“Made in Boise” Explores the Ups and Downs of Gestational Surrogacy

Here at American Surrogacy, we know just how incredible gestational surrogacy can be for all involved. Now, thanks to a new documentary from PBS Independent Lens, more people than ever can get a close look into the beauty of this family-building process.

“Made in Boise,” a documentary film by Beth Aala, tells the surrogacy journeys of four gestational carriers and their intended parents. All of the surrogates worked through A Host of Possibilities, a local agency in Idaho run by CEO Nicole Williamson. But Williamson isn’t just the founder and CEO; she’s also a four-time gestational carrier, whose journey is also featured in the film.

The documentary explores the rewards and challenges of the process for all involved, and it’s an intimate look into the journeys of those who desperately want to be parents — and those who are generous enough to help them.

Made In Boise Trailer from beth aala on Vimeo.

“Made in Boise” is an educational film for not only those interested in surrogacy, but also those interested in learning more about the process. You can watch “Made in Boise” online here. In the meantime, we’ve recapped some of the most important lessons learned from this film below.

Why Smaller States like Idaho are Leading the Way

Williamson calls Boise, Idaho, the “unofficial” surrogacy capital of the U.S. While we at American Surrogacy are partial to our headquarters in Kansas City, we are in full agreement that it’s smaller states like ours that are quickly becoming the go-to destinations for safe, ethical gestational surrogacies.

According to the documentary, there are a few reasons why Boise is so popular for both gestational surrogates and intended parents:

  • A relatively healthy population and lifestyle, thanks to proximity to outdoor activities
  • A high population of Mormons and Catholics, who value large families
  • Surrogacy-friendly laws that allow for compensated surrogacy
  • Cheaper costs due to lower cost of living

And guess what? Our Kansas City headquarters provide many of the same advantages!

While most of the conversation about surrogacy revolves around large states like California and Florida, there are just as many intended parents and prospective surrogates in the smaller states in between the coasts. They may not be the first thought for those interested in this process but, with a little bit of research, you’ll find that these locations offer advantages that states with long-established, huge surrogacy agencies can’t match.

American Surrogacy is a prime example of this. Although we may be small, our size offers advantages you won’t find elsewhere. We rarely work with international intended parents, which means all of our clients are within the U.S. — and can easily create genuine relationships with each other through the pregnancy and after birth.

Many of the same advantages highlighted in Boise, Idaho, can be find right here in the heartland of the Midwest. And, if you’re interested in this journey, our specialists will be happy to help you out, wherever you’re from.

Why So Many Surrogates Choose to Do Second Journeys

Of the women highlighted in “Made in Boise,” the majority of them are repeat surrogates (and the one first-time surrogate reveals at the end that she plans to do another journey with her intended parents).

As we follow their stories through the documentary, it’s clear there’s one reason surrogates choose to do this again and again: their relationships with the intended parents.

Williamson and her staff take a great deal of time to match intended parents and surrogates who share the same preferences and goals. She takes it so seriously, in fact, that she chose to become a surrogate for one intended mother who had four previous matches fail. Even though A Host of Possibilities works with international intended parents, their surrogates are still able to create solid, genuine relationships with the intended parents they carry for, wherever they may be. These intended parents are shown attending doctor’s appointments, being a part of the birth, and visiting with the intended parents and their children as the months and years pass.

Good relationships between intended parents and gestational surrogates are just as important here at American Surrogacy. That’s why our team works hard to find the perfect partner for your journey and will support you through every step of the process. For the same reason, we find a great deal of our gestational carriers come back to do second journeys with our agency — and we welcome them back with open arms.

Whether you’re hoping to build a family through surrogacy or help someone else bring a child into the world, “Made in Boise” is a great way to learn more about all the ups and downs of the gestational surrogacy process. An even better way? Contacting our specialists at American Surrogacy. We will always be happy to answer any questions you have and get you the information you need to make the best decision for you.

Contact us online today or call us at 1-800-875-BABY(2229) to start making your surrogacy dreams come true.

How Could Abortion Restrictions and Bans Affect Surrogacy?

New restrictions and bans on abortion may do more than affect women facing unplanned pregnancies — they could soon have a drastic effect on intended parents using gestational surrogacy to add to their families.

While American Surrogacy won’t dive into the ethics and morality of abortion as an unplanned pregnancy option, we see it as our duty to keep intended parents and gestational carriers informed of all aspects of the medical surrogacy process. And, in some situations, selective reduction and termination (another name for abortion) are integral parts of a safe surrogacy journey.

If you’re unsure how new abortion bills may affect your ability to pursue surrogacy, we encourage you to contact our surrogacy specialists or speak with your personal reproductive endocrinologist. In the meantime, read below to learn more about this important new development in gestational surrogacy.

