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.

7 Questions You Have About Your Surrogate’s Delivery

It’s finally here, the thing you’ve been waiting your entire family-building process for — your gestational carrier’s delivery. As much that goes into the initial stages of the surrogacy process, you may not have thought about what would happen when your gestational carrier reaches the end of her pregnancy. What can you expect from your upcoming hospital stay?

This is a new experience for many intended parents, and it’s perfectly normal to have lots of questions about this part of the journey. Your upcoming hospital stay can be nerve-wracking and exciting at the same time. The good news is that the more prepared you are for this experience, the more successful it will be.

Understanding what to expect from this part of the surrogacy journey is a big part of preparing for the unknowns ahead of you. When you work with American Surrogacy, your surrogacy specialist will always help you prepare for this exciting time. He or she will answer all of your questions and help you feel comfortable with what is to come.

You can always talk to your specialist by calling 1-800-875-2229(BABY). In the meantime, you can find answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about a gestational pregnancy hospital stay below:

1. Will we be present during childbirth?

Yes! Your surrogacy specialist and your gestational carrier will do everything possible to ensure that you make it to the hospital in time for your carrier’s delivery. You will be in close communication with your carrier and receive all the updates she gets from her obstetrician, and you will be made aware of the hospital plan every step of the way. This way, you’ll know when your surrogate is due, and you can make the proper arrangements to be there during childbirth.

That said, babies come when they want to, so you may want to take precautions just in case she goes into labor earlier than expected.

As far as being in the room during the actual birth, that will depend upon the policies of the hospital where your gestational carrier is delivering. Some hospitals will only allow a certain number of people into a delivery room, and the rules could be even stricter when there’s a cesarean-section. In some cases, both intended parents are allowed to be in the room with the carrier and her spouse, but some situations allow for only one or two people to accompany the carrier into delivery.

As with every other part of the hospital plan, a plan for who will be present during delivery will be set before the carrier gets close to delivery. You and your surrogate will decide which preferences you are both comfortable with during that time.

2. Will we get our own room?

Again, the answer to this will depend upon hospital policies. Some hospitals treat surrogacy as similar to adoption; intended parents can stay in a hospital room near the carrier after the baby is born. This can be incredibly instrumental in the bonding time shortly following birth.

However, some hospitals do not provide extra rooms for intended parents. Therefore, some parents stay in the same room with their gestational carrier as she recovers, or they stay in a nearby hotel and visit the carrier and their baby as often as possible.

3. Will our baby get to stay with us?

Again, this will depend upon hospital policy. If you are staying in a hospital room, and the surrogacy situation has been explained to hospital staff in detail, it shouldn’t be a problem for your baby to stay in the room with you as your surrogate recovers and your baby waits for discharge.

However, there may be situations in which a baby cannot stay in the same room with either the intended parents or gestational carrier, most notably in cases of premature birth or other birth complications. Separation from a new baby can be stressful for any parent, let alone a parent who didn’t carry a child themselves. Remember that your baby’s doctor will do everything they can to move your child to your rom when they are medically ready. In the meantime, if you are staying at the hospital, you can always visit your child as often as allowed. You can invite your gestational carrier to accompany you, as well.

4. Will our names be placed on the baby’s birth certificate?

If your state laws allow for a pre-birth order, your names will be placed on your baby’s birth certificate when they are born. This can be a massive relief for intended parents, but remember that, even if you don’t have a pre-birth order, there will never be any confusion about who the baby really belongs to. Your surrogacy specialist will make sure the hospital is aware of your situation and understands the parental rights you have in this process.

Some states don’t allow for pre-birth orders, only post-birth parentage orders or adoption. If this is the situation with your surrogacy, your surrogacy attorney will explain the necessary legal process to you before your carrier gives birth. They will also work to ensure that an amended birth certificate is provided to you as quickly as your state processes allow for.

5. Can I breastfeed my baby in the hospital?

If you are an intended mother, you may be interested in breastfeeding your child born via surrogacy. Not only is this recommended by breastfeeding advocates, but it is entirely possible — and you can start breastfeeding once your child is born.

You’ll need to talk to your doctor ahead of your carrier’s delivery to ensure you induce lactation early enough for your baby’s delivery. If you have a separate room for you and your baby during the hospital stay, you may even have access to lactation specialists during this time. They can help you with any issues you have inducing lactation and adjusting to your new breastfeeding schedule.

6. Do we get a say in the hospital and delivery plans?

While your gestational carrier will be the one undergoing childbirth, you are still an active part in this surrogacy process. When your carrier creates her hospital plan, your surrogacy specialist will make sure to include you in this decision-making. If you have specific desires for your child’s birth — such as a natural delivery, delayed cord clamping or more — it’s important that you tell your carrier and surrogacy specialist as early on as possible.

Like the other aspects in surrogacy, a hospital plan may include compromises. Being honest about what you want early on will help ensure a surrogacy process you are comfortable with.

