A Guide to Virtual Surrogacy Meetings During COVID-19

How to Strengthen Intended Parent-Surrogate Relationships During COVID-19

In the midst of this global pandemic, people are having to find new ways to connect and communicate. Despite these scary times, families are still being created — intended parents and prospective gestational surrogates are beginning to move forward in their surrogacy journeys again.

If you’re a hopeful parent or a prospective surrogate who is still in the early stages of the process, the “match” experience of meeting and getting to know one another is probably going to look different as a result of COVID-19. It’s harder for people to travel, and safety should always be the first priority. Getting to know one another face-to-face will have to wait.

Surrogacy is a very personal and intimate journey shared between two families, so it’s important to grow a connection with your surrogacy partner, whether intended parent or surrogate. Fortunately, technology has made it easier than ever to share this life-changing experience across distances.

Whether you’re “meeting” your prospective surrogacy partner for the first time, or you’d like to find ways to stay in touch throughout the process while still social distancing, here are some easy tips for navigating your virtual surrogacy chats:

Remember that your specialist will be there to help.

The first time the intended parents and surrogate talk is always a little nerve-wracking for everyone involved. But don’t worry about things feeling awkward — your American Surrogacy specialist will be ready to help guide the conversation so everyone feels comfortable and confident moving forward.

Once you’re past the first introductions, conversations in a good match will come easily. Earlier “meetings” are a great time to get to know one another in a lighter, casual, friendly way — it’s important that both surrogacy partners feel that they can trust one another, and feel excited to share a surrogacy journey with one another.

Your surrogacy specialist will always be available if you need help navigating your surrogate-intended parent relationship, but that first virtual meeting is a good time to exchange contact information for more informal talks in the future.

Establish a schedule.

Even if the intended parents and/or the prospective surrogate are working from home right now, it can still be hard to find a time when you’re all available to talk. Many people are juggling work and kids at the moment.

Talk with your surrogacy partner and see if you can find a day and time where you’re all available. After the first few initial virtual meetings, you may find that even a quick 15 or 20-minute check-in chat is enough to keep one another up-to-date.

The frequency of your scheduled meetings will vary based on everyone’s availability and comfort level. Some intended parent-surrogate partnerships have a virtual meeting every couple of weeks, while others may just set up a monthly call.

Write down questions ahead of time.

You probably have plenty of questions for each other, ranging from serious to casual and light:

  • Why did you choose surrogacy?
  • What kind of intended parent-surrogate relationship are you envisioning?
  • What do you need from me throughout this journey?
  • What’s your family like?
  • What are your interests?

However, in the excitement of the moment, you may forget to ask something you were anxious to know! Write down questions or things you’d like to mention as you think of them, and have that list handy when you “meet.”

Hopefully the conversation will flow easily, you’ll learn a lot about each other and you won’t have to worry too much about checking questions off of your list.

Perform a trial run with your tech.

There are few things more frustrating than a spotty internet connection, laggy video or fuzzy audio when you’re trying to talk with someone. You don’t want to “show up” at your appointed time only to find that your FaceTime, Skype, or Zoom isn’t working correctly. Here are a few tips to help prevent technological difficulties the day of:

  • Make sure you know how to confidently use the platform you’ll be talking through.
  • Check that you’re getting a sufficient WiFi signal.
  • Test-call a friend or family member the day before, to make sure that they can hear and see you correctly.

Modern methods of communicating have revolutionized the way we’re able to connect with others, but only if they work as they should! It can take a few practice runs before you get the hang of it.

Embrace video calls.

There are a lot of advantages of virtual meetings via FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts calls, etc.:

  • You’ll be able to see one another — being able to see each others’ faces as you speak is an overlooked, but important, aspect of communication between people.
  • You can virtually meet each others’ families.
  • You can take little home tours, so surrogates can see the baby’s future nursery and intended parents can see where their baby will be staying in-utero.
  • As the pregnancy progresses, the intended parents can see the physical changes that their surrogate is experiencing, so you can all be a part of the journey together (even while apart).

Virtual meetings can be fun, as well as helpful!

Feel free to mix up communication methods.

Some surrogates and intended parents are comfortable with sticking to consistent, established meetings through video chat or phone calls. Others prefer to keep in touch less formally, but with the option to check in more frequently through quick texts or emails. You can even send one another photos or letters from your side of the surrogacy process.

Virtual meetings through video can be great, but feel free to explore other methods of communication and find what works best for you.

Despite the necessary limitations that COVID-19 has imposed on the world, we’re all still finding ways to remain close to one another. Your American Surrogacy specialist will help you and your surrogacy partner communicate however you can during these changing times. You can always contact us if you need help navigating this new aspect of your surrogacy journey.

How COVID-19 May Impact Your IVF Journey

6 Questions Intended Parents Should Ask Themselves Before Resuming Surrogacy

As IVF and surrogacy procedures slowly resume with new precautions and policies, intended parents are more nervous than ever about restarting their journey to parenthood. There are new physical, emotional and financial concerns to consider.

Whether you’re eager to get back on track as soon as possible or you’re unsure if now is the time to start the IVF and surrogacy process, you’ll need to ask yourself some important questions. When considering how COVID-19 might affect your IVF and surrogacy journey and deciding whether or not you’re ready to resume it, you should ask yourself these six questions:

1. Are your fertility savings still stable?

Aside from the devastating health toll COVID-19 has taken throughout the world, it’s also had an economic impact. If you or your spouse lost your job, or if you took a financial hit as a result of coronavirus, then you may not be as financially ready to begin IVF and surrogacy as you were before.

Your total costs of IVF and surrogacy are going to be fluid, due to medical factors. You may find that your embryos are not viable, it may take several rounds of IVF to produce a viable embryo, or your surrogate may need several rounds of embryo transfers before a successful implantation. All this may mean that you’ll spend more or less than you anticipated.

