In June Pride Life interviewed Craig and Massimo, the proud and loving parents of Marco. This Deptember they completed building their family through egg donor surrogacy in the USA, and welcomed the birth of their second son, Nicolò.
Having finished two different egg donor surrogacy journeys in the USA, Craig and Massimo have experienced many of the possible options and variations that intended parents are faced with deciding between when planning an egg donor surrogacy journey.
Pride Life asked Craig and Massimo to share their views and some of the different choices they made in course of their two journeys.
Why did you choose the USA?
There are only a handful of countries in the world where egg donor surrogacy for same-sex couples is possible. Among this small number of places, the USA is the largest and most developed. It’s long and well established in the USA and all the necessary professional and medical infrastructure is in place to do it safely. It is admittedly the most expensive location for intended parents, but this is counterbalanced with the safety and security of building your family while being surrounded by the best and most extensive resources available anywhere in the world for egg donor surrogacy.
In the USA are there benefits to a journey on the East vs the West Coast?
Our two journeys have taken us to both US coasts. Coming from London, we initially thought that the East Coast would be logistically easier. Looking back, we experienced that, once we made the decision to cross the pond, both were logistically equal and in some ways the West Coast had benefits. A few extra hours on a plane or time change didn’t make a difference.
What was more important was to work with providers – IVF clinic, agencies, lawyers – that we trusted and that delivered, and to have matched well with an egg donor and surrogate. Working with a surrogate that lives in a US state which meets your needs from a legal and medical insurance perspective is also critical (intended parents need to know that the USA has 50 states and rules on surrogacy, parental rights, termination of a pregnancy – if that were to be necessary – and medical insurance are determined on a state-by-state level). The ability to localise the process with an egg donor and/ or surrogate in relative proximity to your IVF clinic can also help intended parents streamline their journey and manage costs.
Did you consider both known and anonymous egg donors?
Unlike some countries, both known and anonymous egg donation are possible in the USA. Intended parents using egg donor surrogacy will make their own choices as to what is right for them and their children when it comes to the relationship they will have with their egg donor. It’s also worth considering the fact that that most children born via egg donor surrogacy will have half-siblings in other families. For us personally it was important for several reasons to match with an egg donor that was prepared to be known to us and our children. Many egg donors are open to either approach, but others are looking for one or the other. This is one of the many pieces of information that will be available in an egg donor’s profile.
Did you work with a first-time or experienced donor and surrogate?
We found our donor through the in-house program of our IVF clinic, Oregon Reproductive Medicine (ORM). Our donor had donated previously so ORM had all her medical records and knew how she responded to the stimulation medications and retrieval procedure. We knew the success of her prior donation and that she had proven fertility. This was comforting to us as we knew that it would increase our chances of success the first IVF attempt.
Well-screened surrogates in the USA will have all had prior pregnancies – building their own families – and their medical records must be reviewed and approved by your IVF physician. So intended parents should be matched with a surrogate that is medically able to carry a pregnancy to term without complications. We worked with both a first-time and an experienced surrogate. Both of our journeys were wonderful, but the entire process was, of course, already completely familiar for our experienced surrogate.
When considering between first-time and experienced donors and surrogates, intended parents will weigh various factors, including the overall match, whether it improves their chance for success first time round, cost – experienced donors and surrogates receive higher compensation in the USA – and the medical limits on the number of times someone can be a donor or surrogate.
How was the experience of fresh vs frozen embryo transfers different?
Our first journey involved a fresh embryo transfer and our second involved a frozen embryo that had been tested with Comprehensive Chromosome Screening (CCS) when it was frozen to screen whether it was normal (possessing the correct number of chromosomes to develop into a viable pregnancy). When we started our family building three years ago fresh embryo transfers were more the norm for a first attempt, but you only get the chance to do this once (at the time of an egg retrieval) and then typically freeze any embryos not transferred.
Our frozen embryo transfer was certainly logistically much simpler to plan and organise for our surrogate and ourselves. There is timing uncertainly with fresh embryo transfers that make them more complicated to coordinate. With advances in freezing technology (vitrification) and CCS, and the resulting minimisation of success rate differentials between fresh and frozen, more and more intended parents can choose to use a frozen transfer on their first attempt and streamline their journeys.
What can intended parents do to help them understand the different options available to them?
Take your time and ask a lot of questions of service providers, parents that have been through the process and other intended parents. Building your family through egg donor surrogacy is one of the most important and amazing things you’ll do in your lifetime. There are many service providers and programs in the USA – IVF clinics, egg donor and surrogacy agencies, lawyers, insurance providers. It is important that you choose the ones that meet your individual needs and that you trust to give your the best chance of success.
Good luck and enjoy the incredible journey to parenthood!