Why is Selective Reduction and Termination Used in Surrogacy?

Before we get into the details of new abortion laws across the country, you must first understand why they might even apply to surrogacy in the first place.

Selective reduction and termination are relatively common in the medical process of surrogacy, although these procedures are used less frequently thanks to advances in pre-genetic screening. Intended parents and gestational carriers only want to proceed with pregnancies that have the best chances of success, and that all starts with the embryo transfer process.

During in vitro fertilization, it’s common for intended parents to create several embryos. Their reproductive endocrinologist screens these embryos to determine which are the most viable, with the highest chances of success. The doctor will then transfer those embryos to the surrogate’s uterus.

Sometimes, however, a doctor will transfer more than one embryo to a surrogate. This may be done when several embryos are of lower quality; the more that are transferred, the increased likelihood that one or more may implant. But, when two or more do implant, intended parents are left with a choice: to continue with the increased risks of a multiples pregnancy or reduce to a singleton pregnancy.

If they choose a singleton pregnancy, the doctor will inject any extra implanted embryo with medication to stop its heart. That way, a surrogate can continue to carry one embryo, without the added risks of carrying twins or triplets.

In other situations, an embryo may start developing abnormally once it has implanted in the surrogate’s uterus. It may develop genetic or chromosomal abnormalities undetectable in prior genetic screening. Intended parents may make the heartbreaking decision to end this pregnancy before it gets further along, especially if the fetus is not expected to survive outside of the womb. To save themselves and their surrogate from the stress and emotional turmoil of that later on, they may choose to terminate.

Keep in mind: The decision to use selective reduction or termination is not one made lightly. Both intended parents and their gestational carrier will agree on the situations in which each of these is used before they even begin the medical process. The surrogacy contract will always detail the situations in which these procedures are (and are not) acceptable.

While no intended parent or gestational carrier wants to experience a selective reduction or termination, these procedures are still important parts of the surrogacy medical process — but may be put in jeopardy with new abortion restrictions and bans across the country.

How Could Abortion Bans Affect the Surrogacy Process?

New legal challenges to abortion have popped up over the last few years — the most noticeable being “heartbeat” and “personhood” bills, which prevent abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy and assign human rights to embryos, respectively. While pregnant women considering abortion are undoubtedly the targets of these bills, they can also have a dire effect on those using assisted reproductive technology.

“Heartbeat” Bills

First, let’s tackle the so-called “heartbeat” bills:

A reproductive endocrinologist is involved throughout the beginning of the surrogacy process. This doctor will monitor the embryo transfer and the surrogate’s early pregnancy, confirming the success of the transfer and completing the first ultrasound. If an abnormality occurs in the fetus, they will be the first to know — and often the professional to recommend selective reduction or termination.

They will typically also complete the six-week ultrasound, which will check for a heartbeat. If a heartbeat is not heard, the doctor will usually induce a miscarriage.

But, in a state where abortions after six weeks of pregnancy are banned, this might not always be possible. Perhaps a heartbeat was heard at the six-week appointment but not at the 12-week appointment. Maybe the heartbeat stops a day after the six-week appointment. What would usually be the normal course of action — termination — would be impossible, forcing intended parents and gestational carriers to wait for nature to take its course, however stressful and emotional that would be. It could be medically risky, as well.

Surrogates in states such as Alabama and Louisiana may find themselves unable to match with intended parents or even complete the surrogacy process at all. Many intended parents may not wish to start the process with a surrogate who cannot terminate or selectively reduce in the future, just in case. And, for surrogates in Alabama, traveling to another state for a pregnancy termination won’t be possible; a surrogate, her doctor and her intended parents will be criminally liable.

In effect, these “heartbeat” bills will make gestational surrogacy in these states all but impossible. For many, the risks of the process won’t be worth it — and they’ll choose another state to pursue their family-building journey.

“Personhood” Bills

On the other hand, intended parents may not even get so far as the gestational surrogacy process. New “personhood” bills may make it difficult for them to even complete in vitro fertilization in certain states.

In essence, “personhood” bills assign all the rights of a living human to an embryo. This means that hopeful parents would be unable to donate extra embryos to research or discard of them. They would be forced to store them indefinitely or donate them to another couple, which is an extremely personal decision to make.

An intended parent should have the right to choose what they wish to do with extra embryos, but “personhood” bills could effectively take that right away from them — if IVF is even an option. As infertility psychologist Angela Lawson theorizes:

“In short, as legislation regarding at what week of pregnancy an abortion can be performed potentially changes, such laws affect IVF. The assignment of personhood to embryos will mean that IVF clinics will no longer be able to create, freeze, or dispose of them. It would also prevent the retrieval of eggs for fertility preservation because those eggs would be used in the future to create embryos, thus creating ‘life’ in the lab.”