You’ll need to examine how your IVF and surrogacy savings have been affected by the pandemic and then decide if you’re able to move forward right now, given any financial changes you may have experienced. Has your budget for IVF and surrogacy remained the same?

2. What are your fertility clinic’s policies regarding COVID-19?

In the early days of the pandemic, fertility clinics ceased operations in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus. IVF procedures were temporarily suspended. Now, clinics are opening back up and resuming IVF — but with new policies in place to keep everyone (including your embryos) safe.

Each hospital, doctor’s office and fertility clinic will have their own COVID-19 policies. What are the policies at your clinic? How will those policies affect you and your surrogate?

Work with your American Surrogacy specialist to learn about your clinics’ policies before you move forward. Make sure that you feel comfortable with the precautions that they are taking.

3. What happens if someone within your surrogacy partnership contracts COVID-19 mid-cycle?

The health of those involved in this surrogacy journey always comes first. So if you, your spouse, your surrogate, or an immediate member of either or your families were to contract COVID-19 during the process, what happens? Would you still move forward once that person had recovered? Can you wait that long?

This is something that you’ll all need to discuss with your American Surrogacy specialist. In this changing world, it’s important to talk about this scenario together and create a concrete plan of how you will want to proceed.

4. Are you comfortable having a woman become pregnant with your child right now?

It always takes some faith when allowing someone else to carry your baby. Are you prepared to trust someone in protecting themselves (and your baby) against COVID-19?

The woman who will be carrying your child will need to spend a good amount of time in doctor’s offices and hospitals throughout the surrogacy process and pregnancy. Even though all surrogates take the health and safety of themselves and the baby very seriously, and yours will be taking all the prescribed precautions to avoid exposure to illnesses, she’ll still need to have quite a few in-person visits at medical facilities.

Whenever possible, telemedicine appointments may take place. However, there are some doctor’s visits that will, of course, need to occur in the office.

Additionally, you’ll need to consider if you’ll be comfortable with a number of scenarios:

  • What if she’s an essential worker?
  • What if her children or spouse are back to school or work?
  • What if she lives in a coronavirus “hotspot”?
  • What if she and her family need to travel?

Your surrogate will do her utmost to protect herself, and by proxy, your baby from COVID-19. But there will always be moments when all of us must go out into the world to function.

Would you be able to accept that and trust her to protect herself, her family and your baby?

5. Are you prepared to miss some important moments with your surrogate and baby?

In an effort to maintain social distance and prevent the spread of the virus, you probably won’t see your surrogate in person as much as you would before COVID-19.

Additionally, hospital and medical clinic policies may prevent one or both of you from being with your surrogate during milestones like embryo transfers, sonograms, or possibly even labor and delivery.

For some intended parents, surrogacy is a chance to experience pregnancy alongside their surrogate. You’ll need to decide if you’re willing to miss out on some of these moments in favor of growing your family more quickly.

6. How do you think your emotional and mental health will handle egg retrieval and/or IVF at the moment?

Right now, everyone is under more stress than usual. The early stages of surrogacy’s medical process are always stressful for everyone involved, but in the midst of a global pandemic, it’s understandably even more so.

Consider how you’ll feel during your contributions to the IVF process and as you await the results of your surrogate’s embryo transfer. With the added stressors of COVID-19, you’ll want to make sure that you’re emotionally ready to move forward — so that you can be the best support person for your surrogate.

If you have any questions or concerns about resuming the IVF and surrogacy process, contact American Surrogacy now. Your specialist will help you consider your readiness and can walk you through how COVID-19 will and won’t affect your journey.

How COVID-19 May Impact Your Prenatal Visits and Hospital Plans

A Surrogate’s Guide to Changing Policies & Recommendations

Beginning or continuing the surrogacy process as a gestational surrogate is still very possible for you, even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, there will be a few changes. Social distancing and safety measures may affect your hospital experience, interactions with the intended parents, prenatal checkups and surrogacy-related medical appointments, and more.

It can be upsetting to have your carefully made plans and excitement marred by an experience that isn’t quite what you imagined. But the health and safety of everyone involved, especially you and the baby, are what come first.

Here are some changes you may notice as you move forward in your journey as a gestational surrogate, as well as quite a few things that won’t be changed by COVID-19:

Your Time with Your Intended Parents

If your match is long-distance and the intended parents live in another city or state, many of your day-to-day interactions wouldn’t have been in-person anyway. Gestational surrogates and intended parents most commonly communicate through phone calls, video chats, texts or emails.

However, due to social distancing measures, you and the parents may not be able to have as much face-to-face bonding as other surrogate-parent partnerships might have had before COVID-19. Do your best to get to know one another and build that connection through other means — start a casual Words With Friends game with one another, swap a couple recipes to try out or send them letters “from” their baby throughout your pregnancy in addition to your virtual conversations. It can be fun, and you’ll hopefully get to know one another a bit better, even when you can’t meet in person.

Having the intended parents present for the baby’s birth is one of the most rewarding moments for a gestational surrogate and one of the most exciting moments for the new parents. But some hospitals may have policies about how many people can be in the room with you during your labor and delivery. This may mean that only one intended parent may accompany you, or neither of them, so that your spouse can be with you. This is something that we’ll touch on more momentarily, but that you’ll want to ask your hospital about in advance.

Your Prenatal Medical Care and Surrogacy-Related Medical Appointments

Contact your OB-GYN and your fertility clinic to ask about their COVID-19 policies. Do they prefer minor check-ins to be conducted virtually? Are you allowed to bring the intended parents or your spouse? If they do have new policies regarding COVID-19 prevention, you’ll want to know about it before the intended parents or your spouse come with you to these appointments and have to wait in the car!

