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A surrogacy journey consists of many milestones that lead to the biggest milestone of all: bringing home your baby! Every journey is different and on its own timeline. The length of the process depends on the Intended Parents' preferences and situation, but an average journey can be 19-26 months.
The surrogacy process can seem a bit intimidating at first, however looking at the individual steps that make up your journey is a good way to understand how it all works. Here's a step-by-step guide to the surrogacy process, and a surrogacy timeline to help you see how long it takes to have a baby through surrogacy.
This first step in the gestational surrogacy process is one of the biggest ones – making the decision to grow your family through surrogacy and choosing an agency. If you've decided that you'd like to find a surrogate mother and have a baby, researching surrogacy is a natural next step.
Some topics you may want to read about are:
Once you've signed on with an agency, you will have your intro video call with the Journey Coordination team who will support you throughout your journey. Your team will explain the entire process and what to expect at each milestone. This will also be the team who manages your journey and supports you ever step of the way. Your team consists of Program Coordinators/Managers, a lawyer, and an accountant and medical billing specialist. If you already have an IVF clinic selected, that's great! If you don't, Circle can always help you find the best IVF Clinic, as we work with many well-known clinics around the country.
If you already have embryos created, you are all set until your surrogate match. If you need to create embryos, you will do so at this point in time. If you require an egg donor, matching with a donor will be one of the first things you do while you wait for your surrogate match. After you've selected an egg donor you can create your embryos. Your egg donor will visit your IVF Clinic for a medical screening and will be given a medication protocol. She will follow this protocol and visit a clinic near where she lives to be monitored locally to ensure her body is responding to the medications. When her body is ready, she will travel to your IVF clinic for the egg retrieval. The eggs will be fertilized with the intended father's sperm (or a sperm donor's sperm) to create the embryos that will then be implanted into your surrogate's uterus.
10-12 months, approx.
The matching stage is one of the most exciting – you will be finding the amazing woman who will help you grow your family! While the wait time can feel long, it's because we have a best-in-class screening process for all prospective surrogates: we want parents to match with the highest quality surrogate the first time.
We ask intended parents to fill out a profile that help us to get to know them better and find appropriate surrogate matches. The information we ask for in the profile includes your:
We'll ask that you also share photos of yourself, your loved ones and any other photos that give a good sense of who you are as people.
Your Program Coordination team will use this profile and your answers to find the best surrogate match based on criteria such as: personality fit, legal fit and your views on termination. Once a potential match has been identified, the surrogate's and the intended parents' profiles will be exchanged. If both parties are interested, they will have an introductory video call.
Intended parents and surrogates alike have referred to this initial call being like a "blind date"! It can feel awkward at first, but once someone breaks the ice, the conversation usually starts to flow. This call is a great time to get to know each other, ask questions and see if you feel you'd be a good match. How will you know? IPs and surrogates have told us that "you just know" when it feels right. If after that call everyone says "YES!", you will be officially be matched!
During the medical & legal phase, there are many mini milestones of your journey.
First, your gestational carrier will go to your IVF clinic for her medical screening. This is a day of testing and examinations with your IVF doctor. Sometimes, intended parents will go to the clinic as well and meet their surrogate in person for the first time.
After the medical screening when she's been cleared by your IVF doctor, your gestational carrier will receive her protocol and begin her medications and monitoring at her local clinic. Because your surrogate will be required to check in with the clinic often to ensure her body is responding to the medications, she will do this at a clinic that is close to where she lives (this is also called "local monitoring"). Circle and your clinic will find the best clinic and make these arrangements.
During this time, you will also be working with your lawyer to draft your surrogacy contract, while your carrier works with her own lawyer. You each have your own legal counsel to work through the Carrier Agreement. This step could take a few weeks.
When the time is right, your surrogate will go to your IVF clinic for the embryo transfer! If possible, intended parents can attend this milestone in person and spend time with their surrogate. Once she returns home, she will continue to go to the local clinic for her beta tests until there is a (fingers crossed!) confirmation of heartbeat.
The pregnancy stage is usually the longest step in your surrogacy journey. During this milestone, you'll continue to develop a strong bond with your surrogate as she updates you on the pregnancy and your baby.
Around 10 weeks, your gestational carrier will be released to her own OBGYN and will continue with ultrasound check-ins. The 20-week ultrasound is a big milestone that many intended parents attend in person if they can. During this visit, the OB will perform an anatomy scan of the baby. For those intended parents who do not yet know the sex of their baby, this is the appointment they will find out!
For intended parents who travel to attend this ultrasound, it's a great time for them to tour the hospital where their baby/babies will be born. A simple phone call to the hospital and they can arrange a tour, introduce themselves and get to know the place where their baby(ies) will enter the world!
During this time intended parents will also be working with their lawyer and local counsel to establish their parental rights. Intended parents will also be working on their birth plan: how they imagine delivery day will be, and what they would like out of the experience. Intended parents can work with their surrogates on this document, and their Program Coordination team can help facilitate the process.
This is an important document to have with you (you can even give a copy to the hospital) so that everyone is aware of your wishes during the surrogate birth. There is always a chance for unpredictable factors, however having this printed document gives you a place to make your wishes clear. The document includes information such as:
And let's not forget about the fun stuff: decorating a nursery at home! Plus, intended parents will also be preparing for their baby's arrival, packing and booking travel. You'll plan and plan and before you know it, your baby will be here!
Birth & beyond
It has been an emotional journey, and you're finally holding your baby in your arms, and inhaling that amazing new baby smell!
When the doctor releases your baby from the hospital, you are free to take your baby home. It can be hard to believe – the hospital is entrusting you with this very small baby! The good news is, you've been preparing and planning for this for so long – you're finally parents!
U.S. parents usually travel home shortly after they are released – usually a few days – either by car or plane. International parents may stay in the U.S. for 2-4 weeks after baby's birth (sometimes longer) to finalize travel and obtain the baby's passport if needed.
You may experience a variety of emotions when it's time to return home: excitement, happiness, anxiety, sadness. Saying goodbye to your surrogate can be hard - but it doesn't have to be 'goodbye' it can be 'see you soon'! The bond you've built with your surrogate will be like no other, and you'll find the right way to say goodbye that's personal to you and your journey. It's important to ensure your surrogate is able to have a moment to say goodbye to the baby, too. She has cared for this little one for you and has been waiting for this day to give your baby back to you.
We understand that this process – while exciting! – can feel a bit overwhelming. There's so much to coordinate and think about. For this very reason, intended parents choose to work with a surrogacy agency to help manage every step instead of pursuing an independent surrogacy journey.
If you're considering surrogacy, we highly recommend you work with an experienced agency. Our blog post 5 reasons to work with a surrogacy agency outlines the pros of having an agency on your side.