Intended parents who live in states with these laws would be forced to go out of state to complete their fertility treatments — adding more costs to an already expensive process.

Here at American Surrogacy, we advocate for every intended parent’s right to choose the path that’s best for them. We also believe in defending the right to gestational surrogacy across the country, even when new laws and regulations make that difficult.

That’s why, when you work with us, we will work for your interests every step of the way. That means matching you with a surrogacy partner in a surrogacy-friendly state and helping you find the medical professionals you need to complete your journey. For more information on surrogacy with our program, please contact our specialists online or call them at 1-800-875-BABY(2229).

Utah Supreme Court Protects LGBT Parents’ Right to Surrogacy

A ruling by the Utah Supreme Court will now allow same-sex couples to enter into gestational agreements to add to their families. Now, “same-sex couples must be afforded all of the benefits the State has linked to marriage and freely grants to opposite-sex couples.”

The big takeaway? LGBT married couples in Utah can now pursue gestational surrogacy without legal barriers!

Before we get into the details of this ruling, a little history: American LGBT individuals were granted the right to marry across the country thanks to the Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges. While the ruling protected LGBT parents’ rights to adopt as a couple, it didn’t extend to surrogacy law. Because surrogacy legislation varies greatly from state to state, individual states (including Utah) were able to write in conditions that prevented LGBT couples from pursuing this family-building process.

So, when two men from southern Utah found their gestational surrogacy agreement denied by a district court, they took action with an appeal. The language in the original surrogacy legislation dictated that surrogacy could only take place when an “intended mother is unable to bear a child or is unable to do so without unreasonable risk to her physical and mental health or to the unborn child.”

While the Utah Attorney General’s Office told the Court the statute should be interpreted as gender-neutral, the justices chose to strike down that specific language in the law. Because the couple was afforded the same protection under marital law as any heterosexual couple, their petition was approved — and the state surrogacy law was changed.

“This is a positive step to protect children, intended parents and strengthens families,” said Troy Williams, the director of the LGBTQ rights group Equality Utah, in a statement Friday.

American Surrogacy applauds this legal change to Utah surrogacy legislation and stands ready to help any intended parents — LGBT or heterosexual — reach their surrogacy dreams. For more information about working with our agency, please call 1-800-875-BABY(2229) or contact us online.

New Report Highlights Risks of International Surrogacy for LGBT Parents

A new report from the Daily Beast reveals a change in U.S. immigration policy that impacts U.S. citizens whose children are born abroad — such as American intended parents who complete an international surrogacy.

A new policy within the U.S. State Department has changed the department’s interpretation of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The Act, which codifies eligibility for U.S. birthright citizenship, has previously been used by U.S. citizens to obtain citizenship for their children born abroad. But new developments reveal that LGBT intended parents whose children are born in another country face extra difficulties. Even if a child is genetically related to at least one U.S. citizen, if they are born through gestational surrogacy or another form of assisted reproductive technology, they are considered “born out of wedlock” — even if the parents are legally married.

Today, internationally born children who are “born out of wedlock” to LGBT intended parents face additional hurdles for birthright citizenship — and are subject to deportation or statelessness in the meantime.  While a lawsuit is currently in action against the State Department, LGBT families created in the meantime through international assisted reproduction are increasingly at risk.

The recent report only highlights what we at American Surrogacy have known for years — that international surrogacy for American intended parents is a dangerous path. Whether you are an LGBT intended parent who can be affected by the State Department’s new policies, or you’re a heterosexual intended parent considering international surrogacy, you should be familiar with the risks of this process.

In addition to the new risks stemming from the “out-of-wedlock” immigration policy, there are a few reasons that we advise intended parent to pursue domestic surrogacy instead of international surrogacy:

1. Undefined or Restrictive Surrogacy Laws

It’s true — there are no federal surrogacy laws in the United States. But, there are plenty of states with laws that are surrogacy-friendly for all types of intended parents. The same can’t be said about all other countries.

Many once-popular surrogacy destinations for American intended parents have closed down their borders for international surrogacy, and many other countries out there set strict limits on the process. In many countries, a surrogate cannot be paid for her surrogacy services or can only work with intended parents whom she is related to.

Still other countries have no defined surrogacy laws at all. While the low costs in these countries may be attractive to intended parents, surrogacy in these countries can be legally risky. There may be no set precedent for an intended parent’s rights, and you may have no clue about what unethical situations are occurring to a lack in surrogacy legislation.

Throw in the current situation with LGBT parents’ children not being automatically granted birthright citizenship, and you have a very complicated legal situation on your hands.

2. Ethical Complications with Gestational Carriers

Save for in a few states, every American gestational carrier has the right to receive compensation for her services. This ensures that she is properly appreciated for her decision and experiences no financial burden from her decision to carry for intended parents.

