If you’re a gestational carrier, you’ve been through childbirth before — but not like this.
While many aspects of delivering an intended parent’s baby will be the same as delivering your own, the hospital experience for a gestational surrogate also comes with some major differences for the woman in childbirth. As with every other aspect of surrogacy, it’s important to be as educated as possible about this experience before getting started.
Below, find a basic description of the hospital experience for most gestational carriers. However, remember: Every woman’s medical experience is different. Always talk to your surrogacy specialist and your obstetrician for the most accurate prediction for your surrogacy birthing experience.
Before Your Hospital Stay
Before you even get pregnant, certain aspects of your surrogacy childbirth experience will have already been determined. These will be addressed in your surrogacy contract. Questions like, “How will the parents establish their parental rights?” and “Do my intended parents want a non-traditional birth?” will be negotiated and answered before you get started.
Like any other birth, a surrogacy birth is not something that people go through on the fly. Your surrogacy professional, your intended parents and you will all come up with a delivery plan in advance of your hospital stay. This way, you’ll know exactly what to expect weeks before you ever start packing your hospital bag.
Your delivery plan will include details such as:
- Which hospital you will deliver at
- What kind of medication you would like to use during childbirth
- What medical procedures are expected to be completed on the child after birth
- Who will be in the delivery room with you
- Where the intended parents will stay (for example, in a hospital room or at a local hotel)
- Whether you will breastfeed the child after birth
- Who will hold the baby after birth, and for how long
- Whether delivery pictures will be taken
- And more
In short, your delivery plan will address every “what if” that could occur during your hospital stay. This is where a surrogacy professional can be so helpful; they can bring up things that you may not think of if you’re a first-time surrogate.
Your surrogacy specialist can also assist you in updating your intended parents of any changes that must be made during your pregnancy (for example, inducing you early than planned). Make sure you are communicating with your surrogacy professional and your OBGYN to keep everyone up to speed and decrease the possibility of stressful surprises along the way.
During Your Delivery Experience
With the proper delivery plan, you should be 100 percent prepared for the steps ahead of you. But, as with any childbirth experience, there is always the potential for unexpected developments when delivering your intended parents’ baby.
In most surrogacy deliveries, the intended parents will be there when it’s time for you to go to the hospital — whether you go into natural labor or are induced. From there, your delivery experience will likely go according to your delivery plan.
In most surrogacies, one (or both!) intended parents are present in the delivery room with their surrogate. They will often support her through her labor and be the first ones to hold their baby. They can also share intimate experiences such as cutting the umbilical cord and having skin-to-skin contact.
Your doctor and nurses will be informed of your surrogacy situation well before you arrive at the hospital, so they should actively involve the intended parents in every step of the process. Your surrogacy professional should also be involved to advocate for your and the intended parents’ rights during this process.
At first, it may seem awkward to have the intended parents so close during this intimate journey. But, remember: By the time you are pregnant and delivering, your intended parents will already be familiar with the workings of your body and reproductive system! It’s all part of the “glamor” of gestational surrogacy.
Post-Birth: Recovery and Discharge
Once you and your intended parents have shared the beauty of bringing a new child into the world, you may be unsure of what to do from here. Your detailed delivery plan will outline the specific next steps, but there are a few things that happen in most surrogacies.
Depending on your hospital’s policies, the intended parents may be able to stay in a hospital room with their new arrival while you recover in your own room. If not, they may stay with you in your room (if you’re comfortable) or in a nearby hotel. In this situation, the baby may stay in your room or in the hospital’s nursery.
While the intended parents bond with their new baby, you can take this time to relax. Your family and friends can come visit you during this time. The intended parents may even wish to spend some time with you during your recovery period, too. Typically, you’ll have to stay in the hospital for 24 to 72 hours after birth.
The baby will often be discharged after at least 24 hours. If you and the baby are discharged at the same time, you and the intended parents may leave together. But, in most cases, the baby will be discharged before you. Your lawyers will make sure any necessary parentage paperwork is finished before the intended parents leave and any other details are taken care of. While you may say “goodbye” to the intended parents at the hospital, you may find your relationship continuing for a long time to come.
A few notes on postpartum recovery after surrogacy: Most surrogates physically recover quite quickly from birth, as there is no newborn for them to look after. But, you may take a bit more time to feel like yourself mentally again. You may have some confusing emotions going home without a baby (blame your pregnancy hormones), and you may be mentally exhausted for some time. Take advantage of your maternity leave, and don’t forget that a good surrogacy professional will be there for you as long as you need after birth.
Remember: Every surrogate’s medical journey is different, and your own surrogacy process will revolve around your personal wants and needs. Those can definitely come into play during the delivery process — after all, you are the one going through the difficult process of childbirth! Make sure you work with a supportive surrogacy professional, and you will have as successful a delivery experience as possible.