7. How do we start planning our hospital stay?

When you work with American Surrogacy, your surrogacy specialist will ensure that your hospital plan is created in plenty of time to let you and your gestational carrier prepare for this experience. Typically, this plan is created during a carrier’s second or third trimester in a conversation between all parties involved.

While planning a hospital stay can be stressful in an independent surrogacy, when you work with American Surrogacy, your surrogacy specialist will handle all the necessary details. They will mediate the conversation between you and your gestational carrier, coordinate with the carrier’s insurance provider and medical professionals, and work with the hospital to ensure all professionals are prepared for the unique surrogacy situation ahead of them.

The birth of your baby can be an incredible experience. Let our specialists help you through every part of this process. To learn more about our agency’s services, please contact our specialists today.

Should You Consider Embryo Donation After Surrogacy?

When you’re an intended parent, you will put a lot of thought into the surrogacy process. But, you may not consider what will happen when your surrogacy is complete. If you’re like many intended parents, you will have remaining embryos after your gestational carrier gives birth — and you’ll need to decide what to do with them.

There are generally three options for leftover embryos: to dispose of them, donate them to science, or donate them to another intended parent. Many intended parents choose a fourth “option” — to keep them in long-term storage indefinitely — but, as an intended parent, you will need to decide what to do with your embryos at some point. At American Surrogacy, we encourage our clients to think about this earlier rather than later.

In this article, we’ll talk about one of the most selfless and beautiful choices for your leftover IVF embryos: donating them to another intended parent. Understandably, many people have reservations about this process, so having the right information can help you make the best decision for your family.

Whether you’re seriously considering embryo donation or simply want to learn more, here are some things you should know:

Signs Embryo Donation is Right for You

Donating leftover embryos is not right for everyone — and that’s okay! When you donate an embryo to another couple, you are often giving a very personal gift to a complete stranger. It can be nerve-wracking to consider.

However, there are a few signs that it may be the right choice for you:

1. You want to help someone else become parents.

As an intended parent, you understand the struggle that people like you go through to have a child. If you decide to donate your embryos, you can make someone else’s parenthood journey a little easier. Donated embryos can be used to help an intended mother experience pregnancy, reduce the costs of IVF for those looking into surrogacy, and even help LGBT couples who can’t conceive an embryo on their own.

When you donate your embryos, you give these intended parents a new chance at building their family. The people who choose this path empathize with those in that situation, and they make the selfless choice to give the possibility of a child to those who want it most.

2. You are uncomfortable disposing of your embryos or keeping them in long-term storage.

While frozen embryos are in no way considered viable, some intended parent feel uncomfortable disposing of the promise their embryos could have. Whether or not they view them as “children,” some people don’t believe that discarding their embryos (or donating them to science) is ethical.

On the other hand, keeping them in long-term storage is not a viable option either. Sure, it may delay the decision you have to make, and it can keep your options open if you wish to have more children, but you will eventually need to decide what you wish to do with your embryos. Otherwise, this will be a decision made by your family members when you die.

Donating your embryos can give you control over their use and a sense of purpose that you may not feel otherwise.

3. You are comfortable with being an identified donor.

There’s one thing that you should know before donating your embryos: You are not “giving up your children.” Instead, you are giving the possibility of a child to someone else. If that embryo successfully implants and develops into a fetus, there will be a child with your genetic material out in the world. That’s why embryo donation is also called “embryo adoption.”

For this reason, the people who donate embryos with their genetic material are highly recommended (sometimes even required) to do so on an identified basis. That means, when the child is old enough, the embryo donors can be contacted by their biological son or daughter (or his or her parents) for more information about genetic history, siblings, etc. You will not be responsible for your biological child’s well-being, and you will likely not feel the same connection that a birth parent feels to their child in an adoption situation. However, you will have the responsibility to give your biological child the information they need as they grow up.

Signs Embryo Donation is Not Right for You

If you’re unsure about donating your embryos to someone else, that’s completely normal. You may have a few concerns about the process, which is why learning as much as possible will help you make the best choice for your family.

There are generally a few signs that embryo donation may not be the best route for your family:

1. Your embryos are not high-quality.

This reason goes without saying. If you have struggled to conceive yourself, and you’ve turned to surrogacy and transferred the best quality embryo, your remaining embryos likely weren’t quality enough to be used for your own surrogacy. Therefore, they shouldn’t be donated to another couple if they have a high chance of failure.

If your reproductive endocrinologist determines that your leftover embryos are too low quality for donation to other intended parents, consider donating them to science instead. That way, experts can study your embryos to advance future assisted reproduction techniques.

2. You are uncomfortable with someone else raising a child who is biologically related to you.

If your embryos are created from you and your spouse’s gametes, it may make you uncomfortable to donate a potential biological child to someone else. Even if you choose identified donation, you will not be actively involved in your biological child’s life. For some intended parents, this can be a deal-breaker when it comes to donation. It takes a special kind of person to give a biological child to someone else; not everyone can be an embryo donor or birth parent.