But international surrogates often don’t get the same protection. In fact, compensation frequently causes ethical problems in other countries. Many surrogates are financially forced into surrogacy because of the draw that compensation creates, and not all women are 100 percent aware of the challenges of gestational surrogacy before they begin.

While the lower costs of international surrogacy may be attractive to American intended parents, it should give them pause. Lower costs mean that the same level of services and protection are not being provided — and, with a surrogate being located halfway across the world, American intended parents will likely not have the same knowledge of her pregnancy’s course as they would with a surrogate closer to home.

3. Lower Medical Standards

On the same note, a gestational carrier in another country — especially if she is located rurally — may not have the same access to quality care as an American gestational carrier. She may not also be screened as thoroughly as a surrogate in the United States would be. Intended parents who pursue this kind of surrogacy put her and their baby at risk simply because they wish to save on their surrogacy expenses.

Many popular countries for international surrogacy do not have the same medical standards as the United States, and this can understandably be worrisome for intended parents. The distance and uncertainty involved in the medical process can be risky, especially for intended parents who may be using their last few viable embryos.

Clearly, there have always been reasons why an international surrogacy is dangerous for American intended parents. The news regarding LGBT intended parents and international surrogacy is just one more.

American Surrogacy is dedicated to helping intended parents — regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity — safely bring home the child they’ve always dreamed about. To pursue a surrogacy in the United States, give our surrogacy specialists at call at 1-800-875-BABY(2229) or contact us online today.

Uncover the Financial Truth About Family-Building During National Infertility Awareness Week

Infertility is a struggle that affects millions of Americans. But, despite how common it is, it is still very much a taboo subject for many people — but National Infertility Awareness Week is here to change that.

Each year, RESOLVE chooses a theme to address during National Infertility Awareness Week. This year, we’re focusing on the significant lack of access to affordable family-building options and emotional support for the men and women struggling with infertility every day. As much as family-building options have expanded over the last few decades, there’s still a long way to go for making assisted reproduction and other non-traditional family-building methods affordable for every single person.

American Surrogacy is proud to help educate as part of National Infertility Awareness Week. Anyone struggling with infertility and considering gestational surrogacy can always talk to our specialists for free at 1-800-875-2229(BABY).

In the meantime, here’s what you need to know for this important week:

Infertility Treatments Often Break the Bank

Coping with infertility struggles is a difficult emotional journey. But it can also be an extremely stressful financial journey for those who wish to become parents.

When a couple can’t conceive in a traditional manner, they often go through a long series of tests to determine their infertility issues. These tests often include physical exams, semen analyses, blood tests and other special procedures. Before a person even starts alternative family-building treatments, they have often sunk thousands of dollars into finding out what is “wrong.” Even more unfortunate? Sometimes these tests don’t reveal a cause of their infertility struggles.

Whether or not a “cause” of infertility is discovered, hopeful parents often move onto assisted reproduction methods next. These can be as simple as intrauterine insemination or as complicated as in vitro fertilization. Donor gametes may be involved, and intended mothers may go through several rounds of failed implementation and/or miscarriage before a successful pregnancy — if they get pregnant at all. And, with the average cost of a single IVF cycle at $12,000, intended parents often spend tens of thousands of dollars on treatment before getting pregnant or deciding on another family-building method.

When Infertility Treatments Don’t Work

If pregnancy is not achieved through basic assisted reproduction, hopeful parents are often left with one decision: surrogacy or adoption. Most parents who choose private domestic infant adoption or gestational surrogacy will spend at least $30,000 more on building their family. If they’ve previously gone through several rounds of IVF, the costs can become overbearing — forcing the parents to take out loans and be otherwise burdened during what should be the happiest time of their lives.

While many parents will tell you that it is all worth it when they bring their little ones home for the first time, there’s no denying just how expensive alternative family-building paths are. Getting pregnant is not simple for those struggling with infertility — and it’s not cheap, either.

Financing Options for Hopeful Parents

For this year’s National Infertility Awareness Week, we want everyone to be aware of the financial burden of alternative family-building today. But, in response, there is also an increasing demand for affordable family-building options — and more and more businesses are taking note.

One of the easiest ways to make alternative family-building more affordable is through employer support. Insurance coverage of infertility tests and treatments can be a lifesaver for hopeful parents. While more than 400 companies in the U.S. offer benefits for fertility treatments, the range of benefits from company to company vary greatly. Unfortunately, the majority of IVF patients still have to pay for all or some of their treatment out-of-pocket.

