Thanks to advances in technology, gestational surrogacy is becoming more common every year. But you may wonder: how exactly do surrogates get pregnant?
We wanted to shed some light on the process for you.
Traditional surrogacy vs. gestational surrogacy
Before we dive into the pregnancy process for surrogates, let’s begin with the basics.
There are two different types of surrogacy: traditional surrogacy and gestational surrogacy. Both are equally safe for the surrogate and the resulting baby, but there are significant differences—specifically when it comes to the process for getting pregnant and the baby’s genetics.
Traditional surrogacy is where the surrogate is both the egg donor and the surrogate—and therefore has a genetic relationship with the baby.
In this type of surrogacy, the surrogate is impregnated using a process called intrauterine insemination (IUI), where a doctor takes sperm from the intended father and transfers it into the uterus of the surrogate. Then, natural fertilization of the egg takes place.
Because of more modern advances in medical science, traditional surrogacy is becoming much less common than gestational surrogacy.
Gestational surrogacy is where the surrogate has an embryo implanted into her uterus—and therefore has no genetic relationship with the baby. This is the most common type of surrogacy today.
In gestational surrogacy, the intended mother’s egg or a donor egg is fertilized with the intended father’s sperm or donor sperm, and the embryo is implanted in the surrogate’s uterus using in vitro fertilization, or IVF (which is described more in the section below).
Gestational surrogacy provides a way for heterosexual couples, single people, and members of the LGBTQ+ community to complete their families. The process is slightly different for LGBTQ+ intended parents, as they must decide which (if either) partner will be genetically related to the child, and whether they will use a known or anonymous egg or sperm donor.
The pregnancy process for gestational surrogate mothers
Before we describe the process, let’s take a moment to define in vitro fertilization (IVF), as it plays a central role in the gestational surrogacy process.
IVF is a complex series of procedures in which eggs and sperm are combined in a laboratory to create an embryo (or embryos). During these procedures, mature eggs are retrieved from the ovaries and sperm is added to the egg. Then, the fertilized egg(s), now an embryo (or embryos), is transferred to a uterus. Pregnancy occurs if any of the embryos implant into the wall of the uterus.
Here is how IVF is used in gestational surrogacy:
- First, the biological mother (or an anonymous donor) takes fertility medications to produce multiple mature eggs that are ready for fertilization.
- The next step is egg retrieval. In this procedure, the doctor collects the mature eggs from the woman, often through a process called transvaginal ultrasound aspiration. First, the woman is sedated and given pain medication. An ultrasound probe is inserted into the vagina to identify follicles; then, the doctor inserts a thin needle into an ultrasound guide, which goes into the follicles and retrieves the eggs. This process takes about 15–20 minutes.
- Sperm is collected from the partner (or a donor) and the eggs are fertilized in a lab. To fertilize the egg, the sperm is either injected into the egg or mixed with the egg in a petri dish.
- The embryo grows in the lab for two to five days, and then the embryo or embryos are transferred back to a surrogate mother at a doctor’s office or fertility clinic. During egg transfer, the doctor inserts a catheter into the vagina, which then goes through the cervix and into the uterus. There is a syringe at the end of the catheter which contains one or more embryos in a small amount of fluid. Using the syringe, the doctor inserts the embryo or embryos into the uterus.
- If this process was successful, an embryo will implant in the lining of the surrogate’s uterus, and she is officially pregnant. Nine months later, the intended parents get to meet the newest member of their family!
We hope this article helped you understand how surrogate mothers become pregnant!
Learn More About Becoming a Surrogate with Surrogate Parenting Services
Surrogate Parenting Services is proud to celebrate 30 Years of helping to bring dreams to life! Founded in 1990, Surrogate Parenting Services (SPS) is a full-service surrogacy program that offers both parties an exceptionally supportive environment throughout the surrogacy relationship. We’re passionate about creating ideal matches between surrogates and intended parents, so the journey is fulfilling for both sides and the future child is brought into this world in the best possible circumstances.
Learn more about our Surrogacy Program online or by calling (949) 363-9525.