Surrogacy involves a remarkable and unique collaboration between intended parents and gestational carriers. Surrogates, in this special arrangement, emerge as true experts on being pregnant, exemplifying an understanding of the complexities and joys that come with carrying a child.
All surrogates are biological mothers to their own children, and have had at least one prior healthy and uncomplicated pregnancy. Many surrogates have delivered multiple babies, including their own and surro babies for other families.
Surrogates are the best women to tell you what pregnancy is really like, and this includes how to prepare for an upcoming pregnancy. When you’re planning on getting pregnant, there’s physical preparations, but also mental and logistical considerations that go into the planning process. Having all your ducks in a row beforehand can help guarantee a smoother 9 months of pregnancy, plus postpartum.
How to Prepare Your Body for Pregnancy
Pregnancy has a close connection to a woman’s body as it involves the nurturing and development of a new life within her uterus, plus many other rippling effects that affect her anatomy. Physically preparing your body for pregnancy is an essential step to ensure a healthy and successful journey, and here are some important steps you can take to get your body ready for pregnancy.
Schedule a Preconception Checkup / Medical Screening for Surrogates
For women who are carrying their own babies, scheduling a preconception checkup with your OBGYN is highly advisable. All surrogates undergo a comprehensive medical screening at the fertility clinic to make sure they are in peak health and ideal candidates to start an IVF pregnancy. It is always best to catch a potential problem before conception or embryo transfer, because it’s usually much easier to treat before pregnancy.
Adopt a Healthy Diet
A well-balanced and nutritious diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats provides essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that support reproductive health. Foods high in folic acid, such as leafy greens, beans, and fortified grains, are particularly important as they help prevent neural tube defects in the early stages of pregnancy. Adequate intake of iron, calcium, and vitamin D also contributes to overall health and reduces the risk of complications during pregnancy.
Weaning Off a Caffeine Addiction Before Pregnancy
Let me start by saying that you don’t have to completely give up caffeine when pregnant. But if you’re that person having multiple cups of coffee a day, then you need to consider weaning down your consumption. Caffeine is truly an addiction, and reducing your intake may be harder than you realize.
Caffeine, commonly found in coffee, tea, energy drinks, and certain sodas, can have adverse effects on fertility and pregnancy. During the weaning process, it is important to be mindful of potential withdrawal symptoms, such as headaches and fatigue, which can occur when reducing caffeine intake. Gradually decreasing the amount of caffeine consumed over several weeks allows the body to adapt more comfortably to the change. Replacing caffeinated beverages with decaffeinated options or herbal teas can help ease the transition and satisfy the desire for a warm or refreshing drink.
Maintain a Healthy Weight and BMI
BMI and pregnancy are touchy subjects, but unfortunately they can’t be ignored. Both being underweight and overweight can significantly impact fertility and increase the risk of complications during pregnancy.
For women who are underweight, there may be difficulties in ovulation and irregular menstrual cycles, which can hinder the chances of conception. On the other hand, being overweight or obese is associated with an increased risk of gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, and preeclampsia, which can lead to complications for both the mother and the baby. Excess weight can also contribute to difficulties during labor and delivery.
Also, maintaining a healthy weight before pregnancy ensures that the body has an appropriate reserve of essential nutrients, such as folic acid and iron, crucial for the baby’s early development. By achieving and sustaining a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise, expectant mothers and surrogates can optimize their chances of a smooth and uncomplicated pregnancy, giving the baby the best possible start in life.
Stay Physically Active
Staying physically active before pregnancy is vital to promote overall health and well-being, setting a solid foundation for a healthy pregnancy, and supporting the body’s preparation for the journey ahead. As mentioned above, engaging in regular exercise helps to maintain a healthy weight, which is essential for fertility and reducing the risk of complications during pregnancy. Moreover, physical activity boosts cardiovascular health, strengthens muscles, and improves flexibility, all of which can be beneficial during labor and childbirth.
In short, the more muscle tone in your body, the easier your body can carry the added weight of a growing baby. Plus you’ll need those muscles to push the baby out during labor and delivery.