With infertility affecting 1 in 8 American couples, many family-building professionals wholeheartedly believe that infertility coverage should be included in modern insurance plans. Whether you’re a hopeful parent yourself or a supporter of these parents, speak with your employer about adding infertility coverage to your company policy. Advocate for those who may not be able to do so themselves for this year’s National Infertility Awareness Week.

Even with some degree of insurance coverage, many hopeful parents find themselves financially burdened during this family-building process. After all, they are trying to save up for the expenses of a new child at the same time they are paying a great deal to bring that child into their life! To aid these parents, many financial companies have started offering specific loans and grants to those looking to build their families.

Many intended parents also look to family and friends for personal, low-interest loans to make their family-building journey possible. If you can afford to, consider offering loans to your family and friends struggling with infertility or donating to a project that offers loans to intended parents.

There are many ways you can support hopeful parents during National Infertility Awareness Week. In addition to the methods mentioned above, you can get involved by sharing your story, hosting or participating in awareness walks, and fundraising for infertility research. Although it can be a silent struggle, infertility is an issue that affects all of us in one way or another. That’s why American Surrogacy supports intended parents during this week and throughout the year as they determine the best path forward for their family.

Want to learn more about our gestational surrogacy program? Contact our surrogacy specialists today at 1-800-875-2229(BABY).

No, Pregnancy Announcement April Fools’ Jokes Aren’t Funny

April Fool’s Day — a day of harmless hijinks and misadventures that some of us love, some of us hate. But, not all April Fool’s Day pranks are harmless. Today, we’re focusing on a growing trend of fake “announcements” that are the opposite of fun — and can instead be reminders of real sadness and grief for many people.

We’re talking about those fake social media pregnancy announcements. You know the ones: Someone posting a fake sonogram photo they’ve found online, captioning it with some lengthy pregnancy news — only to follow it up with a “clever” comment about it being April’s Fools and, psych, the pregnancy isn’t actually real.

We want to ask: Who thought this was a good idea?

And who can we get to shut this trend down for every April Fool’s Day in the future?

Why Joke Pregnancy Announcements Aren’t Funny

First off, we’ll start with the obvious: Fake April Fool’s pregnancy announcements aren’t new. They’re not original and likely won’t garner more than an eye roll from your social media friends. Why not go for something more tried-and-true, like the classic saran-wrap-on-the-toilet-seat trick?

That said, there’s been a growing backlash against joke pregnancy announcements for years, especially in the age of social media. The fact is that, for many people, pregnancy is a private and sacred thing, and it doesn’t always recall positive thoughts and celebrations. It’s certainly not a joke.

Today, about 1 in 8 American couples struggle with infertility. That means the odds are that 1 in 8 of your Facebook friends has, had or will have trouble conceiving when they want to have a child. There are also plenty of would-be parents out there who have suffered miscarriage or infant loss, whether they coped with their grief publicly or privately.

Whether or not they share their infertility struggles with their loved ones (which is completely their right), infertility and pregnancy is likely a sensitive topic for them at some point in their lives.

So, when they see your joke pregnancy announcement, they don’t see “funny.” They see a disregard for what it actually takes for many Americans to get pregnant today — the countless negative pregnancy tests, the in vitro fertilization hormone shots and gamete harvesting, the loss of pregnancies in their early stages, and even the acceptance that a biological pregnancy is not in the cards for their family. To them, pregnancy is not a joke; it’s a long-sought-after wish that may or may not eventually be granted.

So, what some may intend as funny and playful is actually offensive and distasteful. Some will argue that you can’t control what other people feel about your announcements (real or not) — but why not at least try to make the world a kinder place by avoiding this sensitive topic?

 

There are a lot of emotions involved in infertility and pregnancy. If you have never had this experience before, it’s easy for the potential psychological harm of this kind of April Fool’s joke to never even cross your mind. For many people struggling with infertility, seeing authentic pregnancy announcements is hard enough — but fake pregnancy announcements are like a gut punch.

As one woman trying to conceive told ABC News, “Try and put yourself in my shoes…. You wouldn’t make a joke about losing your child or your child getting injured. It feels the same way. People don’t realize that.”

That’s not even taking into consideration another subset of people: biological parents who aren’t raising their own children. For birth mothers and birth fathers, pregnancy announcements can remind them of the time they learned of their own unplanned pregnancies — and the emotions they went through in eventually choosing adoption for their children. They certainly might have wished that their pregnancy was a “joke” at one point — another April Fool’s Day prank to scroll past — but their pregnancy and the path they took is likely something that impacts them every single day, both positively and negatively.

Here at American Surrogacy, we know the complicated emotions that many of our clients (both intended parents and gestational carriers) associate with the pregnancy process. We empathize with those emotions, and our specialists are always here to provide emotional support and counseling throughout your family-building journey.

So, this April Fool’s Day, take our message to heart. Share this blog post on your social media to let people know that it’s not okay to use pregnancy as the butt of a joke, even today.