Of course, in-person visits will be unavoidable throughout your surrogacy process. For these, you’ll want to bring a mask and sanitize your hands before and after your appointment. The doctor’s office or clinic will likely take your temperature before you enter, in addition to other precautions.

Your Hospital and Delivery Experience

Hospital policy regarding labor and delivery during this time will vary. Some hospitals, for example, will limit the number of visitors you may have during your labor, delivery and recovery. At other hospitals, they’ll simply take more precautions — like taking the temperature of visitors and asking that everyone wash their hands and wear masks.

In more extreme situations, surrogates have had to choose just one intended parent to have with them in the delivery room, or just the surrogate’s spouse was in the room to support them. This can be tough for everyone involved if your hospital has this type of policy. While American Surrogacy hasn’t encountered this yet, policies simply depend on the hospital and the rapidly changing pandemic situation.

Check in with your American Surrogacy specialist and your intended parents. Together, you’ll communicate with your chosen hospital to determine any changes that might need to be made to your ideal birth plan. It’s best to talk about these plans in advance, so you aren’t caught off guard when you go to the hospital and discover that they have a new COVID-related policy that affects you.

Your Precautionary Measures for Health and Safety

You already know how to stay healthy and safe when you’re planning to become pregnant (or are pregnant), even before the coronavirus became a factor. And everyone, not just pregnant women, should be taking appropriate measures to reduce and slow the spread of COVID-19 by staying at home as much as possible, social distancing, frequently washing hands and wearing masks when around others.

But now, carefully adhering to preventative measures regarding COVID-19 is especially important for gestational surrogates and the people around them.

The CDC states that “pregnant people appear to have the same risk of COVID-19 as adults who are not pregnant. However, much remains unknown. We do know that pregnant people have had a higher risk of severe illness when infected with viruses that are similar to COVID-19, as well as other viral respiratory infections, such as influenza.

“We also know that pregnant people have changes in their bodies that may increase their risk of some infections. Therefore, if you are pregnant, it is always important for you to try to protect yourself from illnesses whenever possible.”

As for increased risks to newborns, very little is known at this time, but they may be more likely to suffer from severe illness stemming from the virus, similar to pregnant people.

The main takeaway: Protect yourself from illness just as you would with any pregnancy, but continue to:

  • Stay home when possible
  • Wash your hands often
  • Practice social distancing
  • Wear your mask when around anyone outside of your “quarantine bubble”
  • Remind your immediate family members to do the same in order to protect one another

You’ll need to be cautious about who you, and your family, come into contact with. Your family will need to practice the same safety measures as you to prevent them from contracting the virus and potentially spreading it to you. You probably aren’t at any greater risk than anyone else, but everyone should take reasonable precautions, regardless.

You can’t keep yourself in a bubble throughout the entirety of your surrogacy journey, and no one is expecting you to do so. However, being extra vigilant about reducing your exposure and increasing hygiene steps can help mitigate the risk of contracting or spreading the virus during your surrogacy experience.

If you have any questions about how COVID-19 may affect you as a surrogate — including through IVF, pregnancy, delivery and more — don’t hesitate to contact your American Surrogacy specialist. Remember: Becoming a surrogate or continuing your surrogacy process is still safe, as long as you continue to practice the prescribed basic health and safety measures.

What if COVID-19 Impacted Your Surrogacy Savings?

Deciding Whether or Not to Move Forward with Surrogacy

The COVID-19 pandemic has been globally devastating. Lives have been lost and countless people have been sickened. Looking at the financial toll of the pandemic can feel cold, but it’s a necessary reality for everyone. This is especially true for those who were hoping to become parents through surrogacy.

Many intended parents had begun setting aside money in anticipation of surrogacy costs, only to have those savings take a hit. You may be in a less financially secure situation than you were before, or you may have even lost your job.

Below, we’ll help you consider whether or not moving forward with the surrogacy process is right for you, and we’ll offer some tips to help finance your journey if you are able to proceed.

For Hopeful Parents that Haven’t Yet Started the Surrogacy Process

Deciding to pursue surrogacy may have been a difficult and thoughtful road for you. And when you finally made up your mind, excited at the prospect of becoming a parent through surrogacy, COVID-19 hit. Now you’re wondering if surrogacy is still going to be an option for you.

Many hopeful parents have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic. Now, they’re facing the fact that they may not be able to afford surrogacy at this moment.

This can be extremely difficult to hear when you’re excited and ready to grow your family as soon as possible (especially if you’ve already been waiting or went through fertility treatments) — but it’s probably best to wait until you’re more financially stable. Surrogacy can be costly for a number of reasons, and it may simply not be financially accessible for many families at the moment.

If you (or your spouse, if applicable) recently lost your job, or you have suffered financial setbacks due to the coronavirus, it’s generally recommended that you take some time to become financially stable before you begin the process and put any money into surrogacy.

However, if your financial repercussions from the pandemic are minor and you’re still safely employed, moving forward with surrogacy may very well still be possible. You may still need some help in order to afford the costs of surrogacy, whether that’s intensifying your saving tactics, fundraising or a combination of the two. We’ll touch on that momentarily.

If you’re not sure whether or not you’ll be able to afford the surrogacy process right now, contact an American Surrogacy specialist for free. We’ll help you assess if you’re financially ready to move forward and offer financing tips to help keep things as low-cost as possible.

For Intended Parents in the Midst of the Surrogacy Process

If you had already started the surrogacy process and put money into the journey, you’re probably worried that those funds will be wasted — and that you won’t be able to keep moving forward, in light of the dangers of COVID-19. You and your spouse may have also suffered financial losses or loss of employment as a result of the pandemic.

This puts you in the difficult position of deciding whether to press forward or to put your long-awaited surrogacy journey to parenthood on hold, potentially losing the money you had already invested.

