There are so many reasons turn to a surrogate pregnancy to be able to have a baby. Some of the most common reasons include women who are in an advanced maternal age, women who have a medical condition that prevents them from carrying a pregnancy, or even women who have already undergone several failed IVF cycles. Surrogate pregnancy is also a great way for single dads and male gay couples to have a baby. For these people, and many others, surrogacy is an excellent solution that enables them to have a baby they simply could not have had on their own.
What is a surrogate pregnancy? Surrogate Pregnancy Meaning
When you are starting to look for information on surrogacy all these new terms can understandably be quite confusing. So what exactly is a surrogate pregnancy?
The word surrogate comes from the Latin word surrogate, which means “to substitute” or “to put in another’s place.” A surrogate pregnancy, also called surrogacy, is the process where a woman (the surrogate) carries a baby for someone else (also known as the intended parent/s).
There are two types of surrogates: traditional surrogacy, and gestational surrogacy. Traditional surrogacy involves using the surrogate’s own egg, inseminated by sperm from the father or donor. In this case, the surrogate mother is the actual biological mother of the child. Needless to say, this can result in some rather complicated legal considerations, and most fertility clinics, including ours, do not work with traditional surrogates.
Here at Pinnacle Surrogacy, we work with gestational surrogates, using the intended mother’s egg or a donor egg, which is then fertilized by the father’s sperm or that of a donor. The surrogate mother is not genetically related to the baby and they do not share any DNA.
For more information on exactly what surrogacy is and the meaning of surrogacy, see this page
How Does Surrogate Pregnancy Work?
The actual process of how a surrogate pregnancy works involves multiple steps but is really quite straightforward
The condensed version is this:
- The intended parents create an embryo using different combinations of eggs and sperm (for example, using the intended mother’s egg and the father’s sperm, or a donor egg and the father’s sperm and so forth)
- The embryo is frozen
- The intended parents choose a surrogate, and a match meeting is arranged
- Once the match is confirmed, a surrogacy contract is signed by both the surrogate and intended parents. The embryo transfer calendar is then planned.
- Embryo transfer takes place with subsequent confirmation of surrogate pregnancy
- The surrogate is then released to her own obstetrician for care throughout the pregnancy and delivery.
For more detailed information on the questions of how does surrogate process work, please see this page.
How Is Surrogate Pregnancy Conceived?
The question of exactly how a surrogate pregnancy conceived is a common one. A surrogate pregnancy is really no different than a “regular” pregnancy when it comes to the actual biological facts: an egg unites with a sperm to form an embryo which attaches to the mother’s uterus and grows into a full-term infant.
In the case of a surrogate pregnancy, an egg (either from the intended mother, or an egg donor) is fertilized in the lab with sperm (from the intended father or a sperm donor) that grows over a few days into a multi-celled embryo capable of attaching to the uterine lining of the surrogate mother once it has been introduced into the uterus by the physician.
For more detailed information on embryo creation and transfer see this page.
What Are the Chances of Surrogate Getting Pregnant?
The chances of the surrogate getting pregnant as a result of an embryo transfer are excellent, with a successful pregnancy being closely tied to the age of the woman who provided the egg. The younger the woman whose eggs are used, the higher the chances of success. Successful birth rates decrease gradually for women over the age of 35 and are at their lowest for women who are over 40.
If donor eggs are used, this results in a 65 to 70 percent live birth rate per embryo transferred. This rate increases to 75 to 80 percent if PGT-A is used, which is a genetic test done on the embryos created through IVF that screens for abnormalities in the chromosomes.
Surrogate Pregnancy Symptoms
Once the embryo is implanted into the surrogate mother’s uterus, the pregnancy develops in the same way a regular pregnancy does. 1 week after the donor egg embryo transfer, we perform the first BETA blood test, which is a test that measures the rise in a hormone produced in the body during pregnancy. Then we repeat the test two days later and again one week after that. If the levels of the hormone are rising as expected, the pregnancy will be confirmed by ultrasound at the six week mark of pregnancy.