Thank You to Our Staff During National Social Work Month!

Social workers play a huge role in many different aspects of life. For those who build their family in a non-traditional way, social workers are the ones who ease them on their path and guide them through the complicated and emotional steps of adding to their family. Whether it’s through adoption or assisted reproduction, the help of social workers can be invaluable to those who have been dreaming of welcoming a child into their homes.

At American Surrogacy, we are so proud of the work that our amazing social workers do within our agency. Our team is headed by director Angie Newkirk, LBSW, who leads a group of social workers in daily activities aimed to make your surrogacy journey easier. We know how complicated surrogacy can be — for both intended parents and gestational carriers — and we are proud to be here to help in whatever way we can.

Our social workers are an implemental part of the surrogacy journey from start to finish. They work tirelessly day-in and day-out tackling the biggest responsibilities of managing a surrogacy journey:

  • Answering questions and explaining the process to prospective surrogates and intended parents
  • Screening intended parents and surrogates to make sure they are physically, mentally and emotionally ready for surrogacy
  • Finding the perfect surrogacy matches for intended parents and surrogates based on their personal preferences
  • Offering references for fertility clinics, gamete banks, surrogacy attorneys and other necessary professionals
  • Mediating contact between gestational carriers and their intended parents
  • Coordinating case details like medical coverage, insurance and other important details
  • Providing emotional support and counseling from start to finish of the surrogacy process
  • Advocating for intended parents and gestational carriers every step of the way
  • Creating a hospital and birth plan with intended parents and gestational carriers
  • Managing financial details such as surrogate compensation
  • And more

It’s a lot of work, but our social work team loves what they do. More importantly, they love being a part of your surrogacy journey and helping your surrogacy dreams come true.

So, for this year’s National Social Work Month, we’re sending our thanks out to our tireless team of social workers who have helped many intended parents and gestational carriers reach their personal surrogacy dreams. Want to get to know our social workers better, or start your own surrogacy journey today? Don’t be afraid to reach out by calling 1-800-875-2229(BABY).

What You Need to Know Endometriosis Awareness Month

Throughout the month of March, a spotlight is placed on the biggest cause of infertility in women: endometriosis. Not only does endometriosis affect a woman’s ability to carry a child, it’s an extremely painful disease that can be debilitating in many ways. Endometriosis, however, is still widely misunderstood and dismissed by many.

Join American Surrogacy in taking part in Endometriosis Awareness Month!

What You Need to Know About Endometriosis

If you know someone who deals with this condition, or if you think you may have endometriosis, here’s what you should know:

  • Endometriosis is a chronic inflammatory condition that can affect the uterus, pelvic peritoneum, ovaries, recto-vaginal septum, bladder and bowel.
  • Symptoms are usually very painful, and can include pain during periods, ovulation, during or after sex; persistent pelvic pain; chronic fatigue; heavy bleeding; and infertility.
  • This condition affects about 1 in 10 women during their reproductive years (approximately 176 million worldwide).
  • Endometriosis symptoms can occur as early as a first period, but menopause may not end the symptoms, especially if scar tissue or adhesions have accumulated as a result of the disease.
  • Surgery is the only option for removing endometriosis lesions and scar tissue, although success rates can vary.
  • There are treatments to help with endometriosis, but there is no known cure.
  • There is no known cause for endometriosis, although genetic predisposition currently seems to be the most consistent factor.

Who Endometriosis Affects and How it Affects Them

Because this is an unfortunately common condition, you or someone you love is likely directly affected. Here’s how lives are changed by endometriosis:

  • Intimate relationships can be a source of physical pain for women who suffer from endometriosis, which can be frustrating and emotionally alienating for both partners.
  • Some women who suffer from endometriosis may grieve aspects of their femininity, as a woman’s menstrual cycle, sexual health and ability to carry children is often part of her self-formed identity.
  • Sufferers often have to spend a lot of time at home, missing work, school or important events due to painful symptoms.
  • In some cases, endometriosis can cause infertility, which primarily affects the woman with the condition but can also affect her spouse or partner and her family.
  • Many people don’t understand the condition, believing endometriosis to be merely “a difficult period,” and women who suffer from the disease are left feeling belittled and having their symptoms dismissed by friends, family, doctors or employers.

How You Can Help Raise Awareness This March (and All Year Long)

Whether you suffer from endometriosis yourself or you want to help raise awareness on behalf of someone you love, Endometriosis Awareness Month is a great time to start. Here’s what you can do this March to spread the word:

Even just sharing facts about endometriosis with others throughout the month of March on social media can reach a surprising number of people. Here are the social media accounts of a few good resources to use (be sure to check out their full websites, too):

What Surrogacy Has to Do With Endometriosis

So, what does American Surrogacy have to do with endometriosis? A number of intended parents choose surrogacy as their way to have a family following a struggle with endometriosis and/or infertility as a result of the disease. For those who are ready to pursue different family-building methods after receiving a diagnosis of infertility, surrogacy can be an amazing way to have the family that they’d always dreamed of. Other families choose to pursue adoption through our sister agency, American Adoptions.