Consider talking to an identified donor bank to learn more about this process to see if your concerns clear up with more information. If they don’t, that’s okay — consider donating your embryos to science, where they will never reach the point of viability.

3. You would rather dispose of your embryos.

Deciding what to do with your leftover embryos is a tough choice. You may not like the uncertainty of long-term storage, and you may be uncomfortable with donating your genetic material and the unknowns that come with doing so. In your case, discarding your embryos may be the best solution.

Remember, choosing to discard your embryos doesn’t mean that you are destroying “children.” It is always up to you to decide whether you are personally comfortable with discarding your embryos, but know that they are not viable and will not develop into fetuses unless implanted in a uterus.

If you are ever unsure as to what to do with your leftover embryos, we encourage you to speak in depth with your reproductive endocrinologist. This may not be a decision that you make overnight, but having the proper information and understanding all of your options will help you to choose the path that is best for your family.

What Happens if My Baby is Born Prematurely During Surrogacy?

It’s a situation that no intended parent or gestational carrier wants to be in: a premature delivery. However, like any other person experiencing a traditional pregnancy, both parties need to be fully prepared for this situation, should it occur during their gestational pregnancy.

If you’re an intended parent, you probably don’t want to think about your child being born prematurely. Surrogacy comes with enough unknowns as it is; when you add in the aspect of premature labor, it can become even more complicated.

So, what can you expect if your baby is born prematurely?

First, know this: Your surrogacy specialist at American Surrogacy will be there to support you every step of the way. They will be prepared to coordinate with all the necessary medical professionals and insurance providers during this process, allowing you and your gestational carrier to focus on what really matters — getting your baby healthy.

Our surrogacy specialists are always available to answer your questions about the medical process of surrogacy when you call our agency at 1-800-875-2229(BABY). In the meantime, you can find out more about premature births in surrogacy below.

What are the Risk Factors for Premature Delivery?

Admittedly, surrogacy can be a complicated family-building process on its own — but there is also evidence that in vitro fertilization can increase the chance that your child will be born prematurely. Therefore, surrogacy professionals take many steps to ensure that a gestational carrier is 100 percent prepared (medically and emotionally) to carry a child before she is approved for the surrogacy process. As part of this process, these medical screenings will test for risk factors for premature labor, such as:

  • Being underweight or overweight before pregnancy – American Surrogacy requires all surrogates to have a healthy BMI between 19 and 31.
  • Multiple previous miscarriages or abortions – Surrogates must have a proven track record of healthy pregnancies free from complications to work with American Surrogacy.
  • Fewer than six months between pregnancies – Our agency requires gestational carriers to wait 12 months after their last pregnancy before starting surrogacy.
  • Smoking cigarettes or using illicit drugs – Surrogates with American Surrogacy are prohibited from these activities before or during their surrogacy.
  • Chronic conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes – All surrogates must undergo an extensive medical examination to prove they are healthy enough to carry a gestational pregnancy.

Another common risk factor for premature labor is carrying multiples, which is why medical professionals will advise against transferring more than one embryo during a single transfer. However, many women who experience premature delivery have no previously known risk factors. That’s why American Surrogacy encourages all its gestational carriers to follow certain guidelines for a healthy pregnancy — guidelines that will likely be addressed in your surrogacy contract.

What if My Surrogate Goes into Preterm Labor?

There are situations in which a gestational carrier seems to have a completely healthy pregnancy, only for her to go into labor prematurely. This can be nerve-wracking for both her and her intended parents, who can feel helpless during this emotional time.

If you live close enough to your gestational carrier, you may decide to travel to her, just in case premature delivery may be needed. If you live far away, it can be tempting to try to find the next flight available and get there when you can. Whatever your situation, you may actually wish to wait until you hear from your carrier’s doctor.

Not all premature labor will result in premature deliveries. In some situations, an obstetrician will be able to prescribe medication to delay the labor as long as possible. Many doctors have a number of weeks they would prefer women hit before giving birth, and your carrier’s doctor may be able to help her keep the baby until that point. She may need to take medication, or she may be required to stay on bedrest for the remainder of her pregnancy. If the latter is the case, your surrogacy contract should detail what expenses will be paid to her as a result of her missing work.

What Will Happen at the Hospital if My Child is Born Premature?

Even with a doctor’s intervention, a gestational carrier may have to deliver a child prematurely — for the child’s safety and for her own safety, too. If you receive a call that your gestational carrier is delivering earlier than planned, you may be frustrated and nervous that things aren’t going according to plan. Remember, your carrier’s doctor is doing the best he or she can to keep your carrier and your baby safe, which sometimes involves premature delivery.

Some doctors may be able to delay a carrier’s labor until intended parents are able to arrive at the hospital. This may not be possible in other situations. Your gestational carrier, her doctor or your surrogacy specialist will keep you up to date on developments. Either way, if you receive the news that your child is being born prematurely, you should likely travel to the carrier’s hospital as soon as possible.

