Recently, celebrities like Elizabeth Banks, Jimmy Fallon, and Kim Kardashian have brought surrogacy to attention after welcoming new family members via surrogates. Read on to learn all about surrogacy from fertility expert and advocate Megan Edgecumbe.
Ask any new Mom or Dad: Becoming a parent is an incredibly powerful experience. However, getting pregnant is not always easy (or even possible). According to the CDC, about ten in every 100 women in the US have difficulty becoming pregnant or staying pregnant.
So many people wanting to start a family have started to look at other options for growing their family, like adoption, fertility treatments, and surrogacy.
Surrogacy is the process by which a woman carries and gives birth to a baby on behalf of another person or couple.
Are you thinking about finding a surrogate? Are you curious about surrogacy? Considering becoming a surrogate mother? We’re chatting with Megan Edgecumbe, founder of surrogacy agency Your Fertility Advocate. Megan is a blogger, business owner, and fertility activist who helps couples grow their families through the gift of surrogacy. She is also a wife, and after a long struggle with infertility, finally a mother herself.
"Hi, Megan! First things first: What is a surrogate, and why would someone partner with one?"
A surrogate mother is someone who generously allows a couple in need to realize their dreams of parenthood by carrying a child for them. Surrogate mothers are not related in any way to the child they are carrying. The embryo of the couple in need is transferred into the surrogate mother’s uterus by a doctor.
Many women have suffered health conditions that don’t allow them to carry a child. For example, I often work with women who have lost their uterus due to a cancer diagnosis or a similar health concern. Before beginning chemotherapy, these women freeze their eggs or make embryos. The kindness of a surrogate mother allows them to still have biological children of their own.
All surrogacy depends on a method called in vitro fertilization (IVF). IVF has been around for a few decades. It is truly a medical miracle for couples in need. A reproductive endocrinologist extracts eggs from the mother in a simple, nearly pain-free process under anesthesia. Then they fertilize those eggs with the father’s sperm under a microscope. Some of these cells grow for approximately 5 days and form an embryo. With the help of a healthy women’s uterus (the surrogate), a few of these embryos have the chance to then become a baby.
Not all eggs and sperm become embryos, and not all embryos become babies, just like in our bodies. Unfortunately, we don’t know why some pregnancies “take,” and some don’t. But IVF can help support this biological process by mimicking the most optimum environment for conception to occur.
"How do most people find surrogates?"
Some people are lucky enough to have a friend or family member of reproductive age in their life that will offer to carry a pregnancy for them. This is truly an extraordinary gift! But most people work with an agency to help connect them to this wonderful person. An agency, like mine, is focused on finding those super generous women and connecting them with couples in need. An agency helps to support both parties through the process. It’s a big deal; there is nothing bigger than creating a new life together! The agency facilitates the process by bringing together all the people needed to make a surrogacy journey successful. This includes doctors, lawyers, insurance agents, escrow holders, and mental health professionals.
"It sounds like surrogacy is a beautiful and complex process. What do you tell Intended Parents before they begin this process?"
Intended Parents are incredible people who have usually gone through so much before they end up at the place where they need to use a surrogate. They have overcome so much, and it hasn’t stopped them from pursuing their dreams of parenthood. Most of them have already suffered a lot of loss. So they don’t usually want to get their hopes up too much that the surrogacy journey will finally work out for them. The great thing about working with surrogate moms is that they are usually young and fertile. Things will likely work out for everyone involved. I usually see that as the pregnancy nears the end and the baby is close to arrival, we can all finally stop holding our breaths and start truly looking forward to the arrival of the precious little one!
"What are some of the common questions you get asked about surrogacy?"
Many people think the idea of surrogacy sounds weird at first. I have found that when most people marinate on the idea for a little while, they start to realize just what a beautiful treasure and gift the surrogacy journey can be.
Many surrogate mothers are asked if they will be sad “having to give the baby up.” One of the beautiful things about surrogacy is that no one has to “give up” a baby. The surrogate mother knows going into the arrangement that the child was never biologically related to her. She is simply a carrier for this precious gift for another. “Surro moms” usually report feeling so happy to see the smiles and tears in the parents’ faces on the day of their child's birth. Surro moms are very selfless and caring women. They already have children of their own, so it’s extremely rare that a surrogate mother would want to “keep” the baby. That is a common question, though.
"What do you love about the surrogacy journey?"
Oh, I love SO many things about surrogacy! I love that the arrangement can benefit and improve the lives of both parties. The Intended Parents can finally bring home a baby, and the Surrogate Mother can feel a sense of pride in what she accomplished and be able to make good money to support the financial goals of her family.
Surrogacy journeys are not that much more expensive than adoption, and most of the time come with much less emotional stress. You don’t have as many unknowns, like waiting years for a baby to become available or the birth mother's risk changing her mind. You can feel confident that your baby didn’t suffer any hardships like drug or alcohol use while in utero. For many people, having a child biologically related to them is very important. I understand that and love that surrogacy can allow parents this option.
"Tell us more about Your Fertility Advocate!"
I started my agency, Your Fertility Advocate, during my own painful journey trying to grow our family. My husband and I used IVF to have our miracle son, and when we tried to have a second, the embryos were just not sticking in my body. I endured 4 losses, including a set of twins. Then one day, my child’s nanny approached my husband and me with an offer that immediately brought us to tears.
She offered to carry a child for us. I had never even thought of that as an option before! I remember hugging her so hard, and we both cried! My eyes were opened that day to the world of surrogacy and the incredible women who allow others to finally realize their dreams of parenthood. It birthed my desire to help other women who were in similar situations as myself. So I opened my surrogacy agency, which now has offices in both Los Angeles and Seattle.
Megan, thank you so much for sharing your story and educating us about surrogacy! To learn more, visit Megan’s website or find her on Instagram. And, as a reminder: Surrogacy laws vary from state to state, so it is important to consult with a legal expert to understand your options as both a surrogate mother or intended parent.