Unlike other agencies, American Surrogacy is fully committed to protecting the finances of intended parents any time they decide they are unable to move forward or need to put their journey on hold for the time being. We’ll never push you to continue if you feel you are no longer financially able to proceed. In fact, we may recommend you return to a financially stable point before you continue.

The surrogacy fees you may have already paid to our agency are protected. If you decide not to move forward right now, your last two agency fee installments paid to American Surrogacy will always be fully refundable — and your agency fee installment will never expire.

Your situation will be unique, depending on where you’re at within the surrogacy process and what fees you may have already paid. We understand that this uncertainty is scary. So, contact your American Surrogacy specialist to discuss what can be done to financially help you in your individual situation.  We fully understand that these are unprecedented times, and we’re here to help however we can.

Tips for Affording Surrogacy

Hopefully, the economic effects of the pandemic have not affected you and your family. But, regardless of whether or not you have taken a financial hit as a result of COVID-19, surrogacy can be difficult for many families to afford. Most people need to carefully save and find ways to help finance this family-building path, even before the uncertainty that the pandemic has introduced.

So, whether you’re financially in a position where you can move forward with your surrogacy process and you just need some more help to afford the costs, or you’re planning on working to build back up your surrogacy savings in the economic aftermath of COVID-19, these basic tips may be of use:

Take a savings break right now if you need to cover the essentials.

Put saving for surrogacy (and anything else) on hold whenever you need to. Make sure you can afford your mortgage/rent, bills, car payments, groceries and the essentials before you continue making deposits into your savings account.

It’s hard to take a break from saving toward your goal of having a family through surrogacy, but take care of your immediate needs first. When you’re ready, start saving again slowly.

Defer loan payments, or consider taking out a loan.

As a result of the coronavirus, lenders are giving extra leniency right now. This means that you’re more likely to get a good interest rate on a loan. Similarly, if you need to take care of more immediate matters before thinking about surrogacy again, you can probably defer any existing loan payments.

Debt is always something you should think about carefully before making decisions, but generally speaking, now is a good time to look into current interest rates and terms. Then, defer, or take out loans, as needed. At the moment, it could cost much less to borrow money.

Refinance your car or home.

Similarly, terms and interest rates on refinancing your car or home are good right now. Again, this is something you’ll want to think about, but if you were already considering refinancing, now might be the time to do so.

Cut out or downgrade as many extraneous costs as you can.

You’ve probably already done this, but it bears repeating that you should examine your expenditure and try to cut out anything you haven’t already slashed. Downgrade your credit cards, phone plan or subscriptions; tighten your monthly budget on things like eating out or entertainment (nobody can really go anywhere at the moment, anyway); and finally cancel that gym membership or cable subscription.

Reconsider adoption.

Ultimately, adoption is a cheaper option than surrogacy. But, adoption is not right for everyone.

Take a moment to learn more about it, or to reconsider this option in light of your financial situation. Feel free to contact our sister agency, American Adoptions, if you have any questions.

You may decide that you still prefer surrogacy to adoption, but it’s worth considering. We’re here to support you, whichever path you decide to take.

Start fundraising.

If your heart is still set on surrogacy and you haven’t started fundraising yet, now is the time to ask for some help. Keep in mind social distancing requirements — hosting a barbecue as a fundraiser is probably not the best idea.

Instead, offer a socially distanced car wash, sell handmade goods online, start a GoFundMe, or hold a virtual auction where your friends, family and community members donate items, services, baked goods or anything they can contribute.

You may have to rethink traditional fundraising methods in order to maintain social distance and safety, but that’s all the more opportunity to get creative! There are still plenty of ways to fundraise that keep health in mind.

Surrogacy can be difficult to save up for, even without the economic uncertainty caused by COVID-19. But we’re here to help however we can. Talk to your American Surrogacy specialist today about what can be done to help you continue your surrogacy dream.

When One Spouse Isn’t Ready for Surrogacy: Intended Parents

Embarking on a surrogacy journey will alter the course of your life.

Not only is it a road to fulfilling your dreams of parenthood, it is also a unique path that relatively few have walked. Your experience — the joys and hardships, victories and challenges — will be unlike most other roads to parenthood.

That’s why it is important — vital, even — for both partners to be completely committed to the process. A unity of mind in your relationship should be considered a requirement to begin the surrogacy process.

But, what do you do when one partner isn’t so sure?

Any disagreement within a relationship can create tension. This particular disagreement can be like a ticking time bomb if it is handled the wrong way.

Do you give in and give up on surrogacy? Do you plow ahead and start the process? Is there a middle road?

Each relationship is unique. We can’t give you an exact blueprint to navigate out of this disagreement. However, we have worked with many couples that started where you are. Here’s what we’ve learned about the best ways to respond to a partner who is not totally on board with surrogacy.

Evaluate Your Emotional Readiness

Everyone responds to grief in different ways. Grieving, accepting, and then healing after infertility is never easy, and it may take a long time. Finding alternative family-building options like surrogacy may bring hope back into your world. Your dreams of becoming a parent are very much possible.

But, that doesn’t mean you are ready, or that your partner is ready to move on from infertility. Take stock of your mental state. Ask questions like:

  • Are you ready to move on from any current infertility treatments?
  • Can you come to terms with parenthood without pregnancy?
  • Does it bother you that someone else will carry your baby to term?
  • Have you spent enough time processing your grief from infertility?
  • Are you and your partner ready to commit completely to surrogacy?

There are no wrong answers. Be honest with yourself and within your relationship. The surrogacy journey won’t be right for you until each person is truly ready for it.

Consider Counseling

Infertility ushers in a confusing flood of emotions. There’s anger, grief, shame, anxiety, sadness and more. Additionally, there’s confusion about where to go next. That’s why infertility counseling is always worth considering.

Reaching out for professional help may be a foreign idea, but you are in uncharted waters. There are several different stages of counseling, and you can start and stop depending on what you feel is best. While it may be uncomfortable at first, counseling can be very helpful and is highly recommended.