What you will do when you arrive at the hospital will depend upon your surrogate’s medical situation and the hospital’s policies. You may be able to be in the same room during her delivery, whether vaginal or cesarean-section. In other situations, you may not be.

Again, this will all depend upon your carrier’s and your baby’s medical situations, but your baby will likely be placed in the NICU after delivery. There, he or she will receive the medical care they need. Your baby’s doctors will keep you updated on his or her status and allow you to visit your child as soon as possible. You may even be able to stay in a nearby hospital room as you originally planned to during the hospital stay, but this will depend upon hospital policies and available rooms.

As stressful as this time can be, you shouldn’t forget about your gestational carrier. She is likely just as worried as you are about the baby. Take the time to visit with her after labor and ensure she is recovering. Give her the chance to see the baby during her stay, if possible, and keep her updated on your baby’s status after she is discharged.

Every premature delivery situation is different, so these are just some basic words of advice that you can keep in mind if this circumstance occurs with your own surrogacy journey. The best thing you can do in this situation is keep in touch with everyone involved in your surrogacy — your gestational carrier, her obstetrician and your surrogacy specialist. A premature delivery can be a scary experience, but it doesn’t always have to be a negative one.

For more information on how American Surrogacy will support you during your gestational carrier’s pregnancy and delivery process, please contact our surrogacy specialists at 1-800-875-2229(BABY).

What to Expect After Your Gestational Pregnancy Delivery

When you’re a gestational carrier, a lot of thought and preparation will go into your gestational pregnancy and your delivery plan. But, what happens after you return home from the hospital? What can you expect?

It’s normal to have questions about the postpartum period of a gestational pregnancy. If you’re like most gestational carriers, this is your first time being pregnant for someone else, and you may not be sure what it will be like to return home without a baby. Being educated about what to expect and all the possibilities during this time is the best thing you can do to be prepared.

That said, every postpartum recovery from a gestational surrogacy is different. You know your body the best, and it’s important that you stay in tune to how you’re feeling during this time. If something feels off, don’t hesitate to call your medical professional. Your pregnancy- and postpartum-related medical bills will always be covered by your intended parents, and your personal well-being is always of the utmost importance. Remember, your surrogacy specialist can answer any questions and support you through this time, too.

If you’re wondering what to expect from your postpartum experience, there are a few things you should be aware of:

Post-Delivery Recovery Time

The time that it takes to recover from the childbirth experience of a gestational pregnancy is much different than your recovery period from your own pregnancies. Yes, you will be experiencing much of the same physical pain and exhaustion you’ve felt before, but there is one major difference — you get the chance to focus entirely on healing.

When women give birth to their own children, they often don’t have the luxury of taking their time to recover. After all, there’s a new baby in the house demanding attention. Gestational carriers are luckier; they don’t have a new baby to care for 24/7 and, thus, are more likely to take the time they need to recover from labor. Every woman is different, but many gestational carriers report they feel back to normal a few days or even a few hours after labor.

As great as you may feel after your delivery, don’t forget to take it easy on yourself. Your body will have gone through a tremendous experience in childbirth, and it will need time to recover. Even if you feel fine, take precautions. Take naps frequently, don’t attempt any extreme physical activity, and delay your return to your normal routine for a few weeks. The last thing you will want to do at this point is “overdo it.”

To Pump or Not to Pump?

One of the things you’ll need to decide before you even enter your last trimester is what you plan to do with your breastmilk. Whether you plan to pump or not, there are certain preparations and steps you’ll need to take.

When you work with American Surrogacy, your surrogacy specialist can mediate a conversation between you and your intended parents about pumping breastmilk after the baby is born, if the parents want that. If so, this will be included in your legal surrogacy contract. Keep in mind, when you pump for intended parents, you will need to need to commit your time to pump every few hours.

If you decide not to pump for the intended parents, you will need to take certain steps to halt your lactation. Your medical professional can talk in depth about this process and what you should avoid to prevent complications such as mastitis and plugged ducts. Many gestational carriers say that halting lactation helped them return “back to normal” more quickly.

Postpartum Depression

Another thing to consider about your post-delivery recovery period is the hormones and the emotions you will be feeling after childbirth. Even when you emotionally prepare for your gestational delivery and are ready for the emotions you may experience, it can still be a difficult adjustment during your recovery period.

Like all pregnant women, gestational carriers have the chance of developing postpartum depression after delivery. Sometimes, a gestational pregnancy reduces the chance of baby blues; a carrier can focus on her own recovery without the added stress of caring for a baby. However, with all the different hormones lingering after pregnancy, sometimes a degree of depression occurs.

Being proactive (for example: taking care of yourself, recognizing when you need a mental health day) can do wonders in helping stave off “the baby blues.” If you’re experiencing a greater degree of depression, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Postpartum depression is never a woman’s fault; it’s simply a response to the hormones in her body after she delivers.

If you are feeling sad, irritated, or experiencing other emotions out of the norm that last for longer than six weeks, reach out to your obstetrician.

