How to Choose a Fertility Clinic for Surrogacy
Surrogacy clinics vary widely in terms of experience, bedside manner, and familiarity with advanced Assisted Reproduction techniques such as those used in gestational surrogacy. Cost is also a big factor as fees can vary widely from clinic to clinic, so it’s important to discuss pricing upfront. Some clinics charge a “surrogacy management fee” for coordinating surrogacy, though most do not. There’s also insurance consideration if you have insurance that will cover some of your infertility treatments. Depending on the cause of your infertility or inability to carry your own children, a clinic may need to have experience with some or all of the following: egg or sperm donors, embryo donors, and surrogacy.
Surrogacy is a medically complex process involving careful coordination between the providers of the gametes (from either Intended Parent(s) or donors) and the woman that will be carrying the fetus on behalf of Intended Parent(s). The clinic will need to stay on top of medical records for all involved parties, including ordering all the necessary tests and following local laws with respect to surrogacy. For these reasons, choosing a clinic that understands surrogacy is critical.
Start by researching surrogacy doctors and clinics in your area or in locations where surrogacy is legally practiced. Look for reputable clinics with experience in surrogacy and a positive track record. If you know any personally, reach out to individuals or couples who have undergone surrogacy and ask for recommendations. They can provide valuable insights and share their experiences with different doctors or surrogacy clinics. Schedule consultations with fertility specialists that have expertise in surrogacy. During these consultations, you can discuss your specific needs, concerns, and expectations. It’s important to find a doctor who understands your goals and is supportive of the surrogacy process. Inquire about the doctor’s experience in surrogacy, including the number of surrogacy cases they have handled and their success rates. A doctor with a proven track record in surrogacy will likely be more knowledgeable and capable of guiding you through the process. Assess the clinic’s policies, procedures, and protocols related to surrogacy. Effective communication is vital during the surrogacy process. Assess how well the doctor communicates with you, whether they provide clear explanations, answer your questions, and address any concerns you may have. It’s essential to have a doctor who is accessible and approachable. Surrogacy is a collaborative effort, so it’s important to have a positive and trusting relationship with your doctor.
Remember that finding the right surrogacy clinic is a personal decision, and it’s essential to consider your unique circumstances, preferences, and any specific requirements you may have. Taking the time to research, consult, and assess different options will help you make an informed choice.
Some questions to ask:
- Who is the Reproductive Endocrinologist you would be working with and what is their level of experience with surrogacy specifically?
- Who is the embryologist working with the clinic and what is their level of credentials/experience? This is the man/woman that will be creating and evaluating your embryos. In general embryologists are underrated in terms of how much their valuable experience can affect your success rate. Ask about them too!
- How are surrogates evaluated? What tests and procedures will they run and do they adhere to the ASRM recommendations and guidelines?
- How accessible is the staff during normal working hours and after hours in the event of an urgent question or matter?
Not all fertility clinics have experience with surrogacy and not all clinics will take surrogacy clients. If you know surrogacy may be an option for infertility, it’s best to choose a clinic with surrogacy experience and protocols to avoid having to transfer embryos later. This may mean the best surrogacy clinic for you isn’t the one that’s closest to you, may not even be in your state. In addition to standard fertility treatments, some clinics focus on nutrition, lifestyle considerations, and even acupuncture and traditional medicine. While not for everyone, some Intended Parents find this extra level of support helpful
What are the odds of a successful cycle? The Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART) publishes the IVF cycle success rate of member clinics. Higher or lower success rates can vary widely, however, reporting metrics are not consistent across clinics. If a clinic has a lower success rate, for example, it may mean they are seeing more complicated cases of infertility vs other clinics. It is a good starting place for a consultation, however, and it’s important to ask questions related to the available stats.
Reproductive medicine is also a fast-changing field in medicine. There are more options than ever, but also more choices in terms of procedures and medical protocols. Many fertility clinics are willing to provide you medical and lifestyle questions you can ask prospective surrogates before they undergo their full medical evaluation.
A great resource to find a good clinic is asking friends/family that have direct experience with IVF and surrogacy. Your assisted reproduction attorney can also provide you with a list of clinics his/her past clients have used and help you base recommendations from that list.
