Building a Family through Surrogacy
Surrogacy with egg donation allows gay men to have children of their own. The surrogacy process usually begins with a visit to the Reproductive Endocrinologist (fertility specialist) to learn about the treatment, have baseline semen and infectious disease tests performed, and to discuss options for finding the appropriate surrogate mother. I’ve had the pleasure of helping gay men build families through surrogacy for over fifteen years, and have screened hundred of surrogate mothers. Surrogates are amazing women who devote a year – or more- of their lives to help others create a family of their own.
In our medical practice, most surrogate candidates are affiliated with agencies that conduct initial social and psychological screening, and obtain medical records for review. After the candidate is matched with an intended parent, she completes her medical screening with a fertility specialist experienced in gestational surrogacy treatment.
What is Expected of a Surrogate Mother and Her Health
I begin with a careful review of her past medical and obstetrical history and records. A surrogate mother should be between the ages of 21 and 42 years of age, have had at least one normal pregnancy and delivery without significant complications, and have a body mass index (BMI) less than 35. The goal of surrogacy screening is to insure to the best of our ability an optimal environment for the developing pregnancy and to minimize risks in the ensuing pregnancy.
The surrogate candidate should not have any chronic medical problem that could complicate the pregnancy such as high blood pressure or insulin requiring diabetes. She should not be taking any medication that could cause adverse effects on a developing baby, such as seizure medication. The surrogate’s prior deliveries should have been at or near term gestation which is defined as 37-40 weeks gestation. If a surrogacy agency has questions about a prospective candidate’s obstetrical history they usually contact us for additional review prior to the medical screening appointment.
Surrogates should maintain a healthy lifestyle of good nutrition, moderate exercise, and avoidance of exposure to smoking or heavy alcohol intake. Many surrogates are working mothers. It is important to review the daily work lives of the candidates to make sure they are realistic about the amount of work and homecare they are able to balance during the pregnancy. Some very physical or active jobs may slightly increase the risk of complications during a pregnancy, so it is important to have a plan in place for after a pregnancy occurs.
The medical screening includes testing for infectious diseases, urine drug testing, immunity to rubella, rubeola, and varicella, and a physical exam with uterine ultrasound and evaluation of the uterine cavity.
Relationships with Surrogates Differ Depending on the Parents to Be
Intended parents often have different expectations for their relationship with their surrogate. Some individuals want to become best of friends and be very involved in their life, while others prefer a more detached relationship during the pregnancy. The expectations of the surrogate mother vary as well. Some candidates have very busy lives and do not have the time or personal energy to start a busy friendship. All surrogates, regardless of their social expectations, have demonstrated a commitment to helping the intended parent have a baby.
Your surrogate mother will become part of your family’s life story and you will most likely develop and maintain very fond feelings and memories toward this individual. Select a woman that best fits this role for you and your future family. Ask your physician to help find an appropriate candidate that will optimize your chances for a successful pregnancy.
Guy Ringler, M.D.