It’s important for those considering becoming a surrogate to know how these pregnancies differ from their personal pregnancies. Surrogates may fail to realize in advance that a surrogacy pregnancy experience can be much different from their own personal pregnancy and the disconnect can result in a poor experience. Besides understanding the qualifications to become a surrogate, it is essential to acknowledge and mentally prepare for the differences between your personal pregnancy and a surrogacy pregnancy.
Before the surrogate pregnancy
If you’re a gestational surrogate (as opposed to a traditional one) conception will be very different. Gestational carriers require in vitro fertilization (IVF). This process joins a woman’s egg with sperm outside of the body. Next, the fertilized egg (embryo) is implanted into your uterus via a syringe. You may have one or multiple eggs transferred during IVF. To prepare for IVF, you take hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, and Lupron about three weeks prior to the embryo transfer procedure.
In general, you’ll most likely be taking more medications than a personal pregnancy requires. These medications might include self-administered injections as well as pills. You’ll also work with more medical professionals. A Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE) will conduct a medical screening and perform your embryo transfer. This doctor might be from a different state and, if so, you will have to travel for the procedure. After the procedure, you’ll rest for a couple of days before flying home.
During the pregnancy
You can also expect to see more medical staff at the beginning of your pregnancy than you did with your own children. Nurses will collect blood samples, check your hormone levels, and complete ultrasounds. Around 10 to 12 weeks into the pregnancy, surrogates typically stop taking hormones and have fewer doctor visits. As with any pregnancy, you continue to have ultrasounds and checkups and take standard prenatal supplements. At this point, the physical symptoms of your pregnancy are the same whether it’s conceived naturally or through IVF. Of course, every pregnancy is different.
Mentally, you might still feel extra emotional as a result of hormones, but there will be differences. When you’re a surrogate, your mind doesn’t have to go through the mental preparations of becoming a mother. You aren’t budgeting for another child, but instead are being financially compensated for your pregnancy. You won’t be designing a nursery or flipping through books of baby names. You’ll have the support of the intended parents and they’ll be the ones making post-birth plans, not you.
Instead, you’re going to prepare yourself to part ways with the child you’re carrying upon birth. Many surrogates find it useful and comforting to think of it as babysitting. Communication with parents during the pregnancy can feel very exciting and a sudden lack of communication after birth makes some surrogates feel forgotten about. This, coupled with your estrogen and progesterone levels dropping, can make you feel depressed. During pregnancy, discuss with the intended parents if you would like any updates after the birth and mentally prepare for the effects of your readjusting hormones.
After the surrogate pregnancy
Some surrogates find recovering from their surrogacy pregnancy to be easier than recovering from their personal deliveries. Because there isn’t an infant keeping you up at night and you don’t need to breastfeed, you can get adequate sleep right away. Your breasts may harden from producing milk, and not emptying. General painkillers can help with this pain. Alternatively, you can sometimes arrange to pump milk for the new parents. Mentally, most surrogates recover well and are proud to have helped a family.
No two relationships between intended parents and surrogates are exactly the same. Some surrogates may keep in touch with intended parents for years, while others wish them the best and don’t keep much further contact. Many factors affect pregnancy. How you feel during the pregnancy, as well as for the delivery, will vary.
In general, with a surrogacy arrangement, you’ll have more involved parties, more medications, and less post-pregnancy planning. If you’re considering a surrogate pregnancy, try to talk to someone who has been through the journey before and gather support from friends and family who can be there for you during the process. A support system is crucial for a successful surrogacy journey. There are also several questions to ask yourself if you’re considering becoming a surrogate to see if surrogacy is a good fit for you.