Assisted Reproduction has come a long way due to incredible advancements in modern medicine, making it more accessible than ever before. For those who are trying to conceive – but have been unsuccessful using natural methods – there exist a multitude of options to choose from, which can help in starting a family.
With so many choices out there when it comes to one’s fertility journey, the process might seem overwhelming. However, for many intended parents, IVF with Surrogacy is a beacon of hope after traditional IUI or IVF treatments weren’t successful in yielding a pregnancy. Choosing an IVF procedure combined with the services of a surrogate offers some of the best success rates out there, and can offer confidence in finally starting a family.
In this post, we’ll go over the details of IVF with Surrogacy, the types of treatments offered, cost overview, in-depth process, as well as success rates and steps to choosing a surrogate agency.
What is IVF with Surrogacy?
IVF with Surrogacy involves similar steps to a traditional IVF treatment plan, with the biggest difference being the implantation stage – which of course uses a surrogate, as opposed to the intended parent, in order to host the pregnancy. There are many reasons why intended parents might choose IVF using a surrogate to complete their fertility journey, ranging from simply not being able to conceive naturally, to medical procedures or ailments that prevent them from undergoing their own gestation. Whatever the reason behind the choice, IVF with a Surrogate is an excellent fertility option with a high success rate, for those eager to finally welcome a baby into their lives.
How does IVF work?
IVF stands for In Vitro Fertilization, which is a type of assisted reproductive technology (ART) in which the fertilization occurs outside the body. In fact, in vitro means “in glass” in Latin, since the merging of the egg and the sperm actually occurs inside a petri dish, in a laboratory setting. These ART (Assisted Reproductive Technology) Labs are facilities where the actual fertilization and development of embryos takes place prior to a transfer into the uterus. The embryologists who work in the lab are considered the “babysitters” of the fertility world, since they care for the embryos as they grow and develop into “blastocysts” – the final stage of the embryo before it is ready for implantation.
Since IVF occurs entirely outside the uterus, it’s most commonly used with gestational surrogacy or for couples who need fertility treatment. In some cases, a traditional IVF procedure may not be successful due to:
- Advanced age
- Unhealthy lifestyle
- Genetic conditions
If you’re a hopeful parent wondering about the IVF process, it’s important to know that the egg and sperm used in IVF can either come from you and your partner, or from screened and reputable donors. Whatever your final choice, modern medicine has given people multiple options when it comes to conceiving a child via IVF.
What types of surrogacy services are there?
Surrogacy is a type of assisted reproduction where another person offers to carry a pregnancy to term on behalf of the intended parents. In other words, the legal mother of the child does not actually give birth – the surrogate does. Once the pregnancy results in a successful birth, the intended parents take their baby home as a newly formed family.
There are two basic forms of surrogacy:
- Traditional. The surrogate donates her own egg, meaning that she’s genetically related to the child. The fertilization process is either completed through IUI or IVF.
- Gestational. The surrogate does not donate her own egg and is not genetically related to the child. Instead, an embryo is transplanted and the surrogate carries that pregnancy to term. This has rapidly become the most common and preferred form of surrogacy.
Almost all surrogacies involve an iron-clad legal arrangement that covers every aspect of the process. This is absolutely crucial since state surrogacy laws vary greatly, with certain states like California or Oregon viewed as surrogacy-friendly, while others having more restrictive and complex laws and statutes. The intricate legalities involved can make anyone feel overwhelmed, which is why lawyers who specialize in surrogacy law (also known as reproductive law) are so essential to the process.
So is IVF with Surrogacy the best option for you? While you can certainly go through IVF without using a surrogate (in which case, the embryo will get transferred into the intended mother’s biological mother’s womb), IVF with surrogacy continues to be one of the most successful fertility treatments for hopeful parents looking to expand their family.
What is the IVF treatment for surrogates?
If the goal for intended parents is to have a baby that’s biologically connected to the parents, while utilizing the services of a surrogate, then undergoing an IVF procedure is required. Let’s review the step-by-step process for going forward with In-Vitro Fertilization.
Undergoing IVF Treatment
- Preparing the body – After undergoing thorough pre-testing which includes bloodwork and ultrasounds, the intended mother will usually start an “IVF STIM Cycle,” achieved by starting “STIM” medications which stimulate ovulation, help eggs mature, and prepare the mother’s womb.
