Reproductive sciences have come a long way in the 21st century. Today, infertile couples and hopeful parents have new hopes to have a baby through assisted reproductive technology such as IUI, IVF, and surrogacy.
For couples who are unable to carry a pregnancy safely, IVF surrogacy remains the best method to become parents. The IVF procedure however, is the main medical procedure here and thus the backbone of the process.
What is IVF?
IVF or in vitro fertilization process is an assisted reproductive technology where the eggs are fertilized with the sperms in a lab in order to create embryos. These embryos are then implanted in the mother’s womb to conceive a pregnancy.
The IVF process is currently the most popular and successful fertility treatment option. However, it may take more than one IVF round to get pregnant.
What is IVF surrogacy?
IVF surrogacy means the use of a “gestational surrogate,” that is, a woman who carries the pregnancy when an intended mother is unable to carry the baby to term herself. The gestational surrogate is sometimes referred to as the “gestational carrier” or “gestational mother”. Gestational surrogates agree to a legal contract that ensures that the intended parents will be legal parents of the baby after delivery. The surrogates undergo an embryo transfer procedure to conceive and carry the resulting pregnancy.
It is worth mentioning that there are two types of surrogacy processes – traditional surrogacy and gestational surrogacy.
In traditional surrogacy, the surrogate mother’s eggs are used to conceive the pregnancy whereas in gestational surrogacy, eggs of the intended mother or an egg donor are used. Generally, the traditional surrogacy process utilizes the IUI/artificial insemination procedure. The main difference here is that in traditional surrogacy, the surrogate mother is the biological mother of the baby but a gestational surrogate does not share any genetic relation with the baby she is carrying.
What is the role of IVF in gestational surrogacy?
During a gestational surrogacy process, the embryo is created through IVF process and then it is transferred into the gestational carrier’s womb to conceive pregnancy. Here is what the IVF surrogacy process looks like:
1. The first step is to partner with a surrogate mother and complete the necessary screenings and paperworks.
2. The biological mother or the egg donor (whoever provides the eggs) and the gestational surrogate will undergo medication course to synchronize their menstrual cycles.
3. Once their cycles are synchronized, the intended mother/egg donor begins her IVF stimulation to produce mature eggs from her ovaries.
4. Once the eggs are mature and ready for fertilization, the doctor performs an egg retrieval procedure. Note that the synchronization process is not needed if you are using frozen eggs.
5. These eggs are then taken to the lab and mixed with the intended father’s/donor’s sperm to fertilize them. These eggs are then cultured for 3 to 5 days to create the embryo.
6. In the meanwhile, the gestational surrogate begins her supplemental progesterone to prepare her uterine lining for embryo transfer.
7. Once the embryos are ready, one or more of the embryos are transferred into the surrogate’s uterus.
8. After two weeks, the surrogate undergoes a pregnancy test to determine whether implantation was successful and if she has conceived pregnancy.
9. If pregnancy occurs, the surrogate will be under the supervision of the IVF clinic for about 10 to 12 weeks and after that she is transferred to an OB’s care.
10. Once the surrogate delivers the baby, the intended parents take over the legal guardianship.
11. Sometimes, the biological mother of the baby may complete her IVF cycle some time before and embryos are frozen for later transfer to the gestational surrogate. In this case, there will be no need of synchronizing the menstruation cycles.
It is important to remember here that multiple IVF cycles and embryo transfers may be required before a surrogate conceives pregnancy.
Why IVF surrogacy?
For most hopeful parents, the primary focus for completing IVF surrogacy is to share the genetics of both the mother and father with the child, even if they are unable to carry the pregnancy by themselves. While having a biological link with the baby is not absolutely necessary to develop a family bond, it’s a natural desire to share your genetic heritage with your child.
In some cases, the intended mother could be medically unable to carry a pregnancy safely but can produce healthy and quality eggs. In such circumstances, using IVF surrogacy can offer hope for the parents when other methods have failed.
On the other hand, IVF surrogacy is currently the only means for gay couples and single fathers to have biological children.
There’s another benefit of using gestational surrogacy. The method is legally less complex compared to a traditional surrogacy where the surrogate is the genetic mother to the baby. As a result, it’s easier for the intended parents to establish their parentage even before the birth of the baby. This lowers the stress on both the intended parents and the surrogate mother.
IVF process is the backbone of the gestational surrogacy process and the overall success highly depends on it. The IVF procedure allows the hopeful parents to share their genetic bond with the baby and makes it easier for them to claim legal parentage.