Research Options Together

Are you working with an unacknowledged informational imbalance? If you have been doing your research on surrogacy, you likely understand the process. This may have given you an eagerness to get started. But, remember, there’s no reason to expect your partner to share your enthusiasm if you’ve been doing all of the research on your own.

Don’t assume that your partner knows what you know. Intentionally research your alternative family-building options together. This way, you’re working from a level playing field. These conversations will go much better when each of you is equipped with the same level of understanding.

And, while you’re at it, this is a good time to consider all options that could be available to you in pursuit of starting a family. For example, our sister agency, American Adoptions, has been providing nationwide domestic infant adoption services for more than 25 years. If surrogacy isn’t sitting quite right, have you considered adoption?

There are many amazing ways to start a family, and we support whichever option is best for you and your partner.

Don’t Rush

Processing grief, working through disagreements, researching complex family-building options — these things take time. The most important thing is that you experience the best long-term outcome. Move toward that goal at the pace you are both comfortable with. If that means taking weeks, months or even more than a year to step into your surrogacy journey, that’s okay.

Speak with One of Our Surrogacy Specialists

Of course, you can always call 1-800-875-BABY (2229) or contact us online at any time to speak with a surrogacy specialist. Your partner may have questions you can’t answer, and a conference call with a specialist may be just the thing to clear things up.

American Surrogacy will never pressure you into the process. We believe that each family requires a different approach. You’ll get honest, unbiased information from our specialists that will help you make the best choice.

Being out of step with your partner about issues like this can be difficult. With these things in mind, and the guidance of professionals, you can plot a course forward.

We look forward to hearing from you.

What Is Embryo Grading?

You’ll come across many new things when starting a family through surrogacy. It’s a complicated process.

One of the least understood steps of the surrogacy process is embryo grading. And for good reason — it can be confusing and intimidating.

We’ve created this article to answer several of the biggest questions about embryo grading. We hope that, by the end, you have a better understanding of this medical process, as well as a release from any pressure it is causing you to feel.

While we are not medical professionals and cannot fulfill the required steps for IVF, American Surrogacy is a national surrogacy agency, and our specialists know all about the process. Contact us any time with additional questions about becoming intended parents or a surrogate.

What Is Embryo Grading?

Scientific advances in recent years have unlocked valuable information that would’ve been unimaginable even 10 or 20 years ago. The process in which an egg and sperm join together to form an embryo was previously unobservable. Today, we have great insight into how this takes place and can watch it happen. Embryo grading is an evaluation used by embryologists to analyze this process.

How Do Clinics Perform Embryo Grading?

Embryo grading takes place post-fertilization. Once the eggs have been extracted from the intended mother or donor and the sperm has been injected into the eggs, the period of embryo grading can begin.

While the embryo waits in an incubator, clinicians will observe it and look for specific cellular developments, particularly from days 3-5 of fertilization. Based on what they see (or don’t see), they will assign an embryo grade, which will factor into whether or not the embryo is used in the IVF process or is frozen.

What Gives an Embryo a Good Grade?

Embryologists are typically looking for several things from days 3-5 of the incubation process:

  • Cell Count and Multiplication: Between days 3-5, the observed number of cells should move from around eight to as many as 150 or more. This growth is a positive sign that an embryo is developing properly.
  • Stabilization: Embryos that show stable structure, including symmetrical growth, are believed by some clinics to be more likely to result in successful pregnancies. However, clinics differ on this point. For some, simply seeing sustained growth is all that’s required, while others want to see symmetrical growth.
  • Fragmentation: Haphazard development, on the other hand, is a negative sign. An embryo growing without clear structure and organization will likely be graded lower.

The caveat here, as we have already noted, is that embryo grading is still new to the medical community. Common standards are not always agreed upon. Each clinic uses its own system to score results, while some clinics do not take part in the practice at all. One may place a very high emphasis on symmetry, while another’s grading metric might prioritize cell count.

This means the same embryo could receive very different grades from two different clinics. We’ll explore what this means about your embryo grade below.

What Impact Does Embryo Grading Have on Success Rate?

Due to the complicated nature of grading and the different procedures used from clinic to clinic, it is nearly impossible to say what effect the grade an embryo receives has on the success rate of the transfer.

Generally speaking, embryos with an abundance of desired qualities — exponential cell growth, stable structures, etc. — will receive higher grades and are believed to have a better chance in resulting in a successful pregnancy.

However, the science is not exact. Embryos with high grades can still result in failed pregnancies, and vice-versa for embryos that receive lower grades.

So, Why Does Embryo Grading Matter?

While even highly graded embryos can result in a failed pregnancy, this practice can be very useful at catching a failing embryo before the IVF process. There are some embryos that, by day five, are clearly heading down the wrong path.

Embryo grading can be a useful tool for embryologists to determine the best candidates for IVF. But, it is only one tool in the toolbox. There are other factors to determine the likely success rate of embryo transfers.

When you’re an intended parent, it can be disappointing to hear that your embryo has received a low grade from the clinic. But, this shouldn’t be taken as devastating news. Grades are not final says. And, even if the grade is too low to move forward with that embryo, there will be alternative routes as you continue to pursue your dreams of parenthood.

Where does that leave you?

You’ll want to use all available medical technologies at your disposal during this process, but you shouldn’t stake your hopes on a single grade. Trust the professionals leading you on your journey, and take heart. Challenges will arise during this process, but the end of the road is the beginning of your family.

If you have more questions about the surrogacy process, or are interested in starting the process with our agency, let’s talk. You can contact us online at any time or call us at 1-800-875-BABY (2229).

5 Tips for Long-Distance Surrogacy Relationships During COVID-19

Our relationships are more important than ever during these uncertain times. If you’re in the middle of a surrogacy journey, it’s no different.