- Determining if eggs are ready – It usually takes 1 to 2 weeks of medical preparation before the eggs can be retrieved. Doctors will use non-invasive procedures like a transvaginal ultrasound and/or blood tests to determine whether the eggs have grown to the appropriate size for retrieval.
- Egg retrieval. The intended mother will be sedated and given pain medications so that doctors can remove the mature eggs and pass them to the ART Lab to prepare for fertilization. (Sedation is necessary as this is a very delicate procedure, and any sudden movement can jeopardize the retrieval process). If availability permits, multiple eggs can be retrieved at once in hopes of yielding multiple embryos; however, you can undergo IVF more than once after a retrieval procedure, as long as the body is given time to heal and return back to its regular state.
- Sperm retrieval. Sperm is provided to the ART Lab by the intended mother’s partner or by a screened sperm donor.
- Fertilization – This occurs either via standard IVF practice, where thousands of healthy sperm and a mature egg are mixed together in a petri dish usually resulting in fertilization, or it can be helped along by a procedure called ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection), a procedure where an embryologist injects a single healthy sperm into a single mature egg, thus completing the fertilization process.
- Embryo Development – Once fertilized, an embryo should continue to grow for 5 days until it reaches the blastocyst stage, when it’s mature enough to be transferred into a healthy uterus.
- Embryo Freezing (optional) – This optional step has now become extremely commonplace in fertility clinics, as success rates for embryo transfers after they’ve been frozen – and then later thawed for transfer – tend to be higher than attempting a “fresh transfer” (implanting the embryo after 5 days of development and approximately a week after egg retrieval). This is due to many factors, but some of the most common challenges are aligning the embryo’s development with the building up of the intended mother’s uterine lining, making sure the intended mother’s body is able to undergo a transfer so close to the retrieval, and if choosing to go with a surrogate, whether the chosen candidate will have been physically ready to receive the implanted embryo after the 5 day development. Because of so many variables, many fertility clinics encourage intended parents to freeze their embryos, so that when everything is aligned perfectly, the best embryo can be thawed out, and prepared for implantation – whether into the intended mother, or a screened surrogate.
At the end of the day, the ultimate goal of IVF is to create a healthy, viable embryo to transfer into the surrogate’s womb, and result in a successful birth.
What is the surrogacy process?
Let’s break down the basic steps of surrogacy:
- Screening. A surrogate agency will typically screen potential surrogates and make sure they meet all requirements.
- Preparing for embryo transfer. If they meet all the requirements, the surrogate will undergo a series of treatments and medications to prepare her body for pregnancy.
- Embryo transfer. After the intended mother gets a healthy, viable embryo via IVF, it will get implanted into the surrogate’s uterus. This is usually done 3 to 5 days after egg retrieval, or if the embryo is frozen first, it will be thawed out when the surrogate’s uterine lining is ready for implantation.
- Rest. The surrogate should rest for 2 to 3 days after the embryo transfer to allow for optimal results..
- Confirm the pregnancy. Doctors will confirm the surrogate’s pregnancy and then her care will be transferred from the fertility clinic to her OBGYN, where she will have regular appointments until birth.
For those who are considering becoming a surrogate, it’s important to note that the transfer is a non-invasive procedure that’s usually painless and rarely requires any painkillers, sedatives, or anesthetics. The doctor simply inserts a catheter to transfer the embryo into your womb. This may cause some temporary discomfort, but it quickly passes. After the transfer, rest is recommended, so that the embryo is given the best chance to implant successfully and thrive.
Who should choose IVF with Surrogacy?
IVF with Surrogacy is often an option for intended parents who have undergone various fertility treatments, and are ready to give surrogacy a chance. However, it’s also an excellent choice for the following reasons:
- Intended Parents have not been able to conceive naturally.
- Had IVF or other forms of assisted reproduction that did not result in a pregnancy.
- Are suffering from medical conditions that affect the uterus and make it impossible to carry a pregnancy to completion.
- Are past the ideal child-bearing age and can no longer conceive naturally.
- Had previous surgeries or a hysterectomy.
- May be suffering from obesity, diabetes, heart disease, or certain blood disorders that could result in a high-risk pregnancy.
Whatever reasons may be that encourage intended parents to choose IVF with Surrogacy as an option, the favorable success rates and the miracle of bringing a child into this world with the help of a surrogate, makes it an unforgettable experience, and the best road to success for many hopeful parents.
What is the cost of IVF with Surrogacy?
