By Meryl B. Rosenberg, Esq.
Modern technology has made parenting through surrogacy an option for having a family when you are unable to have one in the traditional fashion. Entering the world of surrogacy may seem daunting, especially when just beginning to embark on the surrogacy journey. However, surrogacy candidates should not fear the road they are about to travel; the surrogacy process is a well-developed pathway to parenthood. If the intended parents work with professionals in the field and follow the steps put in place by those professionals, the journey to parenthood through surrogacy will be a safe and successful one!
The surrogacy process consists of a number of steps. There are “programs” that are able to assist you in locating a surrogate, whether traditional or gestational, seeing you through the screening process, the contracting phase, a pregnancy and finalization of any required court process. The first decision you have to make is whether this process is the right thing for you. Professionals in the field should be able to assist you in making this important decision.
Once you have selected the agency, program or attorney you want to work with, work closely with them as a team of necessary professionals and with you toward realizing your dream; they will be your guide for the rest of your journey.
You should now be ready to be matched with a surrogate. The surrogate is a woman who will be eith a gestational carrier, meaning she will carry your embryo or an embryo created from the genetic material of an egg donor and the male partner through the in-vitro fertilization (IVF) process, or she will be a traditional surrogate, who will be artificially inseminated.
Note that with a traditional surrogate, the surrogate is artificially inseminated with the sperm of the intended/natural father. In some states the names of intended/natural father and intended/mother are entered on the original birth certificate. Other states require the intended mother, or co-parent, to participate in a step-parent adoption to enable her/his name to be entered on the birth certificate. With a gestational carrier, ovum or eggs and sperm of the “couple” are combined to create embryos that are implanted into the uterus of the carrier through the IVF process. In some cases, this involves the use of ovum or eggs from a donor. In either case, names of the intended/natural father and intended/natural mother or co-parent are entered on the original birth certificate by court order in many states; although, some still require a step-parent adoption.
The process of finding a surrogate may take between four and eight months; every case is different, and is somewhat dependent upon your personal considerations, as well as availability of the right match for you. As you can imagine, each surrogacy arrangement, as well as considerations in choosing a surrogate, is as different as the people involved.
After selecting a surrogate, the next step will be to have a medical and a psychological evaluation performed on the surrogate (if not done prior to the match). The program you are working with should have a close association with psychological specialists, as well as OB/GYNs and/or reproductive endocrinologists with whom they work in order to proceed with the process.
If the medical and psychological evaluations inform you that the surrogate is indeed a good surrogate candidate, a surrogacy agreement will then be prepared. When the surrogacy agreement is signed, you are ready to move on to the “medical” phase of the surrogacy process. The medical phase will either consist of embryo transfer or artificial insemination, depending upon the type of surrogacy arrangement that is involved.
With embryo transfer, the surrogate’s cycle will be synchronized with the “egg donor’s” cycle using medication. When the physician deems the time right, eggs will be retrieved, they will be fertilized in-vitro (in a laboratory), and then the resulting embryos will be transferred into the surrogate’s uterus. An embryo transfer may also be performed using frozen embryos. With artificial insemination, the surrogate will use an ovulation predictor test to determine the best time for insemination. When the surrogate is ovulating, she will be artificially inseminated with the donor’s sperm.
After a successful conception, either by artificial insemination or by embryo transfer, and a successful pregnancy, any child born as a result of the surrogacy becomes the couple’s sole responsibility at birth and after release from the hospital. Many times prior to birth, and sometimes after birth, you will continue with any necessary court proceedings to change the birth certificate, to complete a step-parent adoption, or to have an original birth certificate issued, whichever is applicable in your case. Your program will guide you in the applicable process to ensure your names are ultimately on the birth certificate of your child.
Remember, throughout what may seem like a lengthy process, when deciding to proceed with a surrogacy arrangement, you are embarking on an incredible journey toward parenthood.
Meryl B. Rosenberg, Esq. is the director of a comprehensive program specializing in surrogacy, egg donation and adoption at Parenting Options. She has been in the field of reproductive technology and adoption for nearly twelve years, has assisted hundreds of people build their families through these pathways, and is an active participant in furthering the education, development and expansion of the field of reproductive law. She may be contacted through Parenting Options at 301-217-0074.