Your relationship with the intended parents or surrogate may look a little different than pre-COVID. If your partnership is long-distance, you may not be missing out on scheduled in-person meetings. But that doesn’t mean your relationship doesn’t also need special attention and focus during this time.

Whatever nerves you have about pursuing surrogacy during COVID-19, your surrogacy partner has them, too. Maintaining an open, honest conversation during this time will help you both relieve those worries and be better prepared for the journey ahead.

Finding energy and excitement about surrogacy during this pandemic can understandably be hard. But don’t let your surrogacy partnership suffer!

Here are a few tips to safely keep your long-distance surrogacy relationship strong right now:

1. Check in With Each Other Directly

There’s a lot of unknowns during this pandemic, and it can be tempting to call your surrogacy specialist asking for frequent updates. While we will always be here to answer your questions, the best way to check up on your surrogacy partner is by reaching out to them directly. If you wait for our specialists to check in for you, it will often take much longer; it can be a while before we catch everyone on the phone, and we have many other responsibilities on our list as hospital and clinic policies continue to change.

If you’re worried about the health of your surrogate or intended parents, please contact them directly. You’ll get the answer you’re looking for much more quickly, and your contact will show your surrogacy partner how much you care about them during this time.

2. Don’t Be Shy with Video Calls!

We get it; we’re all tired of Zoom calls. But there’s no better way to connect with your surrogacy partner during this time than by seeing each other face-to-face — safely through a screen, of course.

Think beyond your typical video call just to check in. Take advantage of this technology for doctor’s appointments and other important milestones. Intended parents may not be able to attend as many appointments as they originally planned, but using video calls can help them feel like they are still there.

If you set up video calls to check in, make sure to set an expected start and end time. Perhaps even plan some activities to prevent any awkwardness.

3. Set Expectations

With the pandemic situation changing so rapidly, it’s normal to want to check in as often as possible. But overstepping contact boundaries can actually put more stress on your surrogacy partner.

Remember that many parents are dealing with working at home at the same time they are caring for children with fewer activities to keep them busy. Constant calls or emails can just become one more thing on their to-do list.

So, set a schedule with your surrogacy partner. Talk about how often you will check in, and perhaps use quicker forms of communication like texts to let them know you’re thinking about them. And, if your surrogacy partner misses a scheduled contact, don’t freak out — give grace and remember that we’re all navigating this situation as best we can.

4. Offer Help However You Can

It’s easy to feel helpless right now, especially if your surrogacy partner is thousands of miles from you. So, don’t be afraid to offer them help in whatever way you can.

Some examples:

  • Purchase a gift card to a local restaurant for a take-out dinner.
  • Send a personalized gift basket of necessities (toilet paper and hand sanitizer, anyone?)
  • Send a bouquet of flowers or a similar surprise to brighten up their day.

As always, talk with your surrogacy specialist if you need ideas or suggestions for supporting your surrogacy partner during these times.

5. Don’t Make It All About COVID-19

The coronavirus pandemic has impacted everyone’s lives. Just as it’s a constant in your everyday routine, it will be the same for your surrogacy partner. Yes, it’s made your surrogacy journey harder — but the last thing either of you will want is to have the same conversations over and over and stress each other out.

So, instead of worrying about COVID-19 and its effects on your surrogacy journey during every phone call or email, take the time to talk about other things. Babies don’t care what’s happening outside the womb, and life goes on during this pandemic.

If you’re an intended parent, don’t feel bad for asking about a surrogate’s pregnancy and the baby’s development. And, if you’re a surrogate, don’t be afraid to share those updates and stories! We all need some positive news right now, and sharing it with each other will remind you why you embarked on surrogacy in the first place.

Taking a break from all the coronavirus talk is not just smart — it’s necessary for your mental health. Do what you can to prepare each other for the unknown ahead, but don’t focus on it. Remember that your surrogacy specialist will be here to guide you through those upcoming steps, whatever they may look like.

10 Great Father’s Day Presents: For Dads and Dads-to-Be

Fatherhood is the greatest gift any man can receive. But with Father’s Day right around the corner, now is a great time to lavish the dad or dad-to-be in your life with even more presents.

Parenthood is a unique journey for each person. Even within a surrogacy partnership, participants will have different experiences. When you’ve recently become a parent through the surrogacy process — or are preparing as an intended parent — the journey is especially distinct.

The joys and challenges of surrogacy are unlike anything else. With this in mind, there are several Father’s Day gift ideas that are great for anyone who became a father through surrogacy.

10 Great Father’s Day Presents

1. Surrogacy Memory Book

This gift takes preparation, but it’s worth the time. Collect pictures, texts or letters exchanged during the surrogacy process. If you can, ask the surrogate to contribute, too. You can create a physical scrapbook commemorating the journey or make something digital.

2. A Grilling Set — With a Mini Match

This is only one example of a larger idea: Find something that will create a bond and memory between father and child.

Does the new dad love grilling? Get him a set of new grill tools, and a play grill that he can set up next to the real thing. Kids emulate dads, and it will be the sweetest thing to look out on the deck and see the two of them out there together, spatula in hand, flipping burgers.

This gift could be anything. A small basketball goal, a little lawnmower, a miniature set of golf clubs — whatever you could foresee your child and their dad doing together.

3. Parenting Classes

This may not be the most fun gift, but any dad-to-be will appreciate it. Becoming a parent for the first time isn’t easy. For those who became fathers through surrogacy, there can be unique challenges forming attachment with the baby. Parenting resources and classes for new dads can be helpful, and these could be a great Father’s Day gift.

4. A Date Night

In the whirlwind of becoming parents together through surrogacy, don’t forget about your relationship. Your partnership is the foundation of your parenting. Take care of it, too, by giving your dad or dad-to-be a night out for Father’s Day.

