father. These are the people who have encountered obstacles in their path to parenthood, and have turned to surrogacy to become parents.

The surrogate is often referred to as a GC – gestational carrier. This applies to me because the embryo that was transferred to me does not contain any of my genetic make up. Had I also donated my eggs, then I’d be referred to as a TS – traditional surrogate. This is far less common in the US, and in some states illegal. Thankfully there are women out there who donate their eggs, but do not carry the baby. Those donated eggs are some couples’ only chance at becoming parents.

RE – A Reproductive Endocrinologist is the doctor who works with the IPs and surrogate, and eventually performs the procedure of transferring the embryo to the GC. The RE reviews all (and I do mean ALL) of the GC’s medical history and background before clearing them to proceed. Then a medical protocol is established based on each GCs individual needs. Several weeks of blood tests and ultrasounds are performed while taking hormone injections, pills, patches, inserts…you name it, you may be prescribed it! Medications are generally taken about 3- 4 weeks before transfer, and then continued through the first trimester. Most of these medications are (in a nutshell) used to trick the body into thinking it’s pregnant, not attacking and rejecting the embryo, and working long enough for the placenta to be strong enough to work for itself. After pregnancy is confirmed by heartbeat and ultrasound, the surrogate is released to her choice of OB/midwife. So we are now in the hands of our midwife team at Mayo.

Agency – An agency is the business that serves as a middle man between IPs and GCs. This is the route we took. We are working with an agency that handles all of the everything – short of actually becoming pregnant. Through them we were matched with the wonderful couple that we’re carrying for. They’ve secured RE appointments, travel details, our legal team, contracts, financial details, medical and psychological screenings, background checks…as well as offered counseling, support, wisdom, and guidance. We are in regular and consistent contact with our IPs, and we have a terrific relationship with them, fortunately we get to spend our time talking about the fun stuff, and our agency handles all of the business!

Indy – This is short for independent. Some couples choose to navigate the world of surrogacy w/o the guidance of an agency. They secure all the details and contracts and legal steps, as well as finding a couple (most common it’s one they already know) on their own. REs set the requirements for surrogacy, so even if a couple decides to navigate surrogacy independent of an agency, there are still guidelines and requirements that need to be met and fulfilled before a surrogate will be approved to proceed.

Comp – Compensation. Sigh… for some reason this question comes up more often than I would have predicted. It’s strange because each time a friend or acquaintance of mine shares their latest endeavor with me, it has never occurred to me to find out what they’ll profit from it. Really? When did that become acceptable? Some do this altruistically, in fact, some states – like NY – require it. Some surrogates do receive compensation, and there are many variables to what that compensation looks like. While compensation is always a consideration when making decisions about many things, it was not the motivation for me. I would advise against asking a surrogate what she’s ‘making’. It’s tacky. It dirties the whole experience, and it will turn her off from wanting to answer any other questions you may have.

The process of surrogacy varies a little between agencies (and even more if doing this independently) however, for the most part, it is the same. After submitting several rounds of applications, being interviewed a few times, completing credit and background checks, as well as psychological and medical screenings, we filled out a profile – not unlike a dating profile. In addition to my pregnancy medical history, the profile gave an opportunity for potential parents to learn about me and my family. The questionnaire also asked what our ‘ideal match’ looked like, so thankfully, my husband was able to weed out any potential GB Packer fans! Among several other things, it was important for both Brian and I to have some form of a relationship during pregnancy, and beyond the birth of the baby. This profile was our opportunity to express that desire as it allowed us to look at profiles and find a couple who we felt connected to and who had similar expectations. Not everyone wants to remain in touch during and after the pregnancy but this was an important detail for all of us. I look forward to watching this baby bond and grow and flourish within his family.

Stay tuned for my followup post on the emotional and physical realities of surrogacy.


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