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Your Pregnant Belly As A Surrogate: What To Expect

As a future surrogate mother, you are no stranger to what pregnancy feels like. Although you have experience with pregnancy and childbirth, you also know that every pregnancy is different.

As you prepare to carry the gift of life for another family, there are six important steps you can take to make sure you are ready for all the joys of pregnancy you have to look forward to.

1. Be Emotionally Prepared

First and foremost, it’s important to be emotionally prepared for surrogacy. Soon enough, you’ll be sharing pictures of your pregnant belly with your excited intended parents, but until then, it is a good idea to spend time working on your mindset and emotional preparedness.

You have likely done hours upon hours of research about what it’s like to be a surrogate. Perhaps you have connected with women who have been surrogates before. You may have listened to podcasts, read blogs, or spent time combing through surrogate Facebook groups.

All of this can help you get a picture of what it will be like to serve as a surrogate for your intended parents, but also be sure to spend time getting your individual questions and concerns addressed.

If you are working with an agency, you should have access to their surrogate support staff. Don’t hesitate to reach out to them with anything, no matter how small it may seem to you.

At Family Inceptions, many of us have been surrogates ourselves (including our founder and CEO!), so the experience, comfort, and wellbeing of our surrogates is always top of mind. Learn more about becoming a part of our Surro Sisters family.

As part of your screening process for becoming a surrogate, you will have gone through some initial mental health evaluations and counseling. Surrogacy is an extremely complex emotional journey, so we always recommend ongoing mental health support after that initial evaluation.

You may be able to request that your intended parents include this service as part of your gestational carrier agreement. If not, there are many great support groups that allow you to have a safe space to express your feelings along the way.

Reach out to your agency for recommendations.

2. Prepare For The Embryo Transfer

Becoming a surrogate and matching with your intended parents is a long process with many steps. Once you know who you will be carrying for and you have all your t’s crossed and i’s dotted, it’s time to get ready for the big moment: the embryo transfer.

There are many steps you can take to prepare your body for the embryo transfer. Your medical team will of course be the best resource to advise you, but we can offer some general tips based on our own experiences and those of our surrogates.

Some practical tips for preparing for the day of the embryo transfer:

  1. Follow all instructions carefully. Your medical team will have a protocol that is especially designed for you and your intended parents. It’s important to follow everything exactly as instructed. If, at any time, you are unsure about something, don’t hesitate to reach out.
  2. Continue taking all medications as prescribed, and be sure that you have enough on hand to last you until the procedure.
  3. Double and triple-check your travel arrangements, even if the clinic is local to you. Consider the weather, traffic, and other conditions. Confirm all travel arrangements with your intended parents.
  4. Make arrangements for someone to drive you to and from the clinic.
  5. Clear your schedule. You should plan for an easy day (or three!) of rest following the procedure.

Much of your preparation as a surrogate has been all about preparing your uterus for this moment. Your medical team has been monitoring your progress and has developed a care plan to help achieve the best possible outcome.

The most important role you can play in all of this is to do your best to stay healthy, happy, and relaxed.

Here are some of the key ways you can prepare your body for a successful embryo transfer:

  1. Maintain a healthy diet. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and healthy protein. Be sure to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and avoiding caffeine.
  2. This goes without saying, but be sure to avoid alcohol, tobacco, and any drugs not prescribed or approved by your medical team.
  3. Engage in stress-reducing activities. Yoga, meditation, calming bubble baths, and daily exercise can all help relax your body.
  4. Get lots of sleep! Try to take naps when you can, and ask your partner to handle your own children’s late night wakeups for a week or two leading up to the procedure.
  5. Distract yourself! Spend time doing things you enjoy that aren’t surrogacy-related: read books, spend time with friends, watch your favorite shows on Netflix. You have our permission!

After the transfer procedure, make sure to rest for a couple of days. Wear your most comfortable clothes, avoid heavy lifting or vigorous exercise, and enjoy plenty of rest during this period. Resume activities as advised by your clinic.

Above all, do your best to relax and trust the process. Your fertility clinic has lots of experience guiding surrogates and intended parents through the embryo transfer process, so follow their advice and keep calm!

The incredible journey of gestational surrogacy is about to enter a whole new, exciting phase.

3. Create A Healthy Womb For The Developing Baby

Once you receive the good news that the embryo transfer is successful, the journey truly begins! As someone who has raised her hand and said “Yes!” to carrying a child for someone else, we know you are well versed in what it takes to have a healthy pregnancy.

We would like to offer some of our best advice as a reminder, and perhaps a little additional motivation to go the extra mile for your surro-baby and his/her parents.

Stick To A Healthy Lifestyle

During your initial preparation stage with your intended parents, legal team, and other fertility professionals, you likely discussed expectations for healthy habits and lifestyle choices before and during pregnancy.

Be sure to refer to your gestational carrier contract for any specific guidelines you must adhere to.