Your date night doesn’t need to be extravagant. Find a sitter you trust, make a reservation at your favorite restaurant and enjoy yourself. Maybe pick up a bottle of your favorite wine to wind down once you get home. It’s the simple things that mean a lot.

5. Surrogacy-Specific Gifts

There are many small boutiques that make handmade, surrogacy-specific gifts. Etsy shops are a good place to start, if this sounds like something the dad or dad-to-be in your life would like. Decorative pieces with common surrogacy phrases are a good touch for the office as he returns to work, or it could be something to put in the home.

6. Cool-Looking Baby Gear

Baby bags are essential, and most of them are made for moms. But, there’s cool gear out there for any new dad.

From tactical baby bags to svelte diaper bags to trendy stroller organizers, you can find something practical and attractive for your Father’s Day gift.

7. Slippers

Okay, hear us out. Few things matter more to new parents than comfort. They’re going to lose some sleep, and they’ll be pushed to their breaking point more than once. The least you can do is treat them well. Why not help your new dad out with a nice pair of slippers?

At least this way his feet feel good on the long walk down the hall at 3 a.m.

8. Home Workout Equipment

Becoming a parent seems to shorten your days. You used to have time to get to the gym a couple days a week. Now? Not so much.

A small home workout set could be a great Father’s Day present. Even a little daily activity can go a long way toward improving physical and mental health — which makes you a happier person and a better parent. It’s a win-win-win for father, mother and baby.

9. Local Coffee and a New Mug

Notice any increased caffeine needs recently? Coffee and a mug are always great options for Father’s Day. Find a local roaster and pick out their most popular bag to make the dad’s mornings much better. There are plenty of good Father’s Day mugs to choose from. Or, if you want something less holiday-themed, you could go with a practical to-go cup.

10. A Summer Getaway

For our final idea, take date night up a notch and make it a whole weekend getaway. You and your spouse may not be ready for this yet, as it takes time to feel comfortable being apart from your baby. But, if you’re ready, why not book a nice, relaxing cabin for a couple nights?

Enjoy the summer skies, go for hikes, sip coffee (maybe from that new mug) surrounded by towering trees, and refuel together from your first months as new parents.

There are so many ways to show your appreciation through gifts. Don’t forget to express it in other ways, too. Simple words of encouragement go a long way for any new dads or dads-to-be.

Becoming a new parent through surrogacy is incredible. Take time this Father’s Day to celebrate all that has happened for the new dad in your life and all the good things yet to come.

Does Race Matter When Choosing a Surrogate?

There’s plenty for intended parents to consider when preparing for a surrogacy match:

  • Which professional will provide the best match for us?
  • What kind of genetic connection should the surrogate have to our child?
  • Are there things like personality traits, hobbies or education level that matter to us?

Of the many things to spend serious time thinking about, race is not one of them. If you’re an intended parent, this may seem like a blunt statement. Is there any room for disagreement here?

While there are many topics that allow for each person to find the right answer for their unique situation, this isn’t one of them. If you are an intended parent, the race of the gestational carrier does not matter when you are looking for a surrogate match.

Here’s why.

Race and Surrogacy: Understanding the Process

There are two types of surrogacy: gestational vs. traditional. In this modern process, the vast majority of surrogacies are gestational. In fact, traditional surrogacy is not allowed in many states, and most professionals, including American Surrogacy, will only assist in gestational surrogacies.

Traditional surrogacy uses an intended father’s or donor’s sperm but not an intended mother’s or donor’s egg. This means the surrogate is the biological mother of the child. Because of this, there is a greater risk for intended parents and additional required steps, such as legally adopting the child.

In gestational surrogacy, the surrogate has no biological connection to the child. A sperm and egg donor are used in a process that is considered safer and more ethical by most professionals.

What does this have to do with race? From a practical standpoint, this means that the child will not inherit genetic traits from your surrogate — just from the sperm and egg used in the IVF process. The race of the surrogate does not matter as it pertains to your child’s genetic makeup.

The Screening Process for Surrogates

Entering into a surrogacy contract is an exciting step in the journey. It’s also completely normal to feel nervous and have reservations. This could be a place where the question about race arises.

However, it’s not a question that needs to be asked. This starts with trust in your surrogacy professional. American Surrogacy’s screening process is incredibly thorough and designed to give every intended parent peace of mind about their surrogacy partner.

Our process ensures that all surrogates are both physically and emotionally prepared for the unique demands of this journey. Alongside intensive background screening, all surrogates must meet a strict set of requirements, such as:

  • Be 21-38 years old
  • Have a BMI of 19-32
  • Not smoke, use illicit drugs or be exposed to secondhand smoke
  • Have had at least one successful pregnancy but no more than five cesarean births
  • Be currently raising a child
  • Had no major complications in previous pregnancies
  • Have completed a pap smear in the last year
  • Not be receiving state assistance
  • And more

With these requirements, we can generally ensure that a surrogate is prepared, both mentally and physically, for a successful pregnancy. You may notice that race is not a part of the screening process, and that is because, unlike these other factors, it has no bearing at all on the potential success of a gestational carrier.

Of all the questions that are worth asking about a potential surrogate, race is not on the list.

What Does Matter when Entering a Surrogacy Match

You may be wondering what you, as an intended parent, should wonder about when considering a surrogacy contract. This is a great question. Each situation is unique, and there may be specific things you would like in a surrogacy partner.

Many intended parents ask questions like these to a potential surrogate:

  • What is your family like?
  • What are your interests and hobbies?
  • What was your education like?
  • Why did you decide to become a surrogate?
  • What were your previous pregnancies like?
  • What are you looking forward to most about the journey?

Speak with a surrogacy specialist today about the steps you can take to find the perfect match for your journey.