Remember, every gestational carrier’s postpartum experience is unique, just like her pregnancy will be. But, when you work with American Surrogacy, your surrogacy specialist will make sure you receive the support and education you need to be prepared for whatever happens, both during and after your gestational pregnancy. You can even be connected with former surrogates who can answer your questions about their postpartum experience and help you prepare for the upcoming emotions you may feel.

For more information on how American Surrogacy will support you as a gestational carrier during this time, please call our specialists at 1-800-875-2229(BABY).

Learning About Gestational Diabetes for World Diabetes Day 2018

This Wednesday, Nov. 14, is World Diabetes Day — a day designed to bring awareness to the millions of people around the world living with different types of diabetes. As a surrogacy professional, American Surrogacy recognizes the importance of this day for many of our intended parents and gestational carriers, and we join with the International Diabetes Federation to help bring attention to this important issue.

But, because we are professionals who frequently deal with pregnant women, there is one important type of diabetes that we wish to highlight today: gestational diabetes.

What is Gestational Diabetes?

Like other forms of diabetes, gestational diabetes affects how well your cells can convert sugar — leading to a high blood sugar and other potential complications. The key difference is that gestational diabetes develops only during pregnancy.

There is no clear reason why some women develop gestational diabetes. Some doctors believe the elevated levels of hormones during pregnancy interfere with the action of insulin — the hormone that helps convert glucose into energy. Therefore, some women will experience a rise in blood sugar that can put themselves and the unborn baby at risk.

Often, pregnant women can control gestational diabetes with diet, exercise and medication. Controlling this condition is imperative; left unchecked, gestational diabetes can have serious effects on a woman’s health.

In most cases of gestational diabetes, blood sugar levels will return to normal soon after the baby is delivered. But, if a woman has previously had gestational diabetes, she is more at risk for developing it again during pregnancy or developing type 2 diabetes. Early intervention from a doctor is key to reducing the risks of this condition during pregnancy.

Who is at Risk for Gestational Diabetes?

Any pregnant woman can develop gestational diabetes, which is why a proper prenatal screening is so important in all pregnancies, including gestational pregnancies. But, there are a few important risk factors to be aware of:

  • Being over the age of 25
  • Having prediabetes or a family history of type 2 diabetes
  • Having gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy, previously delivering a baby more than 9 pounds, or having an unexplained stillbirth
  • Having a BMI of 30 or higher
  • Being of a nonwhite race

If you choose to become a gestational carrier, your reproductive endocrinologist will review your medical history and complete certain screenings to determine your risk of developing gestational diabetes during this journey.

How Does Gestational Diabetes Affect the Surrogacy Process?

Gestational diabetes can be an unpredictable condition, and some gestational carriers develop it during their surrogate pregnancies. Rest assured: Your surrogacy and medical professional will always be there to support you through this challenge, should it emerge.

But, you may be asking: If I have a history of gestational diabetes, can I still become a gestational carrier?

The answer to this question always depends upon your personal medical history. While women with type 1 and type 2 diabetes will often be disqualified from the surrogacy process, women who have had gestational diabetes may still be eligible. If your condition was successfully managed with a change in diet and exercise during your previous pregnancy, it will be more likely that a fertility clinic will approve you to move forward with this journey.

If you have a history of gestational diabetes, make sure to be honest with your surrogacy professional about your health history. Moving forward with a gestational pregnancy without acknowledging this fact can put you and the intended parents’ baby in real danger.

Diabetes affects about 9 percent of the U.S. population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. World Diabetes Day is one of the ways advocates work to spread awareness about this number — and the work being done to reduce this number in the future. We at American Surrogacy are happy to share information about this day and how you can get involved.

For more information about gestational diabetes and how it could affect your surrogacy journey, please call our specialists at 1-800-875-2229(BABY).

7 Misconceptions You May Have About the Embryo Transfer Process

There are a lot of things to consider if you are thinking about becoming a gestational surrogate. This journey will require a great deal of your time and energy (not to mention your body), and it’s not a commitment that any woman should take lightly.

One of the big requirements of surrogacy is the medical process you will subject yourself to. Before you even carry a child for nine months with the risks and responsibilities of pregnancy, you will need to undergo fertility medication and the embryo transfer procedure. You already know what to expect from your pregnancy, but you may be completely unaware of what the embryo transfer process really entails. There may even be a few questions on your mind:

  • How bad do the fertility shots hurt?
  • How long does the process take?
  • Do you have to have sex with the other person’s partner in order to become a surrogate mother?
  • How many embryo transfers will I have to go through?

These are all common questions to have. Fortunately, the surrogacy specialists at American Surrogacy are here to help. They can answer every question you have about the medical process of surrogacy to alleviate your concerns and, when you’re ready, help you get started with your surrogacy journey. To learn more today, you can always call 1-800-875-BABY(2229).

In order to know what to expect, it’s first important to recognize any misinformation that you may have heard about this process. Below, find seven common myths about in vitro fertilization and the embryo transfer process as they pertain to becoming a gestational surrogate.