Start Taking Your Prenatal Vitamins Early
It is generally recommended to start taking prenatal vitamins at least three months before attempting to get pregnant. Starting prenatal vitamins early allows your body to build up essential nutrients.
By beginning prenatal vitamins in advance, you can ensure that your body has sufficient folic acid levels, which is critical for the early stages of fetal development. Additionally, starting prenatal vitamins early gives you time to address any nutritional deficiencies and establish a healthy routine before conception. With prenatals you can build up essential nutrients like iron, calcium, vitamin D, and others before conception. This helps ensure that your body has a good reserve of these nutrients during the early stages of fetal development.
A Personal Note: I am a surrogate myself and I underwent extensive medical screening at the fertility clinic before getting pregnant with my surro baby. When I received my bloodwork results back, it showed that I had slightly low iron levels. This is a common scenario with women, especially when it comes to iron and vitamin D. I had to take supplements for 30 days and re-test by blood to see if I had the required levels.
If I had started taking my prenatals earlier in the process before medical screening, I most likely would’ve had no deficiencies. Learn from my experience, and start taking your prenatal vitamins early!
Avoid Harmful Substances
Eliminate alcohol, smoking, recreational and some prescription drugs from your lifestyle. These substances can harm your fertility and have adverse effects on your developing baby. Surrogates have very strict rules and guidelines against engaging in any kind of these activities, and they are blood tested regularly for any traces of substances in their body.
Review Your Prescription Medication with Your Doctor
Taking prescription medication while pregnant requires careful consideration and consultation with a qualified healthcare provider. While some medications may be safe during pregnancy, others can pose potential risks to the developing baby.
For a woman planning to get pregnant, they should start with listing out all the medication are taking. Next step is to inform their doctor about all prescription medications they are taking, as well as any over-the-counter drugs or supplements, to evaluate the overall impact on both the mother and the baby. It is likely that she’ll need to discontinue some of the medication, but some of them need to be slowly weaned off slowly with reduced dosages over time. Never abruptly discontinue medication without speaking with your doctor first.
Track Your Menstrual Cycle
By keeping a record of the start and end dates of each menstrual period, you can identify the length of your cycle and determine the approximate time of ovulation. This knowledge allows you to pinpoint your most fertile days, increasing the likelihood of successful conception.
If you are an IVF patient working with a fertility clinic, they will be asking you to diligently track your menstrual cycle and report back. Almost all surrogates are gestational carriers, which means that they are IVF patients and get pregnant through an embryo transfer. Tracking your period is really vital to determine the best time to schedule milestone fertility clinic appointments.
Get All Your Dental Work Done Before Pregnancy
Getting all your dental work done before pregnancy is highly recommended to ensure the best oral health for both you and your baby. Dental health is closely connected to overall health, and during pregnancy, hormonal changes can make you more susceptible to certain dental issues. Untreated dental problems, such as cavities or gum disease, can lead to complications during pregnancy.
Additionally, certain dental treatments and procedures may be limited during pregnancy, as some medications and X-rays are best avoided during this time. By taking care of dental work before conception, you can address any potential issues, undergo necessary treatments, and ensure your oral health is in optimal condition. Regular dental check-ups, cleanings, and addressing any concerns proactively contribute to a healthier pregnancy.
How to Mentally Prepare for Pregnancy
Communicate with Your Partner
Have open and honest discussions with your partner about your decision to either start a family, or a become a surrogate for another family. Ensure you are both emotionally and mentally prepared for the journey ahead. Especially when it comes to surrogacy, make sure that you are both on the same page and you’re fully aware of the long timelines and commitments.
Speak to Your Children About the Pregnancy
If you’re already a parent then you’ll have little ones who are affected by your pregnancy. For mothers carrying their own baby, you’ll have to prepare your kids for a little sibling entering the family.
If you’re a surrogate carrying a baby for another family, I suggest using these special children’s books that help explain surrogacy to children. I selected a list of sweet and colorful illustrated books that put a complex subject into a simple to understand stories.
Seek Out Your Support System
When it comes to pregnancy and surrogacy, we can’t do it all on our own. From doctors appointments, childcare and event pet care, we need reliable friends and family to help us. I suggest having conversations early on with people in your life who would be willing and able to help out.
