The Grueling Process Of Surrogacy May Open Some Eyes

There's nothing quite as personal as the journey towards motherhood, and sometimes, situations may not always go as planned. Many women struggle with fertility or the ability to safely carry a pregnancy to term. When these situations arise, those women opt to consider surrogacy. Kim Kardashian has done it, as well as Nicole Kidman and Tyra Banks. More recently, Hilaria Baldwin made news with the arrival of her sixth child – five months after she gave birth to her fifth kid – who was born via surrogate (from People).

It may seem like a simple process to have someone else carry your baby, but there's more to it than one might think. The List spoke exclusively to Dr. Thomas Vaughn, Reproductive Endocrinologist at the Texas Fertility Center about what to expect during the surrogacy process, which he described as "complex and rewarding."

To start, it's not a quick experience. There's obviously the time it takes for the pregnancy itself, but it's more than that. Dr. Vaughn told The List, "The selection of a carrier often takes a few months. From the time the application process begins until when the baby is born could take 15 to 18 months."

There's no one reason for using a surrogate

Choosing a carrier often happens through a third-party agency that will, Dr. Vaughn explained, involve screening, "such as that the carrier undergo physical and psychological screening to make sure she is healthy enough to carry a pregnancy." From there, IVF is the next step. "The intended mother (or an egg donor) will take medications for a couple of weeks to stimulate her ovaries to produce multiple eggs," he explained. "The eggs are then retrieved and fertilized with the partner's sperm (or donor sperm). Once the embryos are ready, the embryo can be transferred into the carrier."

There's a variety of reasons that a couple might choose surrogacy. "Some women turn to gestational surrogacy because they are unable to carry a baby which could be due to problems with her uterus including damage to the uterus or for health reasons where a patient might have received a recommendation from a physician to avoid pregnancy for medical reasons," Dr. Vaughn said. But medical necessity isn't the only reason. "Occasionally, a couple might choose to utilize a gestational carrier for personal reasons."

Women can get pregnant naturally during the surrogacy process

While many women may use surrogacy because they haven't been able to get pregnant naturally, it's actually possible to get pregnant naturally while in the midst of the surrogacy process.

Dr. Vaughn sheds some light on that situation, noting, "While unusual, it is not out of the realm of possibility that a woman who believes she is unable to conceive does become pregnant naturally." It comes down to if there are any biological roadblocks. "If the patient has already created embryos, then the intended parent could become pregnant as long as there are no absolute barriers to pregnancy with the couple, such as he had a vasectomy, she has had a tubal ligation, or she has [an] ovarian failure."

It's a potential possibility that this is how the Baldwin family grew by two within half a year, as their son was born in September 2020 and their daughter was born March 2021 (via People).