Consider this a general life of tips to maintain a healthy lifestyle while you are carrying as a gestational surrogate:

  1. Avoid tobacco, including secondhand smoke. Being tobacco-free is a prerequisite to becoming a surrogate, so be sure to maintain this status throughout.
  2. Avoid all alcohol.
  3. Practice good sleep hygiene. Pregnancy can make sleep difficult during different trimesters. First trimester, you may feel nauseated and generally uncomfortable due to changing hormone levels. Later on, the physical changes to your body can make it difficult to find the right sleep position. Do your best to optimize sleep, since lack of sleep can lead to problems like gestational diabetes, high blood pressure or suboptimal fetal health.Some tips for better sleep while pregnant:
    1. Keep your bedroom dark, cool, and quiet. Consider using a sound machine for white noise.
    2. Maintain a regular sleep schedule and nighttime routine.
    3. Turn off your screens before bed in favor of a calm activity like reading a book.
    4. Avoid caffeine and heavy meals for several hours before bed
    5. Plan your exercise for earlier in the day
    6. Try a pregnancy pillow
    7. Speak with your OB/GYN if the above solutions don’t work for you
  4. Minimize stress. If left unchecked, high levels of stress can cause additional health problems during pregnancy. Here are some tips for reducing stress:
    1. Try prenatal yoga or meditation
    2. Reduce your daily obligations. Can you let go of some extra activities? Now might be a good time to take a break from the PTA or your weekly volunteer position.
    3. Lean on your support network and let them know when you could use some extra help. Friends and family are often more than willing to pick up your groceries, drop off a meal, or offer an hour or two of childcare so you can nap.
    4. Discuss your feelings with your doctor or a counselor.

Take Prescribed Vitamins Religiously

According to the March of Dimes, there are six key nutrients that help a baby’s growth and development in the womb. These include folic acid, iron, calcium, vitamin D, DHA, and iodine.

All of these can be found in most prenatal vitamins that are on the market. Be sure to check with your doctor regarding which vitamins you should be taking during pregnancy, and do not take anything (even over-the-counter) without getting the go-ahead from your doctor.

Most of the time, a simple prenatal vitamin will be sufficient, but some pregnancies may require more particular types and amounts. For example, if you are pregnant with multiples, you may need to take more.

Likewise, if you are on a particular diet, for example, a vegan diet, you may need extra supplements.

Set an alarm to help you remember to take your prescribed vitamins daily. This will ensure you are doing all you can to provide a healthy environment for your surro-baby to develop in.

4. Monitor Your Pregnancy’s Progress

Throughout your pregnancy, it’s important to always listen to your body and take note of anything that feels “off.” Keep in mind that this pregnancy may feel quite a bit different from any of your previous pregnancies — and that is okay!

Before too long, you will settle into a routine and rhythm with your surro-baby. Just be mindful of any changes or concerns, and don’t hesitate to call your doctor with questions.

Your pregnancy and the baby’s development will be checked regularly and monitored closely. Here are some tips for making sure everything progresses smoothly.

Get Checked Regularly

Your doctor’s office will schedule you for regular check-ups. For the first and second trimester, this typically happens once a month. Starting around week 28, you will visit the doctor once every two weeks. For the last few weeks of pregnancy, you will go in for prenatal visits once a week.

Of course, if you are carrying multiples or have particular health concerns, this frequency may be increased. Be sure to follow all medical advice and prioritize attending your scheduled visits.

As a surrogate mother, it’s important to keep your intended parents informed about how the pregnancy is progressing. Sending regular belly pics, updates from the doctor, and ultrasound results are all things that are cherished by the proud parents-to-be.

If it is possible and all parties have agreed to it, you may invite the intended parents to some of your prenatal visits to experience what it’s like to hear the heartbeat or view the sonogram in real time. If in-person visits are not possible, they may be able to attend virtually via video conferencing.

IVF Medications

In the very early stages following your initial positive pregnancy test, your fertility clinic may have you continue taking IVF medications. Ongoing progesterone support can help your uterus prepare for implantation and help foster a hospitable environment for the embryo.

Often, this medication is continued during the first trimester, up until about 8-10 weeks gestation. Sometimes, you may need to continue medications to help support the baby’s growth later into pregnancy.

Pay close attention to any side effects or reactions you may have. Progesterone can cause side effects such as dizziness, abdominal pain, fluid retention, drowsiness, headaches, urinary problems, and more. If you are concerned about any symptoms, contact your provider right away.

Keep Track of Your Pregnancy Milestones

Tracking your pregnancy milestones is one of the fun parts of the process, and it’s especially important in helping your intended parents feel connected to the development of their baby.

Many surrogates enjoy taking weekly bump pictures to share with the parents-to-be. Depending on your surrogacy agreement, you and your IPs may want to share these with loved ones via text, social media, or email.

Certain apps or websites like The Bump or What to Expect allow you to track the expected milestones for each week of pregnancy. This is where you’ll get the fun “your baby is the size of a kumquat” comparisons we all like to laugh about.

These trackers also give you helpful tips about average symptoms and typical development for the baby. It’s always exciting to know which tiny parts are currently coming together inside your pregnant belly!

You may choose to keep a pregnancy journal to share with the intended parents. Track your symptoms, the baby’s progress and health reports, and pictures or measurements of your belly size. This information makes a wonderful keepsake for intended parents and their future child.