The surrogate mother should be aware and look for early signs of pregnancy:
- Nausea, which can also include vomiting, can occur any time of the day or night, even though it is known as morning sickness, due to the change in hormones from the pregnancy. Nausea usually subsides as the pregnancy progresses and very likely will ultimately disappear altogether.
- Tender, swollen breasts are also common, again due to hormonal changes in early pregnancy. Like nausea, this will also decrease as hormone levels adjust.
- Another hormone related symptom in early pregnancy is fatigue and is usually due to the rise in the hormone progesterone.
Surrogate Pregnancy Complications
Surrogates are women typically under 40 years old, who have a history of uncomplicated pregnancies and deliveries, so this greatly minimizes the chance of complications. But pregnancy, even under the best of conditions, is still a biological process that does carry some risk, and surrogate pregnancy complications are much the same as in regular pregnancy.
- Preeclampsia: with an embryo formed from a donor egg, there does seem to be a slightly higher risk of developing high blood pressure during the pregnancy. This condition is known as preeclampsia.
- Gestational diabetes is another possible complication; it is diabetes that was not present in the surrogate mother prior to the pregnancy. If this condition is not controlled, it can lead to high blood pressure and a baby that is too large, which increases the chance the surrogate might have to undergo a cesarean section.
- Preterm labor is also possible, meaning labor prior to the 37th week of pregnancy. If the baby is born before 37 weeks of development, this carries an increased risk of health problems for the infant, as the baby’s lungs, brain and other organs have not finished developing. Normal organ maturation occurs during the final weeks of a full-term pregnancy which is 39 to 40 weeks.
- Among the more common, but treatable, pregnancy complications are pregnancy related anxiety and depression. Both can occur while the surrogate mother is pregnant or after delivery and can have a significant negative effect on both the surrogate as well as the baby.
- Some pregnant women can develop a condition known as hyperemesis gravidarum, which simply means severe and persistent nausea and vomiting which persists far beyond the relatively normal morning sickness of early pregnancy. For some unfortunate women, this can even extend into the third trimester. Sometimes, if the symptoms lead to weight loss, dehydration and feeling faint, hospitalization for treatment may become necessary.
- A common complication of pregnancy is iron deficiency anemia in which the red blood cell count becomes too low due to not having enough iron in the body for the red cells to function properly. If not treated with supplemental iron by the medical provider, iron deficiency anemia can lead to preterm births as well as low birth weight.
- Miscarriage, or an early pregnancy loss, is also possible. This is a pregnancy loss due to natural causes that happens before 20 weeks. Signs of a miscarriage can include vaginal spotting or bleeding, cramping, or fluid or tissue passing from the vagina. Vaginal bleeding or spotting alone does not necessarily mean that a miscarriage is occurring or will occur. If the surrogate mother experiences any of these signs she should see her obstetrician immediately
- After 20 weeks, a pregnancy loss is known as a stillbirth. In about half of all stillbirth cases, no cause can be found for the loss. Some of the factors that lead to a stillbirth can include problems with the placenta, an infection, chromosomal abnormalities, and health problems in the surrogate mother.
Surrogate Pregnancy Success Stories
We have helped many couples as well as individuals over the years to become parents via a surrogate. It’s understandable that many patients don’t necessarily want to share in public the details of their fertility journeys, including using a surrogate to have a baby. However, we can share this recent testimonial from one of our patients as an example of our surrogate pregnancy success stories:
“We are so grateful and ecstatic to have our new son in our family. We experienced heartbreaking miscarriages and were told we could not have another pregnancy. Our other son wanted a sibling so bad, that he wrote a note to “the storks” asking for a brother or sister to lay with and help take care of. Thanks to Premium Surrogacy, Dr Jain and his wonderful staff, we have been blessed with a beautiful baby boy! We feel that our family is “complete” but we would highly recommend Pinnacle Surrogacy to any family seeking to bring another child into their family. Perhaps it’s not quite “in the usual way” but just as amazing and wonderful. We are forever grateful!” ~ A.
