A technique called in vitro fertilization (IVF) now makes it possible to gather eggs from the mother, fertilize them with sperm from the father, and place the embryo into the uterus of a gestational surrogate, also called the gestational carrier. The surrogate then carries the baby until birth.
A surrogate is used when an intended parent wants to have a child and does not have a uterus or has a medical condition that would prevent carrying a pregnancy safely. Also, a surrogate may be considered for women who have a history of repeated failures to implant any embryo due to factors such as extensive fibroids, adenomyosis (i.e., endometriosis of the uterus), or surgical or congenital absence of a uterus.
The ideal gestational carrier is a healthy woman between the ages of 21 and 45 who has had a successful term pregnancy and has a supportive family environment to help her cope with the added stress of pregnancy. The carrier should have no more than five previous vaginal deliveries or two previous cesarean deliveries. Prior to becoming pregnant, the surrogate should talk about the risks of pregnancy with her health care provider.
The surrogate should have a complete history and physical examination performed to ensure that there are no reasons for her to avoid pregnancy.
Surrogates should undergo a proper mental health evaluation to cover the potential psychological risks associated with the process, including managing relationships with her partner, her children, her employer, and the intended parents.
The intended parents should be tested for genetic diseases, such as cystic fibrosis, as indicated by their ethnic backgrounds.
The intended parents are screened for infectious diseases that can be passed to the carrier. Testing is required by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) within 30 days of the egg retrieval and within 7 days of the sperm collection.