5. Keep Your Support System Close

Your support system is more important now than ever before. You are a busy mama to your own kids, and keeping up with all that’s involved in carrying your surro-baby to term can be a full-time job in itself.

Make sure to carve out time for self care and social connection so you can be as happy and healthy as possibly throughout your pregnancy.

Communicate with Family and Friends

Maintain regular communication with family and friends. This includes your own, but also the family and friends of your intended parents.

Of course, you will need to respect the boundaries you and your IPs agreed to in your surrogacy contract, but as long as there is no confidentiality required, it can be very beneficial to share about your surrogacy journey with loved ones from both families.

Some surrogates find themselves feeling like a part of their intended parents’ family, attending gatherings both in-person or virtually, and speaking regularly via text, email, or social media. This type of communication helps everyone feel more connected to the pregnancy.

Even if your intended parents prefer a more discreet relationship, you should still maintain a close circle of your own family and friends to help support you on your journey. Set aside time for regular conversations and meet-ups so you can keep your connections strong.

Get Involved in a Community of Surrogates

While family and friends can provide a key form of support, there is truly nothing like connecting with other surrogates. Until you have walked in these shoes, it can be impossible to understand how special and complex this journey is.

There are several online communities of surrogates where you can share experiences, ask questions, and establish friendships with women who have been and are currently on similar paths.

You can search Facebook, Meetup.com, or find recommendations from your agency to find a group where you can connect with fellow surrogates.

Visit Surrogacy Friendly Locations

You may want to find some in-person gatherings for other surrogate mothers. Ask your fertility clinic or agency for any group recommendations.

Please be aware that if you travel during your surro-pregnancy, you may need to restrict travel to surrogacy-friendly states only. This should have been discussed as part of the terms of your contract, so be sure to refer to that before making any plans for a holiday vacation.

6. Learn About The Postpartum Period

While you won’t be taking the baby home with you, as a surrogate, you will still experience all of the not-so-pleasant postpartum realities. Your body will have gone through all of the pains of labor and will require the same amount of time to recover as your prior pregnancies, if not more.

In addition to the physical effects of the postpartum period, you should remain on high alert for complications such as postpartum depression or anxiety. Because these conditions are largely caused by hormonal fluctuations, anyone who has just given birth is susceptible to PPD or PPA.

Ways to Cope With Postpartum After Surrogacy

Many women experience a mild case of “baby blues” after giving birth. Surrogate mothers aren’t exempt from this just because the baby is not theirs. Despite the intention that the baby has always been the intended parents’, there can still be lots of emotions and complex feelings after delivery.

Many of our surrogates actually report feeling more of a loss for their connection with the intended parents as opposed to the baby. Either way, the bonds created during this long journey are not easy to break, and it can be difficult to cope as a postpartum surrogate.

Here are a few ways you can make the process a bit easier on yourself.

Focus on the Bright Side

You have given an incredible gift — the very gift of life itself! That is something to be immensely proud of. Reflect on the joy you have brought in helping your intended parents fulfill their dream of building their family.

The proud new parents will want some space and time to bond with their new baby, which can leave some surrogates feeling a bit lonely. After such regular contact with the intended parents during this shared experience, this is understandable. Lean on your own family in friends, and your IPs will be sending you updates and happy pics before you know it!

Invest More in Yourself

Take some time to pamper yourself after all of the sacrifice and hard work you’ve put in these past several months. Be sure to allow yourself plenty of time to rest and recover during the postpartum period.

Now is a great time to ask the grandparents or a trusted friend to spend some time with your kids or to help with chores around the house. Ask your partner to take over all the errands and meal prep so you can fully recuperate.

Consider how you will treat yourself once your body is healed and your doctor has given the all clear to resume normal activities. Will you join a gym? Take up a new hobby? Sign up to run a 5k? Choose something to look forward to that is just for you — you’ve earned it!

Seek Medical Help

If the “baby blues” seem to linger past two weeks or so, or if the symptoms worsen, do not hesitate to contact your doctor. Postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety are very serious but also treatable. Left unchecked, they can cause serious mental and physical issues.

Some signs of postpartum depression include:

  • Severe mood swings
  • Excessive crying
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Overwhelming sadness or hopelessness
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Reduced concentration and ability to make decisions
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or others

Any of the above symptoms warrant a call to your doctor. You can also contact SAMHSA’s National Helpline for free, confidential treatment referrals and information.

Start Your Surrogacy Experience With Us

Interested in becoming a surrogate? Start your surrogacy journey with Family Inceptions. Our boutique agency prides itself in putting our surrogates first, taking care of you from the application to matching and beyond.

Many of us, including our founder, have been surrogates ourselves, so we have walked this path before and will do our best to guide you with compassion, love, and support.

Want to know how to become a surrogate? Learn about the process here.

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Author
Eloise Drane
Eloise Drane, Founder

"I believe that we are all placed on this earth for a purpose. Each one of us has a specific calling in this world and although it is different for everyone, we are here to serve one another. My purpose is to help women who wish to become surrogates and egg donors and the hopeful parents who wish to partner with them. I fell very lucky to be living my purpose."