Once you’ve made the decision to move forward as a surrogate and help intended parents to grow your family, it may seem as if there are a myriad of hoops to jump through. If you are a first-time surrogate, the process and the timeline will be likely be different than your prior pregnancies. How long does the IVF process take?
Listen to Dr. Eve Feinberg, Medical Director at Northwestern Medicine Fertility, shares her view on now commonplace miracle of the process of surrogacy, where a surrogate helps a family bring life to their baby.
This is what to expect during IVF.
Before the IVF process can officially begin, a variety tests will be completed at your intended parents' fertility clinic. The requirements will be specific to what you need as a gestational carrier.
Once all the financial details, insurance issues, medical requirements and legal contracts are complete, the fertility clinic will establish a treatment plan and medical protocol. They will create a calendar that is detailed and specific to you. Remember, each clinic and each IVF cycle can be different, but this is an example of what an IVF calendar may look like:
Step 1: For the first three weeks, many women take birth control to regulate hormone levels and to synchronize her menstrual cycle so that the timing is aligned with the medical protocol.
Step 2: The day the woman gets her period is an important step in the IVF process. She will continue to take birth control pills to maintain the regulation of hormones.
Step 3: On day 21, she may begin taking Lupron as a stimulation medication. Lupron stimulates the ovaries, but it also suppresses the ovaries from ovulating and controls some female hormone levels. The goal is for the ovaries to mature multiple follicles, instead of the one that typically matures during a natural cycle. Depending on the clinic’s protocol, other medications may be used instead of or in addition to Lupron.
Step 4: After taking Lupron for 10 days, she will have an appointment to ensure ovulation has been suppressed.
Step 5: She will begin taking medications to grow the lining of the uterus and to help her body prepare for a successful embryo transfer. While the specific approach varies and is customized to each gestational carrier, here is one example of a medical protocol.
Step 6: The embryo transfer! The highest quality embryo that is available to the intended parents is transferred to the gestational carrier to attempt a pregnancy. Depending on the circumstances, two embryos may be transferred but this is becoming increasingly rare. A pregnancy test can be attempted about two weeks after the transfer.
While it may seem that there are many moving parts, typically an IVF cycle is completed in about four to six weeks. There can be unforeseen circumstances in which the stimulation process takes a bit longer, or may even need to be canceled and restarted the next month if the ovaries are over or under responding to the medical protocol.
While your clinic can estimate a general timeframe and will create a calendar for you to follow, it’s important to maintain flexibility, follow instructions precisely, and remember that each cycle is unique.
And, are you a woman who enjoyed a healthy and successful pregnancy? Do you have friends or family who have suffered from infertility or need assistance from someone else to build their family? Have you ever considered the role you could play in helping someone else build their family - as a surrogate? Learn more about the process of helping someone else's dream of building a family come true. We would love to talk with you.