This is the experience one of our surrogates had with Pinnacle Surrogacy:
“Amazing & Supportive agency!!!! I just completed my surrogacy journey and it was hands down something I will never forget. I knew I wanted to be a surrogate but I was a little hesitant and scared. I took a leap just based off the shared stories and reviews of California Pinnacle Surrogacy and I would not change this for anything. This agency has an amazing team (that feel more like really supportive friends) that works with you every step of the way. They are professional, caring and they make the whole journey feel so smooth. They honestly think of everything to make sure you are comfortable and doing good. I honestly felt like top priority with them, not just a transaction. Some members of their team have also been surrogates themselves which is so helpful hearing their experiences and getting guidance. The process was seamless and it was such a pleasure meeting and working with all of them. I would 100% recommend them if you are thinking about becoming a surrogate.” J.
Surrogacy or Adoption
Having a baby by surrogacy or by adoption are both worthwhile ways of adding to your family. Be assured there is no right or wrong way to go about this journey! Of course, no one but you can make this decision and it has to be right for you and your family.
We do not specialize in adoption, so we have very limited information about the process. What we can do is highlight the main benefits of having a baby via a surrogate:
- The most obvious benefit is that you will most likely have a baby! Our surrogate mothers are in their prime years for childbearing, they are healthy, and they have already carried healthy pregnancies to term.
- Another benefit is that surrogacy removes the risk of carrying a pregnancy for the intended mother, and this is crucial if she is at an advanced maternal age or has underlying medical problems that could put her and the baby at risk. Having a baby via a surrogate also enables the intended mother to continue with her life and work routine without interruption
- In addition, for intended parents, a baby carried by a surrogate can actually be your biological child. If the intended mother can contribute viable eggs that can then be fertilized by the sperm of the male partner, the embryo created is just as closely genetically related to the intended parents as if the baby were created naturally. If the intended mother cannot contribute viable eggs, the male partner can contribute sperm to fertilize donor eggs, making him biologically related to the baby.
- Most states support surrogacy, and many states have laws which are very favorable and protect both the surrogate and intended parents. There are only three states in the U.S. in which surrogacy is completely banned and those states are Michigan, Louisiana, and Nebraska. If you reside in one of those locations, you should consult an experienced surrogacy attorney for advice.
- Having a baby via a surrogate is also an option for male gay couples or single men to become fathers and is the only option that allows them to have a biological child through the use of their sperm and donor eggs.
How much does surrogate pregnancy cost
First of all, it’s important to understand that each person or couple’s journey toward having a baby using a surrogate is different, so the cost will vary from one client to another, as there are so many moving parts.
Having said that, we want to be completely transparent about the costs involved, as this process involves emotional as well as financial costs. Here at Pinnacle Surrogacy, our average cost for our full surrogacy process usually is between $140 and $160k. If circumstances arise such as the surrogate needing to have a c-section or she is carrying twins, costs will increase.
Also, you should be aware that many surrogacy agencies will seem to have slightly lower costs when you first see their pricing, but these numbers do not include all the costs involved, including escrow charges, legal bills, insurance for the surrogate and the payment to the fertility doctor. We will provide you with an initial detailed fee schedule that reflects all of these charges. For more information on the cost of surrogacy, please see this page.
Having a baby via a surrogate pregnancy
As you can see from the information we have presented here, having a baby via a surrogate pregnancy is a wonderful option for many people who would not otherwise have had the chance to have a child. Choosing an agency that is transparent about both the process as well as the financial commitment involved, and who will fully support you throughout your journey is crucial.
For intended parents, you can find out more about the legal considerations involved here, as well as information on finding a surrogate at this page. We also have information on surrogacy epigenetics, that field of science that researches the prenatal environmental influences on the baby’s development, known as epigenetics.
If you are interested in becoming a surrogate, having a completely supportive, knowledgeable and professional agency behind you can make the difference between a fabulous experience and one that you would rather not repeat. If you are interested in becoming a surrogate, please complete a short online application here to get started.
If you are ready to begin the process of either exploring having a baby via a surrogate or becoming a surrogate yourself, please reach out to us by contacting us online or calling us directly at 310 566 1487. We are always happy to answer questions and to address any concerns you may have.