  1. Surrogacy requires “natural” ways of conceiving.

Sometimes, prospective surrogates unfamiliar with the medical process of surrogacy ask, “In order to be a surrogate mother, do you have to have sex with the other person’s partner?”

While this method of surrogacy was common in earlier centuries, the advance of in vitro fertilization and artificial insemination eliminated this practice. Today, the practice of conception in surrogacy is achieved in a laboratory setting, all under the watchful eye of a reproductive endocrinologist. Surrogates do not have to be intimate with the intended father; this kind of relationship would cause far more harm than good. In fact, during the process to become a surrogate, you will have to abstain from all kinds of sexual intercourse — even that with your own spouse or partner.

  1. You have to take a lot of painful shots to become a surrogate.

Preparing for the embryo transfer process does take a lot of time and energy — but for good reason.  A reproductive endocrinologist wants to make sure a potential carrier is as healthy as possible before transferring an embryo, to give all parties the best possible chance of success. In many cases, a prospective surrogate will take certain pills and shots in order to achieve the best conditions for pregnancy.

However, every surrogate’s medical protocol is different. Some surrogates may need to take more shots than others, while some women may not take any at all. While it can be helpful to speak with other surrogates about their medical experience, the only person who can tell you what to expect in your pre-transfer medical protocol is your reproductive endocrinologist.

  1. Fertility medication causes cancer.

This myth has existed for a while, mostly from fear that ovarian stimulation would stimulate cancer cells, as well. The fact is fertility medication has not been proven to cause cancer; otherwise, professionals would not prescribe it. Your medical professional will always explain the potential side effects of your medication before beginning the protocol to ensure you are comfortable moving forward.

  1. Your reproductive endocrinologist will transfer several embryos for the best chance of success.

As recent as a decade ago, it was common for fertility doctors to transfer as many embryos as possible for the best chances of a successful pregnancy. Today, it’s a bit different. New methods of screening embryos have emerged, giving medical professionals the ability to determine which are the healthiest embryos before transfer occurs. By choosing only the best embryo for transfer, fertility doctors today improve the chances of conception and reduce the risks associated with multiple births.

As a surrogate, you always have the right to choose how many embryos per transfer you are comfortable with. This will be addressed in your surrogacy contract.

  1. The embryo transfer process is painful.

Actually, the embryo transfer process is fairly quick and easy — it only takes about five minutes! The process of transferring an embryo to a uterus is a fairly quick one. Many women compare it to the feeling of a pap smear. It may be a bit uncomfortable, and you may feel slight pressure, but it will be over before you know it and you will likely experience minimal side effects.

  1. Your embryo transfer will succeed the first time around.

While fertility doctors do their best to ensure a successful embryo transfer, the odds are often against you as a surrogate. Even when all factors are advantageous, the live birth rate for each embryo transfer is around 40 percent for women under 35 years old, and that probability decreases the older a woman is. You may have to undergo more than one embryo transfer before becoming pregnant, and it’s usually a situation out of your control. As a surrogate, you will also get the chance to determine how many embryo transfers you are comfortable with in one surrogacy journey before you even begin.

  1. Any unused embryos will be destroyed.

The issue of unused embryos in IVF can be a sensitive one, even if you are not an intended parent. Keep in mind that the storage and use of any extra embryos will always be up to the intended parents — but not all intended parents will automatically dispose of leftover embryos.

If embryos are deemed healthy enough, they may be donated to other families in need for an embryo adoption. Embryos deemed unhealthy (that is, they would not survive if implanted in a woman’s uterus) are likely disposed of. Intended parents may also choose to store their embryos indefinitely while they make a decision. Wherever you stand on the debate about when life starts, remember that this will be not your concern as a surrogate, although it is something to consider your feelings on before starting the IVF process.

For more information on the medical process of surrogacy and whether surrogacy is right for you, please reach out to our surrogacy specialists today.

Carrying for Two Couples at Once: Is it Possible?

Oftentimes, the women who wish to become surrogates are the most selfless, generous women out there. If you’re one of them, you’re probably excited at the opportunity to help intended parents reach their parenthood dreams — dreams they’ve been waiting for years to finally come true.

In an effort to help as many people as possible, you may even wonder, “When being a surrogate, can you have two different couples’ embryos implanted?”

This is a great question to ask, and it shows your desire to assist as many intended parents as possible. However, the answer to this question is always no. Whether you work with a surrogacy professional like American Surrogacy or complete an independent surrogacy, you can only work with one intended parent or couple at a time — for the safety and best interest of all involved.

Why You Can Only Complete One Surrogacy Journey at a Time

If you’re asking, “When being a surrogate, can you have two different couples’ embryos implanted?” you probably have another question when you find out the answer to the previous one: “Why not?”

Surrogacy is a very complicated process — emotionally, physically and mentally. It can be challenging enough to have a successful pregnancy and surrogacy process with one intended parent or couple of intended parents. Bringing another couple into the mix, even hypothetically, can severely compromise the safety of each party and the success of the overall surrogacy journey.

