What is surrogacy?

First of all, let me point out that the universally accepted term "surrogate", which is used in Russia as well, grates on the ears. The definition proposed by the World Health Organization is undoubtedly more accurate and proper: "A gestational carrier is a woman in whom a pregnancy resulted from fertilization with third-party sperm and oocytes.  She carries the pregnancy with the intention or agreement that the offspring will be parented by one or both of the persons that produced the gametes".

The development of medicine across the world left virtually no diagnosis (in the area of human reproductive functions) that cannot be treated with the help of some type of Assisted Reproductive Technologies.  Surrogate (substitute) motherhood, in particular, has become a solution for families that cannot conceive their own children any OTHER way, due to ametria, for example. We will touch upon the practical sides of the surrogacy programme.

First of all, you need to understand that the participation of a third party – a surrogate mother – in an ART (IVF, ICSI) programme has long become a routine for Russia's reproductive endocrinologists.  The only difference from the regular ART procedures is the process of synchronizing the menstrual cycles between you and the surrogate mother you have selected.

If you are performing an IVF procedure for the first time, you may encounter the same fears and failures that women that go through standard protocols.  You will go through all the stages, except for the embryo transfer: your embryos will be transferred into the uterine cavity of the surrogate mother.  By the way, at the present time, it is quite common practice to transfer embryos into both you and the surrogate mother.

The stages of the surrogacy programme

1. Obtaining a doctor's "referral" or making a conscious decision in view of the inability to conceive and carry a child to term independently due to medical reasons.

2. Preparing the married couple psychologically to this type of a solution to their problem (researching websites, other successful examples,  communication with couples, who are going through the same problem, preparing relatives and friends, if you are not planning to stage a pregnancy for their benefit, or looking for ways to hide your 3-5 month seclusion or isolation from your relatives and friends).

3. Researching the legal database regarding this issue, consulting lawyers who specialize in this area.  As a general rule, specialists in the area of ART are also professional providers of surrogacy services.   

4. Financial preparation for the programme.  You need to fully understand that a surrogate mother's participation in the programme, as well as all medical, pharmacological and everyday expenses will be your responsibility. 

5. Candidate search.
A. Consider your own family first, think whether any of your female relatives would be able to act as a surrogate mother for your child.  This way has its advantages and disadvantages.  The advantages are that here you are unlikely to run into any difficulties with obtaining a surrogate mother's consent to register your and your spouse's names as the child's parents.  You are also likely to save some money on compensation for a surrogate mother.  One of the disadvantages is that your relative will continue seeing your child after the birth.  Is that something you need?  Nevertheless, having a close relative take part in the surrogacy programme is definitely the simplest and cheapest way to go. 
B. If you have to search for a surrogate mom outside your circle of relatives and friends, you will have to do it independently. 
C. You can turn to a clinic for help in selecting a surrogate mother.  Some reproductive clinics have databases of surrogate mothers.   Generally, it is a list of women with their contact information, age and name.  This method differs little from an independent search.

D. You should try to find a reliable company that specializes in full surrogacy support. When evaluating a company, the first thing you need take into account is how long that company has been in existence, and it doesn't hurt to find out the number of cycles they conducted and the number of children that were born through their programme.  When you turn to a professional, you need to understand that the more the company does for you, the higher will be the cost of their service.  The best companies work on an all-inclusive basis (in other words, they are unlikely to only provide you intermediary services in choosing a surrogate mother, for instance).

Advice: since this is your first time dealing with surrogacy, during your consultation you should ask detailed questions about the kinds of services that are included in the package that you are being offered.  Ask them to explain how your money is going to be spent.

When working with a particular IVF clinic, you might get strong recommendations to use "their" lawyer and(or) agent.  Keep in mind that choosing a company that provides surrogacy support has NOTHING do to with the services provided by an IVF clinic.   If truth be told, it is none of the clinic's business what company you select for your surrogacy services.

Let us review: when you turn to the "SweetChild"  company, for example (which is probably the most professional company in Russia), you will save yourself a lot of trouble, but you should not forget that "SweetChild"  is a commercial venture, even though it provides a certain number of services for free (consultations, documents for the Office of Vital Records, expert contract review).  

Whichever path you choose, we wish you speedy pregnancy, easy delivery and lots of babies!!!