All surrogates are mothers, and they will need childcare for the days when they have appointments, traveling for medical screening, embryo transfer and of course labor and delivery. For surrogates, all expenses related to childcare and lost wages are financially covered by the intended parents. They should never be paying any of these costs out of pocket.
Reduce Your Stress
While reducing stress may be easier said than done, there are things you can proactively do to help. Recognize the specific situations or factors that trigger stress in your life. Understanding your stressors can help you better manage and avoid them when possible.
Prioritizing getting enough restful sleep each night is also an important way to manage your wellness. Establish a consistent sleep schedule and create a relaxing bedtime routine to improve sleep quality.
And finally, learn to say no to commitments or responsibilities that overwhelm you. Setting boundaries helps manage stress and ensures you have time for self-care.
Focus on Your Mental Wellness
Caring for our mental health can often get forgotten in the shuffle of everyday life. Mental health can sometimes feel invisible, until all of a sudden it catches up with us and we unexpectedly have feelings of sadness or feeling overwhelmed.
Make efforts to focus on self-awareness, take time to reflect on your emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. Understanding your feelings and reactions can help you identify areas that may require attention and improvement.
If you find that there’s specific concerns or issues bothering you, reach out to friends, family, or a mental health professional to share your feelings and concerns. Talking to someone you trust can provide comfort and valuable perspectives.
And finally, practice positive thinking and challenge negative self-talk. Replace self-criticism with self-compassion and celebrate your achievements, no matter how small.
Logistical Considerations with an Upcoming Pregnancy
Once a woman is pregnant, traveling can become more complicated. Most OBGYN doctors would advise their patients to complete any major travel plans before pregnancy begins. This is especially true for international travel or any destinations with long haul flights.
Prolonged sitting in a confined space can lead to reduced blood circulation, potentially increasing the risk of blood clots, particularly in the legs. Additionally, the low cabin humidity on flights can cause dehydration, which may lead to discomfort and exacerbate common pregnancy symptoms like swelling and fatigue.
The stress of travel, jet lag, and time zone changes can also affect sleep patterns and overall well-being. Furthermore, the recycled air on airplanes may expose pregnant travelers to a higher concentration of germs, making them more susceptible to getting sick.
For surrogates, travel is restricted during certain trimesters in the journey. This is due to reducing any health concerns, and also legal issues regarding state laws on surrogacy.
Take a Babymoon
A babymoon is a modern term used to describe a relaxing and romantic vacation taken by expectant parents before the arrival of their baby. Similar to a honeymoon, which is taken after a wedding, a babymoon is a special getaway designed to celebrate and cherish the couple’s time together before their lives are forever changed by the arrival of their child. The purpose of a babymoon is to spend quality time together, enjoy each other’s company, and create lasting memories as a couple before transitioning into the roles of parents.
Babymoons often involve trips to peaceful and serene destinations, such as beach resorts, spa retreats, or cozy cabins in nature. It provides an opportunity for expectant parents to rest, relax, and connect, allowing them to recharge and mentally prepare for the exciting journey of parenthood.
Health Insurance for Prenatal Care and Baby Care
The medical needs and doctors appointments for pregnant women drastically increase during the 9 months of pregnancy. Prenatal care involves regular check-ups with healthcare providers, including obstetricians or midwives, to monitor the health of the mother and baby during pregnancy.
Adequate prenatal care helps identify and address any potential complications early, leading to better pregnancy outcomes. Having health insurance that covers prenatal care ensures access to essential services, such as ultrasounds, blood tests, and screenings, without incurring significant out-of-pocket expenses.
Furthermore, health insurance for baby care is crucial once the baby is born. It covers medical expenses related to the baby’s health, including well-baby check-ups, vaccinations, and treatments for any illnesses or medical conditions that may arise during infancy and childhood. Early medical interventions and preventative care are instrumental in promoting the baby’s health and development.
While dealing with health insurance is always a pain, it is definitely worth your while to make sure you’re got all the health insurance coverage you need. The cost of having a baby without health insurance is far beyond what most of us could pay.
Informing Your Employer About Your Pregnancy
Timing is essential when sharing this personal news with your job, and many women choose to wait until they are past the first trimester and feel more secure in their pregnancy before breaking the news.