The cost of surrogacy is certainly on the higher end of the fertility treatment spectrum, and can depend on many factors such as the following:
- The location of both the intended parents, the fertility clinic, and the surrogate (some states are more expensive than others).
- The number of IVF cycles required for a successful embryo transfer.
- Whether there is a need for additional Third Party support, such as through an egg or sperm donor.
- Any potential complications during the pregnancy.
- Any extra contractual requests the parents may request of the surrogate (a special diet, additional care such as massages or acupuncture, any other specific lifestyle changes, etc.)
- How much your surrogate will be paid.
As far as the average, intended parents should estimate the combined cost for both IVF and surrogacy to be anywhere from $90k to $145k.
To start, the approximate cost of one IVF “cycle” is between $10k and $15k, with the average being about $12k. This usually doesn’t include any additional services such genetic embryo testing or ICSI, so make sure to get specific pricing from the Financial Counselor at the fertility clinic of choice. Keep in mind that the longer it takes to create a viable embryo, the more costly it will be. Additionally, if you decide to use donor eggs or a sperm donor, this will also increase your IVF costs.
Lastly, the average cost of surrogacy for intended parents can be anywhere between $80k and $130k. This price is determined by many factors, but here are some of the most standard components for the costs of a surrogate cycle:
- Surrogate compensation
- Additional payment to the surrogate including travel, maternity clothes, lost wages, and medical care, plus any special requests as outlined in the contract.
- Screening costs, including finding and matching intended parents with the right surrogate.
- Embryo transfer – price will be determined by whether it’s a fresh or frozen embryo transfer.
- Medical costs both at the fertility clinic and OBGYN’s office, as well as any additional medical services as requested by the intended parents.
- Legal fees for both the surrogate and intended parents.
How successful is IVF with a surrogate?
Surrogacy with IVF is one of the most popular fertility options for intended parents and IVF clinics alike, simply because the success rate is so favorable. There are many contributing factors to such a high success rate, but the most significant is that the child-bearing age of the surrogate is usually in its prime. Despite the incredible medical advancements in fertility, competing against a natural biological clock is still a challenge, and since a surrogate’s age is within the optimal parameters for pregnancy, the success rate for IVF with surrogacy makes it one of the best fertility treatments out there.
To be more specific, the average surrogacy success rate for fertility clinics across the United States is a significant 75%, and that number can rise up to 95% for a successful birth, once the gestational carrier is pregnant.
How to choose a clinic for IVF?
Many intended parents who have already experienced a complex fertility journey, might already have ties with an existing surrogacy/fertility clinic. But for many prospective parents, finding the best surrogacy clinic once their surrogacy agency has been chosen, is absolutely essential. When choosing a fertility clinic, there are some key considerations to take into account. A convenient location for both the IPs and surrogate mother is always a plus, as that will make the process easier for all parties involved.
The next factor to consider are the prospective clinic’s success rates, both with IVF and Embryo Transfer. Many of these statistics can be found on the SART (Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology) website. Be mindful that every clinic operates differently with what cases they choose to take on, and practicing some healthy skepticism is always a plus. Some clinics, for fear of their success rates being impacted, refuse to take on more high risk cases, whereas clinics which pride themselves on welcoming more challenging cases, take on the risk of their success rates possibly falling below expected numbers.
Surrogacy clinics also greatly vary in cost, so doing thorough research on pricing across the clinic, surgery center, and ART (Assisted Reproductive Technology) Lab – which often require separate payments – is imperative. Usually if the clinic has an above average success rate and uses more advanced technologies in the lab (such as Embryo Genetic Testing or an Embryoscope), the increase in cost will be reflected in the final price. Intended parents should talk to a clinic’s Financial Counselor whenever possible, and consider their budget, as well as any available financing options, if eligible.
However, the most pertinent factor when choosing the surrogacy clinic that’s most suited for your needs, is actually based on what the clinic itself offers – a consideration that can only be validated through in-depth research, and asking thorough questions about each clinic you consider. Some important questions to ask may be:
- Who are the providers who staff that particular fertility clinic?
- What technologies are available at this location? (PGT-A testing, ICSI, Embryoscope)
- Are the facilities clean, safe, and comfortable?
- Does the fertility clinic have a good reputation?
Finding the answers to these questions can provide utmost clarity, and will be a great guide to your final decision.
Finding your surrogate: how to get started?