A Sign Surrogacy May Not Be Right for You

Surrogacy is amazing, but it’s not for everyone. There are many available family-building options. If you remain convinced that the race of the surrogate should be a factor in your match, then this could be a sign that surrogacy is not right for you.

For all the reasons stated above — and many more — it is clear that race should not be on your mind when considering a match for a surrogacy partner.

If you have more questions about finding a surrogacy match or beginning your process with American Surrogacy, please reach out today. You can contact us online or call 1-800-875-BABY (2229).

9 Tips for Safe Traveling with a Baby During COVID-19

It’s no secret the coronavirus pandemic has utterly changed some of life’s biggest moments. If you’re having a child via surrogacy, it’s no different — you may not be able to attend all doctor’s appointments and even the birth of your own child. And, when it comes time to bring your child home, the stress and uncertainty continues.

So, how can you safely travel home with your baby during the COVID-19 pandemic?

While every person’s situation is unique, we’ve gathered a few tips here for you to keep in mind. Remember, you can always contact your surrogacy specialist anytime for suggestions and guidance as you create your travel plan.

General Guidelines

It’s rare for intended parents to live in the same city as their surrogate, so there will often be some travel involved when bringing your child home from the hospital. Just how far you have to go will play a role in whether you choose to fly or drive home.

It can be tempting to put this decision off until the last minute, but don’t! Knowing what you’ll do ahead of time can help you plan, in order to keep your family as safe as possible.

Whether you choose to fly or drive, always follow these general tips.

1. Talk to your pediatrician.

Your pediatrician is your best source of information during this time. They likely have tips and suggestions for keeping your infant safe during your travel home. Don’t be afraid to have an ongoing conversation with them about your child’s health, any specific concerns and their recommendations for travel.

Your pediatrician will likely give you information and ideas you hadn’t previously thought of. They’re dealing with many similar situations as yours as babies are born across the country, and they will probably have a list of do’s and don’ts for you to follow.

2. Sanitize, sanitize, sanitize.

Just as you should wear a mask while traveling, minimize the surfaces that you touch — and, for those you can’t avoid, make sure to sanitize. Pack sanitizing wipes and hand sanitizer; wipe down every surface before you touch it and sanitize your hands afterward. Your baby has a weak immune system, and it’s your responsibility to protect them from any germs or virus droplets that might be transferred to them.

3. Think and plan ahead.

Make a list of your supplies — baby formula, feeding supplies, food and drink for your family — and make one big stop at the store before traveling. While it can seem impossible to anticipate your every need during your travel, do your best. Having what you need ahead of time will minimize your stops and contact with other people, as well as take some stress off of your shoulders.

Don’t forget to speak with your surrogacy specialist about any documentation you may need, too. Traveling with an infant may require certain paperwork, and your specialist and attorney will ensure you get what you need early on.

If You’re Flying

If you’ve decided a short flight is better for your physical and mental health than a long road trip, take these precautions to keep your family safe.

1. Know the airline’s policies.

Some airlines have specific policies for flying with infants, and others have new policies due to the COVID outbreak. This may involve wearing a mask or social distancing in seats, so call ahead of time to find out. Mention that you have an infant and see what allowances they can make for your family.

You might also need a doctor’s note or similar documentation to fly with a small child.

2. Use a barrier over your infant’s seat.

Infants can’t wear masks like everyone else, so do the best you can to provide a protective covering for your child. As tempting as it can be to show off your baby to everyone, cover their car seat with a blanket as soon as you arrive in the airport and refrain from removing it unless absolutely necessary. This will protect your child from virus droplets circulating in the air of the plane.

3. Ask to be seated away from others.

Many airlines will try to maintain social distancing among passengers. If yours doesn’t make that allowance, speak with a flight attendant to ask to be moved once all passengers have boarded the flight. If your flight is full, consider asking the airline representatives if you can be moved to another flight with fewer passengers.

If You’re Driving

If you’ve only got a short way to drive home — or you’ve decided you prefer the controlled environment of your car — you’ll still need to take some extra steps.

1. Minimize your stops.

The more you stop, the more you will be in contact with people — and the more exposure you will potentially get. So, plan ahead — pack trash bags and diaper pails for roadside changes, and make sandwiches to get you through the day. Some new parents who have taken this trip have only stopped for gas and bathroom breaks, so talk with your driving partner (if you have one) and make a plan that works for you.

2. Pack your food and baby supplies early.

Babies often don’t come on a schedule, even when there’s a global pandemic going on. Try to have your road trip supplies prepped as early as possible; that way, you can head home as soon as possible after discharge and reduce exposure from buying all your supplies later.

Add these supplies to your list:

  • Gloves to use only when pumping gas (to be thrown away immediately)
  • Gloves to use while stopping at rest stop and gas station bathrooms
  • Snacks and bottled water to eliminate the need to stop for food
  • Hand sanitizer and sanitization wipes, readily accessible in your car
  • A small bag filled with overnight essentials, for any stops you need to make
  • Baby formula and sanitized bottles and nipples
  • Diapers and baby wipes (as well as a sealed container for trash, to minimize stops)

3. Set a schedule.

It can be tempting to try to drive straight home as soon as you’re able. But doing so can tire out you, your spouse and your child — making it more likely that you’ll make mistakes or put your family in danger from exhaustion and fatigue.

Instead, set a schedule with your driving partner ahead of time. How long will each person drive at a time? Don’t forget that infants typically need to be fed every few hours — and that your child will need comforting and changing just as often (or more). It can be frustrating to stop so frequently, but remember that your child’s safety is of the utmost importance.

Plan out your trip ahead of time with this timeline in mind. If you have to stay somewhere overnight, try to find an Airbnb or similar rental where contact with other people is minimal. And, of course, before doing anything else, sanitize that space upon arrival.

Remember, if you have questions or concerns about traveling to and from the hospital, reach out to your surrogacy specialist for advice and suggestions.