Surrogacy Procedure

The surrogacy procedure gives the gift of pregnancy

By Sarah Leavitt, Medical Research EditorLast modified: January 17, 2012

Surrogacy Procedure

The procedure for surrogacy can be carried out in a number of ways. Patients who can use their own sperm and eggs can use surrogacy in a usual IVF procedure. Those who cannot use their natural eggs or sperm can opt for donated eggs or donated sperm to be use.

The first step in the surrogacy procedure is establishing agreements between all parties involved. The patients will have chosen a surrogate mother, either a friend or stranger, who will have been screened to ensure good health and quality reproductive organs. The surrogate mother will need to sign a document that legally detaches her from the child after birth. Though daunting, it is best to have agreements for every type of complication that could occur. In the United States, there have been court cases over unexpected complications such as a medical problem that requires doctors to abort the baby while one person does not believe in abortion. Parents can familiarize themselves with the rights and responsibilities of donors in order to understand more about the circumstances.  

Depending on who is providing the eggs, either the surrogate mother or the intended mother will take follicle stimulating hormones to spark the uterus in creating more eggs. A male partner can provide his sperm or donated sperm may be used to fertilize with the eggs. Fertilizing the sperm and egg is usually done with in-vitro fertilization or intrauterine insemination (IUI). If the male providing his sperm has certain male fertility factors, doctors can use IUI to directly inject sperm into the center of an egg. Otherwise, the sperm and egg will fertilize in a laboratory dish under a normal IVF procedure.

The surrogate mother will take medications that prepare the uterus for pregnancy. These hormones suppress her menstrual cycle and encourage the endometrium (uterine wall) to thicken. The thickness of the wall is crucial to the embryo attaching and being able to develop.

When the eggs are mature, doctors will extract multiple eggs from the person providing them and place them in a laboratory dish, as in the regular IVF procedure. After 3 to 5 days, the embryos will have developed and cells divided.

Doctors will examine the embryos to determine which one(s) to implant into the uterus of the surrogate mother. After the embryo transfer, the surrogate mother will proceed with a pregnancy as normal. The couple or intended parents are usually very involved with the pregnancy process and cover the costs of the surrogate mother’s needs.

Once the baby is born, the baby is given to the legal parents.

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