However you decide to have a family, American Surrogacy and American Adoptions supports those who are affected by this condition and joins you in your mission to improve public knowledge throughout Endometriosis Awareness Month and beyond.

National Birth Defects Prevention Month

January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month. This month focuses on raising awareness of birth defects, how they’re caused, the affect they have and how some can be prevented. Through National Birth Defects Prevention Month, the hope is that those who are affected by birth defects can live healthier, longer lives, and that those who are growing their families remain unaffected by birth defects.

What Is a Birth Defect?

There are many kinds of birth defects, and they can affect people in many different ways. Here are some important facts that everyone should know about birth defects:

  • Any complication that is presented at birth that alters the body’s appearance, function, or both is considered a birth defect.
  • One in 33 babies is born in the United States with a birth defect.
  • The severity of birth defects can range from moderate to critical, even causing death.
  • Birth defects are a leading cause of infant mortality.
  • Most birth defects occur during the first trimester.
  • Although some defects are detectable during gestation or at birth, some defects may not be identified until later in the person’s life, especially if the defect hadn’t caused noticeable health problems for the person.

How Preimplantation Genetic Screening (PGS) is Helping to Decrease Birth Defects in Surrogacy

In gestational surrogacy, preimplantation genetic screening (PGS) is routinely conducted to help prevent birth defects. PGS checks the embryos used in surrogacy for potential genetic diseases or disorders that could result in a birth defect before they’re transferred to a surrogate to carry. Here’s how PGS works:

  • A few cells are microsurgically removed from the embryos being tested after they’ve been developing for about five days, at which point the embryos are frozen.
  • The DNA of those cells is examined to see if certain genes which could cause harmful defects are visible. This stage takes a minimum of one week.
  • If the embryos have no concerning genetic issues, an embryo (or multiple embryos) will be transferred to the gestational surrogate in the hopes of a successful implantation.

In addition to PGS, prenatal screening is also routinely done later in the gestational surrogate’s pregnancy to catch any other potential health concerns. The health and safety of gestational surrogates as well as the baby are the two primary goals in surrogacy, so PGS and prenatal screening are both important to achieving that.

What You Can Do

Many of the causes behind birth defects are unknown, but there are always efforts being made to better understand and prevent birth defects whenever possible. Here’s what you can do:

As a Surrogate…

Gestational surrogates must meet a fairly strict list of physical requirements. This is designed to limit the risk of health problems for the surrogate as well as the baby. Surrogates must be generally healthy, have already given birth with no pregnancy complications, have a healthy BMI, be free of STDs, be smoke- and drug-free, be financially stable, meet age requirements and meet other important health criteria.

These health requirements may make it less likely for birth defects to occur, but even the healthiest gestational surrogate can’t guarantee that a child she carries won’t develop a birth defect, as much as she’d like to protect the baby from health issues. If you’re a surrogate, most of the strategies for preventing birth defects are the basics of maintaining a healthy pregnancy. This includes:

  • Seeing your OBGYN for regular prenatal checkups. Some defects can be caught early and treated or prevented before birth.
  • Staying healthy by eating right, drinking lots of water, exercising regularly (light to moderate), getting plenty of sleep and of course avoiding smoke, drugs, alcohol and other unhealthy habits.
  • Taking your prenatal vitamins, especially daily iron, which can reduce the risk of anemia, as well as daily folic acid, which has been shown to reduce the occurrence of birth defects in the baby’s spine and brain.
  • Reducing your stress. Stress hormones can be transferred to the baby through amniotic fluid and can negatively affect development, so rest, meditate and try to stay relaxed.

Remember that you can do everything right and a child may still be born with a birth defect. Although this is a frightening thought for surrogates who feel responsible for the safety and health of the intended parents’ child, understand that most of the time, these things are out of anyone’s control. Keeping yourself healthy is the best thing you can do for the intended parents’ baby!

As an Intended Parent…

Again, there is no 100 percent guarantee that a child will be free of birth defects. However, there are a few things that you can do as an intended parent to reduce the risk of birth defects when you’re having a child via surrogacy, including:

  • Using donor gametes if you or your spouse has a genetic disorder that you’re worried about passing on.
  • Obtaining a detailed family health history on both sides whenever possible.
  • Having PGS completed on your embryos prior to embryo transfer with your gestational surrogate to ensure your embryo(s) are healthy and free of potential defects.