Talk to the clinic and medical staff about surrogacy and about past surrogacy experience. Have any of their prior surrogacy clients been through a successful journey with children born via surrogacy? If you’re interested in either gestational or traditional surrogacy, does the clinic have experience with the surrogacy arrangement you prefer? Can the clinic give you an honest and thorough consultation about whether surrogacy is right for you and your family? What are their requirements in terms of documentation from your attorney or other surrogacy professionals (e.g. psychologist)? Also carefully consider training. Reproductive Endocrinologist should have a minimum of 8-10 years experience in their field, including training with obstetrics, general gynecology, and fertility treatments/reproductive endocrinology.
Don’t forget to trust your instincts. If a clinic seems disorganized and can’t recall details of previous appointments, they are less likely to help you have a successful surrogacy journey. If the doctor is rushed or won’t fully address your questions or concerns, they are not a good fit. In a nutshell, do you trust your fertility journey to the men and women of a clinic you’re considering? Do you feel they will provide you with the care and good judgement needed for a successful surrogacy journey?
Ethical considerations are key as well. Clinics that have a reputation for approving surrogates that don’t meet most of the ASRM guidelines or seem to brush off prior pregnancy complications should not be considered.
Don’t be afraid to change clinics as you better understand your needs. If you started your infertility journey at one clinic (or are international Intended Parents) you may need to change clinics to undergo a surrogacy journey. Although shipping and transporting embryos may sound scary, it’s done with the utmost care. Cryopreserved embryos are packed in a dry shipper and shipped with liquid nitrogen to insure they remain preserved in a very cold state. Although you can transport embryos yourself, most people opt to use an embryo shipping service such as Cyrostork or IVF Couriers. Embryos and gametes have been reliably shipped domestically and internationally for decades with minimal risk. Most embryos are shipped via trusted, international services like UPS or FedEx and are tracked at every step. Some Intended Parents will ship their embryos in two different containers to minimize risk even further, though that does add extra logistical and shipping costs.
Most clinics will accept embryos from other clinics, though some may not. You will need to discuss embryo shipping policies with both the shipping and receiving clinics. You may also want to avoid shipping embryos around holidays when shipping facilities become overwhelmed or clinics experience holiday closures.
How do fertility clinics differ in terms of surrogacy experience and expertise?
Fertility clinics vary in their experience, expertise, and familiarity with advanced assisted reproduction techniques like surrogacy. Some clinics specialize in surrogacy and have a track record of successful cases, while others may have limited or no experience. It’s important to choose a clinic that understands surrogacy and has protocols in place to support the process.
How can I determine if a clinic’s communication style is suitable for me?
Effective communication is crucial during the surrogacy process. Assess how well the doctor and clinic staff communicate with you. Do they provide clear explanations, answer your questions, and address your concerns? It’s essential to have a doctor and staff who are accessible, approachable, and responsive to your needs.
Why is it important to consider a clinic’s live birth success rates?
While success rates vary, a clinic with a proven track record in live births from IVF is likely to be more knowledgeable and capable in guiding you through a successful IVF and surrogacy process.
How can I find a reputable fertility clinic for surrogacy?
Start by researching surrogacy doctors and clinics in locations where surrogacy is legally practiced. Look for reputable clinics with experience in surrogacy and a positive track record. Seek recommendations from individuals or couples who have undergone surrogacy and ask for their firsthand experiences. Consult with fertility specialists who have expertise in surrogacy and discuss your specific needs, concerns, and expectations.
Is it possible to change clinics during an infertility journey?
In some cases, you may need to change clinics to undergo a surrogacy journey, especially if your current clinic does not have experience with surrogacy. Transporting cryopreserved embryos can be done with care using specialized shipping methods and services. It’s important to discuss embryo shipping policies with both the shipping and receiving clinics and consider logistics and timing to minimize any risks or complications.
Remember, choosing the right surrogacy clinic is a personal decision that requires careful consideration of various factors. Trust your instincts and identify the clinic aligns with your needs, provides ethical care, and has a supportive environment for your surrogacy journey.