Understanding the IVF process can help clarify how babies get their genetic material. In IVF, embryologists inject one sperm into one egg. This process results in an embryo, which is a fertilized egg. Each sperm and egg cell provides 23 chromosomes to the embryo. Together, these 46 chromosomes make up the embryo’s entire genome, and the surrogate never contributes genetic material to the embryo. An embryo’s genome contains approximately 20,000 genes, which are responsible for the growth and development of the fetus and beyond.
After embryologists create an embryo in an IVF lab, they transfer the embryo to the surrogate’s womb. The embryo then develops and receives nutrients and oxygen through the surrogate’s placenta. Interestingly, in addition to not sharing DNA, the surrogate and the baby also never share blood. Nutrients and oxygen diffuse through the placenta from the surrogate to the developing fetus, and the surrogate’s and fetus’s blood never mix.
While the surrogate does not provide DNA directly to the embryo, her health and the uterine environment she provides to the growing fetus are critical to the baby’s healthy development. Surrogacy epigenetics refers to the effects of the surrogate’s health and uterine environment on gene expression. For example, if the surrogate has a poor diet, the fetal genes involved in metabolism may express in a way that increases the baby’s lifetime risk of obesity and diabetes. Some studies suggest that surrogate stress and mental health issues may have epigenetic impacts on the baby’s brain development.
Although most of the human data on this subject comes from observational studies, animal studies have shown a link between pregnancy and offspring’s metabolic and brain development that can last over several generations. More research on this topic is being published each year, so if you are concerned about possible epigenetic effects during your surrogacy journey, talk with your doctor to learn more.
While a gestational surrogate does not directly contribute DNA to the baby, she can still influence gene expression and normal fetal development. We encourage and expect surrogates to adhere to a healthy diet and lifestyle throughout the pregnancy, and our team provides each surrogate with support resources to ensure the surrogate and baby’s wellbeing.
Genes vs. Genetic Expression
How can a surrogate influence a baby’s genes if she does not contribute DNA to the baby?. To understand the answer to this question, it is important to understand the difference between genes and genetic expression.
Genes are the building blocks of everything that makes a person unique. Genes influence peoples’ hair color, height, chances of developing certain diseases, and more. Each of a person’s 46 chromosomes contains hundreds of thousands of genes. As a whole, the human genome contains about 3 billion genetic base pairs!
Gene expression refers to the process of the body using genes to develop a biological product, such as a protein. The body does not express all genes in a person’s genome, and differences in gene expression can result in important differences in people’s physical and mental characteristics. While a surrogate’s health does not impact the DNA that makes up a baby’s genes, it may impact the baby’s gene expression.
A Healthy Lifestyle is Key
A healthy lifestyle can help surrogates create the best possible uterine environment for fetal development and optimal gene expression. At Pinnacle Surrogacy, we thoroughly screen all potential surrogates to make sure that they are physically and mentally healthy and that they live in a safe and nurturing environment. The surrogate then works with a doctor throughout her pregnancy to ensure that the baby develops normally. Focusing on wellness helps to protect the health of the surrogate and the baby.
Does A Surrogate Mother Share Blood With The Baby?
Epigenetics is just one of the many parts of surrogacy that people may misunderstand. While gestational surrogacy – and fertility treatments in general – are safer and more common than ever before, some myths persist. One of the most common myths is that the gestational surrogate is somehow related to the baby she carries or that the surrogate share blood with the baby. The fact is that a gestational surrogate does not share DNA with the baby she carries, and she is not related genetically to the baby in any way. The baby and the surrogate do not share blood either; instead the nutrients and oxygen are delivered to the baby through placenta that also prevents the blood sharing.
Knowing the facts behind gestational surrogacy can help surrogates and intended parents feel confident in the surrogacy process. It also helps to explain the surrogacy journey to friends and family who might misunderstand the process.
Does a surrogate baby have the mother’s DNA?
A surrogate baby may have its mother’s DNA but it depends on the source of the egg. A baby born through gestational surrogacy only inherits DNA from the sperm source and the egg provider and not the surrogate mother. This means that if the eggs used in the surrogacy process are intended mother’s, then yes; a surrogate baby will have the mother’s DNA. This is not the case when donor eggs are used. We invite to you explore our using donor eggs for your surrogacy journey.
Will the baby look like surrogate mother?
No, the baby will not look like a gestational surrogate. A baby born through surrogacy process will have a combination of physical characteristics (looks) of the egg and sperm provider since the baby’s DNA only comes from the egg and sperm used to create the embryo, and not the surrogate.
Is a surrogate mother related to the baby?
No, a gestational surrogate mother is not related to the baby she carries. A baby born through gestational surrogacy only inherits DNA from the sperm and egg provider and is never related to the surrogate mother in any way.
How does surrogacy affect the child?
The uterine environment of the surrogate provides nourishment for the baby’s growth and development. A healthy environment also supports proper function of the baby’s DNA, a process called epigenetics. Simply put, when a baby develops in a good environment, DNA receives epigenetic signals from the surrogate mother that help it to work properly especially when it comes to brain development and metabolism. The DNA comes from the sperm and egg provider and remains unchanged but can be modified to express differently based on the epigenetic signals from the surrogate mother. This is analogous to a computer where DNA is like hardware and epigenetic signals are like software.
Is a surrogate baby biologically yours?
Yes, a surrogate baby is biologically yours if your eggs are used in the surrogacy process. The baby’s DNA is only inherited from the egg and sperm provider and not the surrogate mother. This means that if intended parents’ eggs and sperm are used, biologically, the baby is only related to the parents and not the surrogate.
Are You Considering Surrogacy?
If you are looking to grow your family or help future parents in need, we can help you on your surrogacy journey. We work directly with exceptional surrogates and intended parents to make the process as safe, comfortable, and straightforward as possible.
For additional information and resources, we invite you to explore our site, where you can learn about surrogacy success rates, the cost of surrogacy, view examples of surrogate profiles, learn how we screen our surrogates and more!