When ready, scheduling a private meeting with your supervisor or human resources department is ideal. Clearly communicate your pregnancy and expected due date, and discuss any plans for maternity leave or time off. Providing ample notice allows your employer to plan for your absence and arrange for appropriate coverage during your leave.
Openly discussing your needs and concerns can also help facilitate any necessary accommodations during pregnancy to ensure a safe and comfortable working environment. Remember that it is your right to be treated fairly and respectfully during this time, and sharing your pregnancy news with your employer is an essential step in protecting your rights and well-being as a working expectant parent.
Shopping for Maternity Clothes
Shopping for maternity clothes may be fun or a dreaded task for pregnant women, depending on which camp you’re in. Getting dressed in the morning when you’re pregnant can sometimes be a very challenging endeavor, with some moments of frustration because it feels like nothing fits.
When looking for maternity wear, prioritize comfort and functionality without compromising on style. Choose clothes that allow room for your growing belly and offer adjustable features to accommodate your changing shape. Maternity jeans, leggings, and dresses with stretchy or elastic waistbands provide flexibility and comfort. Look for breathable and soft fabrics to keep you feeling comfortable throughout the day.
Additionally, investing in a few versatile pieces that can be mixed and matched can help create a variety of outfits without overspending. Don’t forget to consider your lifestyle and any specific clothing needs, such as work attire or activewear.
Online shopping can offer a wide range of options and convenience, while visiting physical stores allows you to try on different styles and sizes. Embrace the journey of pregnancy with confidence and style, knowing that your maternity wardrobe will adapt to support you through this transitional phase of life.
Most surrogacy agencies provide their surrogates with a significant cash allowance for maternity clothing. I personally received a cash allowance of $700 to shop for a new maternity wardrobe. For those who are curious, you can use the cash for anything you’d like and not just clothes. 🙂
Preparing Your Home for a New Baby
Preparing your home for a new baby is a process that involves creating a safe, nurturing, and functional environment for your little one. As a new parent, it can feel a bit overwhelming to figure out what exactly you need (and what you can skip). As a parent myself, I suggest taking it in phases. Your baby will have different needs in the newborn phase than they’ll need in the 6 months phase. With every stage of your baby’s development, will come a new shopping list of gear to buy.
When preparing for the arrival of a newborn baby, you may want to start with the bare essentials and then build from there.
Here are the key items that are essential for caring for a newborn:
- Diapers and Wipes: Stock up on newborn-sized disposable or cloth diapers and gentle baby wipes for diaper changes.
- Clothing: Have a supply of onesies, sleepers, and soft, breathable outfits suitable for the baby’s comfort and warmth.
- Swaddling Blankets: Swaddling blankets help soothe and comfort newborns by mimicking the feeling of being in the womb.
- Baby Bed: A safe and cozy place for the baby to sleep, such as a bassinet, crib, or co-sleeper, is essential.
- Feeding Supplies: Whether you plan to breastfeed or bottle-feed, make sure you have the necessary supplies, such as bottles, nipples, breast pump (if breastfeeding), and formula (if bottle-feeding).
- Burp Cloths: Keep a stack of soft, absorbent burp cloths on hand to protect your clothes during feeding and burping.
- Baby Bathing Supplies: Mild baby shampoo, baby soap, a baby bathtub or bath seat, and soft washcloths are useful for gentle and safe bathing.
- Car Seat: A properly installed and appropriately sized car seat is a must for safely transporting your baby in a vehicle.
- Infant Nail Clippers or Files: Keep your baby’s nails trimmed to prevent scratching and discomfort.
- Diaper Bag: A well-stocked diaper bag allows you to carry essential items when on-the-go with your baby.
- Thermometer: A reliable digital thermometer helps you monitor your baby’s temperature for signs of fever.
- Baby First Aid Kit: Basic first aid supplies, such as infant pain reliever, baby-friendly band-aids, and a nasal aspirator, can be helpful for minor issues.
Financial Planning for Parenthood
Being a parent is an amazing thing, but oh man it is expensive! Financial planning for parenthood involves carefully assessing your current financial situation, creating a budget, and making necessary adjustments to accommodate the upcoming changes.