An important thing to consider as an intended parent: what would you want to do if one or more of your embryos had a genetic disorder that would lead to a birth defect? This possibility can be difficult to think about, but it is something you’ll need to consider before you complete PGS.

As a Person Who Cares…

If you’ve been affected by birth defects, know someone with a birth defect, or you simply want to help raise awareness and offer support, everyone can step up during National Birth Defects Prevention Month. Here are a few simple ways you can join the cause:

  • Join the #Prevent2Protect Thunderclap to raise awareness of National Birth Defects Prevention Month and to sign up to share a unified, simultaneous message of support across social media.
  • Share your story with the hashtag #1in33 This is Me if you or someone you love has been affected by a birth defect, and help others to feel supported and understood.
  • Share factual information about health, and how steps can be taken to prevent some birth defects by using the hashtag #Prevent2Protect when you share that information.

How will you participate during National Birth Defects Prevention Month? Let us know in the comments.

Washington State Welcomes New Year with New Surrogacy Laws

This year marks the beginning of a new era for surrogacy in Washington, thanks to newly enacted legislation regarding the gestational surrogacy process.

Starting this month, intended parents and gestational carriers in Washington state will follow a set of standards and regulations that makes their surrogacy experience safer than ever before. While the state’s laws were severely anti-surrogacy prior to 2019, the new laws passed last year (and being enacted this month) provide a clear path ahead for those interested in gestational surrogacy.

So, what are the biggest changes that this new legislation brings? Find a breakdown of some of the most important points below:

1. Compensated surrogacy is now legal and enforceable.

Up until this month, compensated surrogacy in Washington was illegal. But, the passage of the Uniform Parentage Act last March changed all that. Today, intended parents and gestational carriers can enter into legally binding compensated surrogacy contracts for the benefit of all involved.

Washington contracts can now provide for surrogate “payment of consideration and reasonable expenses and reimbursement of specific expenses if the agreement is terminated.”

For more information about surrogate base compensation, contact our surrogacy specialists today.

2. Enforceable contracts must meet certain standards.

Following other states, Washington state requires intended parents and gestational carriers to meet certain requirements for their surrogacy contract to be legally enforceable.

In order for a woman to become a gestational carrier, she must:

  • Be at least 21 years old
  • Previously have given birth to at least one child, but not have entered into more than two surrogacy agreements
  • Complete a medical evaluation
  • Complete a mental health consultation
  • Have independent legal representation

In order for intended parents to enter into a surrogacy contract, they must:

At least one party to the agreement must be a resident of Washington. The surrogate’s spouse must be a party to the agreement, and the agreement must be executed before any medical procedures can occur.

A legal gestational surrogacy contract will include:

  • The acknowledgement that a surrogate and her spouse have no claim to the child born
  • The acknowledgement that the intended parents will take custody of and responsibility for the child
  • Information on how the intended parents will cover the expenses of the carrier
  • Information on surrogate base compensation
  • And more

For more information on what a legal contract in this state requires, speak to a local Washington surrogacy attorney.

3. Both parents of children born via gestational carrier are treated as legal parents from the start.

The new legislation states “on birth of a child conceived by assisted reproduction under a gestational surrogacy agreement, each intended parent is, by operation of law, the parent of the child.” This means that all intended parents can receive pre-birth orders that will be enforced once the child is born.

This eliminates the complicated business of post-birth parentage orders and adoptions that some unrelated or unmarried intended parents previously had to complete in Washington.

4. Traditional surrogacy remains legal but with additional requirements.

Traditional surrogacy, denoted as “genetic surrogacy” in the new legislation, is available in Washington state. However, new stipulations have been established for intended parents and surrogates taking this route.

All traditional surrogacy contracts must meet the same standards as gestational surrogacy contracts. In addition to these terms, there are specific rules regarding termination of contracts. Intended parents may terminate the surrogacy contract any time prior to the embryo or gamete transfer. A traditional surrogate may withdraw consent any time before 48 hours after the birth of the child. When she does so, she waives all right to compensation, and her parental rights may be upheld, depending on the legal situation. However, she is not automatically assumed to be the legal parent of the child.

5. Children born of gamete donors have new rights.

The Uniform Parentage Act doesn’t just address surrogacy; it addresses many different aspects of assisted reproduction technology. Now, any child conceived by assisted reproduction has the right to request identifying information about their biological parent and/or notify their biological parent of their request. Even if the donor is anonymous, the child born of a gamete donation and their parent has the right to access non-identifying medical history.

American Surrogacy is thrilled to help intended parents and gestational carriers in Washington reach their surrogacy dreams under this new surrogacy-friendly legislation. For more information about working with our agency, or to start your surrogacy process today, please call 1-800-875-BABY(2229).