When intended parents embark on the beginning of their surrogacy journey, the thought of finding the perfect surrogate mother may be overwhelming. Matching with a surrogate who fits your needs and is willing to carry a child for you is, after all, an emotional and complicated process, but it’s also truly a life-changing experience. There are many reasons for intended parents to choose surrogacy, and the expectations for each are always varied. Finding, matching, and building a relationship with a gestational surrogate mother that best matches with your values and desires may seem like an insurmountable task, but many hopeful, intended parents have been in this exact position… and today they’re holding their miracle baby in their arms.
The best way to find your ideal surrogate, is to first pair with an agency that matches your needs and values. Although you don’t necessarily need an agency to find a surrogate, entrusting one with your journey will help alleviate all of the complex protocols that are involved in the surrogate process. And although a case manager will be in charge of finding your perfect match, as intended parents, you are involved every step of the way. And since choosing the ideal surrogate is such a crucial part of the journey, you’ll definitely want to take some time in making your final choice.
To help guide you, here are a few tips we’ve compiled that will hopefully help you select the best surrogate to deliver your dreams of parenthood.
- It’s important to remember that surrogacy is a trust-based relationship, so the right match should feel comfortable with you, and vice-versa.
- You want to feel a genuine connection with your surrogate.
- Go with your gut – often it’s best to trust intuition, especially in situations where the stakes are high.
- Communication is key, so make sure the potential surrogate is easy to converse and touch base with; if your communication doesn’t flow, or you’re not on the same page, this could cause issues down the road.
- Choose a surrogate who shares your values – this will make for a more harmonious working relationship.
Even with all of that noted, it’s also important to be open-minded. Exploring surrogate profiles and learning more about the women who might be your gestational carrier, is a chance to meet new people and broaden your horizons. Intended parents may find that they instantly click or form a strong rapport with a surrogate who lives in another state, or who on paper seems to have a different lifestyle than theirs. There is no telling for sure until you actually get to meet!
Why choosing the right agency is important
Prior to starting the surrogacy process, it’s important to choose an agency that recognizes and follows through on your expectations. Knowing whether you’ve made the right selection can feel daunting, but as long as you consider the preferences, budget, location, values, and expectations for your surrogacy journey, it’s just a matter of identifying the agency that meets those parameters.
It’s the agency’s due diligence to screen potential surrogates, and any who don’t meet the requirements for both the state and agency will be automatically disqualified. That’s what’s so great about working with an agency: they screen out candidates who don’t meet the base criteria required. By the time you see the list of potential surrogates, you can rest assured knowing that they’re qualified, and ready to begin the journey with you.
Asking questions about an agency’s specific services, its culture and communication practices, as well as operation style, are imperative when exploring various agency options. It’s important to thoroughly research all potential candidates and practice due diligence in vetting the size, reputation, culture, and logistics of your agency candidates, prior to making your final selection.
When researching agencies, also make sure to read reviews from both intended parents and surrogates. It’s also a great idea to connect with parents who have used the agency’s services, to ensure their operation is reputable and successful.
If you ever inquire about an agency’s processes and success rates, and they are unable or unwilling to provide them, that’s a possible red flag. Always trust your instincts!
The relationship you build with your chosen surrogacy agency will play a pivotal role in your journey to parenthood. Be sure whoever you work with is credible, and the absolute best match for your family.
Choosing Surrogacy by Faith to build your family
If IVF with Surrogacy is truly the best fertility treatment plan for your family, then finding a surrogacy agency to work with is of the utmost importance. Not only will they help you every step of the way – with everything from screening candidate surrogates and working with lawyers to draft the surrogacy contract, to helping all parties navigate the surrogacy journey – but they will also be an incredible support system through such an emotional and complex experience.
Making sure that your chosen surrogacy agency aligns with your family values, is an pertinent step in the agency selection process. For example, Surrogacy By Faith is a surrogacy agency that’s based in Irvine, California, and although we’re a Christian agency dedicated to helping grow families by the grace of God, we don’t only work with Christian surrogates or intended parents. In fact, we see it as our mission and guiding philosophy to help people from all walks of life, whether you’re called to give the gift of surrogacy, or blessed with the gift of a new child.
Whether you’re considering giving the gift of life and becoming a surrogate, or if you’re an intended parent ready to start the process, fill out either a surrogate initial inquiry or an intended parent or parents initial inquiry to establish contact. If you have questions about surrogacy, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We can’t wait to hear from you, and begin the incredible journey of surrogacy, together!