There are a lot of steps required to complete a single surrogacy journey at a time, including:

  • Screening and background assessments for both parties
  • Medical and psychological testing for each party
  • Finalized legal contract (with separate attorneys)
  • Establishment of the intended parents’ parental rights
  • Negotiation of surrogate compensation
  • And more

All of these steps often add up to a surrogacy journey of a year or more. Thinking about adding another couple to the mix? This will not only increase that overall time but also complicate every other step involved in the process. Not only will the preferences and goals of the surrogate have to be considered but the two separate sets of intended parents’, as well!

Every person pursuing surrogacy has different hopes and goals for their surrogacy journey; including two sets of intended parents in one surrogacy journey is logistically impossible.

The Medical Dangers to the Surrogate

You may think, “But my intended parents and I can handle those challenges. Why can’t I carry two children at once and help as many people as possible become parents?”

Completing a surrogacy with more than one set of intended parents isn’t just complicated — it’s much more dangerous for a surrogate like you.

In modern surrogacy (and in vitro fertilization), fertility specialists highly recommend only transferring one embryo to a woman’s uterus. While medical professionals used to transfer as many embryos as possible to ensure success, better screening and preparation allows professionals today to implant only the highest-quality embryo into a woman’s uterus. There’s a big reason for this: Carrying multiples has been proven to cause many more risks for a woman and is strongly advised against.

Carrying more than one child leads to an increased likelihood of:

  • Preterm labor and delivery
  • Low birth weight
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Preeclampsia
  • Placental abruption
  • Fetal death
  • Cesarean section
  • And more

Therefore, carrying two children for the same couple comes with enough risk as it is. If you carry two children for separate couples, you not only take on these risks but also the complication of two different sets of parents having different priorities when it comes to medical treatment.

Don’t Worry — You Can Be a Surrogate More Than Once

If you’re asking, “When being a surrogate, can you have two different couples’ embryos implanted?” we encourage you to do some more research about the surrogacy journey and what it will require of you. This path may seem easier at first glance, but it’s not only more difficult and riskier — but also impossible. You can quickly run into legal and medical trouble if you try to work with more than one intended parent couple at a time.

Fortunately, you can certainly be a surrogate more than once. As long as you remain healthy and meet the requirements to be a surrogate, you can help many intended parents add to their family and reach their parenthood goals. At American Surrogacy, you can be a surrogate as long as you have had no more than five vaginal births and no more than three Cesarean births. This means you can be a surrogate multiple times — just like other women have been!

For more information about becoming a surrogate and finding intended parents to work with, please contact our surrogacy specialists at 1-800-875-BABY(2229) today.

Choosing Between Egg Donation and Surrogacy: What’s Right for You?

Are you considering using an egg donor or a surrogate to help you become a parent? It’s a complicated decision to make, which is why it’s so important that every intended parent in this situation fully understand both of their options before moving forward. Only then can you choose the path that is truly the best one for your family.

This article will help you better understand the differences between egg donation and surrogacy, and what situations might call for working with one or the other (or both). You can always contact our surrogacy specialists for more information about what the gestational surrogacy process will look like for you.

What is Egg Donation?

Egg donors are carefully screened women who are willing to share information about themselves with intended parents — and eventually share genetic material, as well. Egg donors are healthy, often educated and have no family history of genetic conditions. Some intended parents like to choose an egg donor who has particular personality traits or physical characteristics that they wish to see in a child.

An egg donor would provide half of a child’s genetics, so most intended parents choose their egg donor carefully through a trusted fertility clinic or donor agency. Sometimes intended parents choose someone that they know to be their egg donor, like a friend or family member.

Viable eggs are surgically collected from a donor. Then, they can be fertilized in a lab through in vitro fertilization (IVF) using sperm from either a donor or an intended father. Next, the resulting embryo is transferred to the uterus of either a surrogate or an intended mother to carry.

Who Might Consider Using an Egg Donor?

There are several people who might choose to build their family through an egg donation:

  • A woman who is unable to produce viable eggs but who has sperm from an intended father or a donor, and is physically able to carry the pregnancy to term herself.
  • A same-sex male couple who is working with a gestational surrogate to carry their baby.
  • A single man who is working with a gestational surrogate to carry his baby.

In many situations, an egg donor is used in tandem with a surrogate. Typically, the only situation in which someone would exclusively use an egg donor and not a surrogate is when the intended mother’s eggs are not viable, but she is able to carry a baby safely to term.

In those instances, an embryo would be created in a lab through IVF using the donor egg and sperm from either the intended father or from a donor, and then the embryo would be transferred to the intended mother’s uterus.

In most situations, however, the created embryo is transferred to a gestational surrogate.

What is Surrogacy?

Surrogates are carefully screened women who are able to carry a pregnancy to term and safely give birth. Intended parents partner with surrogates they trust through surrogacy agencies, or with a woman they already know who has offered to carry the child. Intended parents and surrogates communicate directly and typically form a relationship throughout the process.