Consider the impact of reduced income during maternity or paternity leave and plan for any lost income for childcare. Building an emergency fund can provide a safety net for unexpected events and help ease financial stress.
Review your health insurance coverage to understand prenatal and postnatal benefits and explore options for adding your child to the plan.
For parents, welcoming a new baby is a large financial expense. But for surrogates it’s actually a earning opportunity, plus the amazing experience of helping a family. As a surrogate I earned $50,000 in cash payments for being pregnant with a surro baby. Learn more about surrogate compensation here.
Planning for Childcare
Making sure to plan ahead for childcare after the baby is born is a crucial step for working parents or those with other commitments. Start by considering the various childcare options available, such as daycare centers, in-home daycare, or hiring a nanny. Schedule tours with multiple daycare centers so that you can see for yourself the quality of the care. Consider the location and hours of operation that best suit your schedule. Be aware that some daycare facilities have limited hours on certain days.
In most metropolitan cities, daycare centers have long waitlists. Many of these facilities will also ask parents to put down a cash deposit (I personally never did this because it still didn’t guarantee your child would be accepted). My suggestion is to get on multiple waitlists while you are still pregnant. If the waitlists are over a year-long, then by the time you’re ready to go back to work, you’ll have available daycare options.
If opting for family or friend care, discuss expectations and arrangements in advance. It’s essential to have a backup plan for emergencies or unexpected schedule changes.
Communicate with your employer about your childcare needs and explore flexible work options, such as remote work or adjusted hours. This gives you time to transition your baby into childcare gradually to allow them time to adapt.
Postpartum care is the recovery period after childbirth, and it includes both physical and mental wellbeing. The days, weeks and months after delivery are different for every woman, and it’s important to take measures to care for both your body and mind.
Physical healing is a more tangible aspect of postpartum care, and rest is essential for allowing the body to recover from the physical demands of pregnancy and labor. Adequate sleep and proper nutrition are important for restoring energy levels and promoting overall health. Monitoring and managing postpartum symptoms, such as vaginal bleeding, perineal discomfort, and uterine contractions, are things that should be monitored during recovery.
Emotional support is equally vital during this time, as hormonal changes, exhaustion, and the adjustment to motherhood can lead to mood fluctuations. Open communication with partners, family, and friends, as well as seeking professional support if needed, can help women navigate the emotional challenges of the postpartum period.
Sleep is Crucial for New Parents
When it comes to getting enough rest and sleep when you have a newborn, this is truly the hardest part of being new parents. Breastfeeding and bottle feedings need to happen around every 2 hours, 24 hours a day. So having a partner to switch off overnight shifts with you is really important, so that you can get some quality REM sleep.
For surrogates, the postpartum period involves a lot of relaxing and quality sleep. Surrogates don’t have newborn babies to care for, so they can come home from the hospital for a bit of a staycation. All surrogates are legally entitled to a 6 – 8 week paid maternity leave to recover and care for their physical and mental wellness.
Planning for Maternity Leave
Trying to plan for your maternity leave in advance while still pregnant can feel a bit like you’re looking into a crystal ball to see the future. The best plan is a flexible one, giving you multiple options for different scenarios.
Start by familiarizing yourself with your company’s maternity leave policy and understanding your entitlements, such as the duration of leave, pay options, and benefits coverage. The government-paid maternity leave policies vary by state, so make sure to do your research on what is provided where you live.
Communicate with your employer early on about your pregnancy and anticipated due date to facilitate planning and arrangements. Create a clear and detailed plan for how your responsibilities will be handled during your absence, including delegating tasks and training temporary replacements if necessary.
Determine the start date of your maternity leave based on your doctor’s advice and your personal preferences. Coordinate with your human resources department to understand the process for requesting and documenting your leave. Take into account any sick leave or vacation days you plan to use before or after your maternity leave to extend the time off if needed.
By carefully planning for maternity leave, you can avoid unnecessary distractions and focus on the precious moments with your newborn.
Taking proactive steps to prepare your body and mind, and also logistical planning, can contribute to a smoother and healthier pregnancy experience.Learn More