In gestational surrogacy, the surrogate’s eggs are not used, so she would not be related to the child she carries for the intended parents.

Instead, an embryo is transferred to the uterus of a gestational surrogate for her to carry to term. That embryo can be created in a lab through IVF using donated eggs and/or sperm, egg and/or sperm from intended parents, or a combination of a donor and an intended parent.

Who Might Consider Using a Surrogate?

Anyone who is unable to safely carry or deliver a child themselves for any reason will likely use a surrogate. However, the people who most commonly work with a surrogate include:

  • A woman who is unable to carry a pregnancy herself but has viable eggs to use.
  • A same-sex male couple who are using a donor egg.
  • A single man who is using a donor egg.

Often, egg and/or sperm donors are used in tandem with a surrogate. Heterosexual couples who have viable eggs and sperm will usually not need to work with an egg or sperm donor and will only work with a surrogate.

Most Intended Parents Will Work with Both

In most situations, donors (for sperm, an egg or both) and surrogates are both needed to help the intended parent(s) have a child. However, there are a couple situations in which you could choose to work with only an egg donor or only a surrogate:

  • If you’re a heterosexual couple with viable eggs and sperm, then you likely won’t need to use a donor.
  • If you’re a woman who is able to safely and successfully carry a pregnancy to term, then you likely won’t need to use a surrogate.

In almost every other situation, you’ll need to work with a donor (either for an egg or sperm) as well as a surrogate.

Need help finding the right egg and/or sperm donors? We can refer you to trusted fertility clinics to help you find the right donor.

Need help finding the right surrogate? We can help you match with surrogates who fit what you’re looking for.

Want to learn more about surrogacy in general? Contact us online or call 1-800-875-2229 to learn more about our services and how we can help you on your journey to parenthood.

Can You Get Pregnant with Your Own Child as a Surrogate?

Before becoming a surrogate, you likely have a lot of questions. In your research, you have probably come across a fair number of dramatic, sensationalized stories from former surrogates. They may even make you nervous about moving forward with this process.

One such story that gained traction last year was that of Jessica Allen, a California surrogate who became pregnant with twins — only to find out that one of the children was her biological son. Critics of surrogacy took this story as an opportunity to emphasize the dangers of surrogacy, and the fact that Allen had to “fight for her own son.”

Understandably, this story may worry you. The good news? A situation like this is extremely rare and can easily be avoided by following proper protocols.

When you become a surrogate, you will be required to go through screening and assessments to ensure you are physically and emotionally capable of the journey ahead. During these screenings, your surrogacy professional will describe in detail the medical process of surrogacy — and exactly how it will work to eliminate complications like this from happening.

But, how exactly do you make sure you don’t get pregnant with your own child along the way? The precautions to take are pretty simple:

1. You will be on a strict fertility medication schedule prior to embryo transfer.

Before you can even be approved for an embryo transfer, you will need to prepare your body for the process. You will work with your intended parents’ fertility clinic to create a medication schedule that regulates your cycle and maximizes your chances for a successful embryo transfer. Your medication will likely include the birth control pill, which will stop your ovulation and prevent pregnancy in the period before your embryo transfer process.

2. You will be required to refrain from sexual intercourse leading up to and after the pregnancy is confirmed.

This is perhaps the biggest prevention of an unplanned pregnancy during the surrogacy process — and the step that Allen and her husband likely disregarded.

After you complete your medical routine, your body will be hyper-fertile and ready to receive a transferred embryo. This will mean your body is also more likely to conceive if you engage in sexual intercourse. For this reason, surrogacy professionals will require that you refrain from sex for a certain amount of time. This will be outlined in your surrogacy contract, as well. Breaking this agreement, as Allen presumably did, could lead to extreme legal consequences.

If you do as requested and refrain from sex, there is no way that you will get pregnant with your own biological child during the surrogacy process. Therefore, it’s important that your spouse is on the same page with you about the requirements of surrogacy (including this) before starting the journey. Your choice to be a surrogate will impact him, as well as the rest of your immediate family. It truly is a family journey that you take together.

3. Your medical professional will support you every step of the way.

When you become a surrogate, there will be several professionals acting to protect your rights and interests every step of the way. In addition to your surrogacy specialist and your surrogacy attorney, your medical professional will provide the physical and medical support you need during this journey.

Your medical protocol will always be tailored to you, and your medical professional will make sure you are comfortable. They will be there to answer your questions and ensure everything goes as planned — including your pregnancy. If there is any sign that an embryo transfer or a potential pregnancy may be compromised, you will have the support you need.

So, when you read the dramatic “horror stories” about surrogacy, be reassured that these are very rare cases indeed — and, as long as you follow your professionals’ instructions, your surrogacy journey will be very likely to succeed. You need not worry about becoming pregnant with your own child during the surrogacy process; the child that you give birth to will be the intended parents’, and you will have no responsibility to take custody of another child upon delivery.

To learn more about the medical process of surrogacy, you can always contact our surrogacy specialists at 1-800-875-BABY(2229).