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Top 5 things to Consider when becoming a Surrogate Mother in Canada

Top 5 things to Consider when becoming a Surrogate Mother in Canada

Top 5 things to Consider When Becoming a Surrogate Mother in Canada

It is a truly wonderful thing to consider becoming a Surrogate Mother to help another become a parent. Through surrogacy, you are allowing another young, hopeful family to experience the miracle of life. There are few experiences that compare to being a surrogate mother. The decision to become a Surrogate Mother is not one that should be taken lightly. There are many factors to consider when making this decision.

Being a Surrogate Mother in Canada is something that will positively change your life as well as the lives of the Intended Parent(s) you will be helping. That is why it is important to be fully prepared, in order to make an informed decision.

What are the top 5 things to consider before becoming a Surrogate Mother in Canada?

  1. Physical prerequisites
  2. Mental prerequisites
  3. Lifestyle prerequisites
  4. Support network
  5. Choosing a suitable and credible agency

1. Physical Prerequisites for a Surrogate Mother in Canada

Before you can become a Surrogate in Canada, there are certain physical requirements that need to be met. Being of good overall health is necessary for aspiring Surrogate Mothers. Here are some other physical requirements:

  • You must be a Canadian Citizen with active provincial health insurance
  • Must be between the ages of 21 and 45
  • Must already be a parent that had a complication-free pregnancy and birth
  • Regular menstrual cycles
  • Body Mass Index (BMI) must be lower than 32
  • No history of hereditary physical illnesses or diseases

A certain level of physical fitness is also required. BMI is calculated by looking at your height to weight ratio. Here is the equation to figure it out:

  • Weight (kg) / Height X 2 (m)
  • If you score less than 32 you can be eligible for surrogacy.

2. Mental Prerequisites for a Surrogate Mother

The process to become a Surrogate Mother isn’t always easy. There can be many ups and downs along the journey.

Surrogacy candidates should be of sound mind and willing to make the mental commitment needed to endure the process. The process of bearing a child to term is stressful as is, under any circumstances, and the surrogacy factor – the knowledge that the child being carried is to be given to someone else to raise, once he or she is born – can be an emotional journey in itself.

Some mental prerequisites include:

  • Willingness to be subject to various psychological assessments
  • No history of psychological problems
  • No issue with relinquishing child or children after birth

3. Lifestyle Prerequisites for a Surrogate Mother

Prospective surrogate mothers will need to live a healthy lifestyle free of harmful habits or behaviours. Some of these lifestyle requirements are:

  • Maintain a nutritious diet with regular exercise
  • No smoking, drug use, or alcohol abuse
  • Be willing to have background checks done on you (and your spouse if relevant)
  • No travel to areas infected with the ZIKA virus in the previous 6 months
  • Willing and able to travel to appointments with lawyers and doctors
  • Able to come in to the fertility clinic when required
  • Flexible schedule that allows time away from work and family
  • Willing and able to take IVF medications

4. Support Network for a Surrogate Mother

It is extremely important to have a positive support network in place that you can turn to for emotional support and encouragement. Friends, Family, a Partner that you can rely on for doctor appointments, childcare, any bed rest and the delivery are an incredibly valuable resource for any Surrogate Mother to have when going on this journey.

5. Choosing a Suitable and Credible Fertility Consulting Agency in Canada

Becoming a surrogate mother is an enormous and rewarding undertaking. You definitely want to make sure you are working with an agency that is right for you, with your best interests in mind.

Fertility Match is a Fertility Consulting Company that truly understands the entire surrogacy process, and what the participants go through. The co-founders of Fertility Match have active experience as both a Surrogate in Canada and Intended Parent in Canada. This can provide surrogates with tremendous comfort and reassurance, knowing they have someone to turn to for empathy and support.

Top 5 Reasons to be a Surrogate Mother in Canada

Top 5 Reasons to be a Surrogate Mother in Canada

Top 5 Reasons to be a Surrogate Mother in Canada

Infertility is a serious concern for many Intended Parents across Canada and becoming a Surrogate Mother can change a family forever. The inability to conceive a child can happen for several reasons. Some of these factors include anovulation, hormonal imbalance, ovary scarring, age, or lack of necessary biological equipment in the case of homosexual couples and single gay Intended Parents.

The choice to become a Surrogate Mother is not an easy one. It really does take a strong, confident, and physically capable woman to carry a baby to term for Intended Parents.

What are the top 5 reasons to become a Surrogate Mother in Canada?

There are lots of advantages for becoming a Surrogate Mother. Generally, women decide to become surrogates because of a genuine desire to help others in need. It really is the ultimate selfless act.

Here are the top 5 reasons to become a Surrogate Mother:

  • The gift of life
  • Emotionally rewarding
  • Battle against infertility
  • Become a role model
  • Paying it forward

The Gift of Life

What greater gift could you possibly bestow upon another human being than the gift of life? Infertility can bring tremendous pain and suffering to Intended Parents that are not able to conceive. Some couples try and try again to conceive using multiple methods and approaches, only to be disappointed time after time. There are also lots of same sex couples that want to expand their families with a child, but are not able to biologically conceive one.

Helping Intended Parents realize their dreams by giving them the gift of life can be an incredibly rewarding and life-changing experience.

Emotionally Rewarding

Being a surrogate mother is obviously an emotional experience. It is an experience you will share with the Intended Parents as they prepare for a new addition to their family. The deep appreciation this new family will have for your contribution to it, is something that will last a lifetime. Some surrogates have reported that seeing the look of joy on the parents faces when meeting their newborn child is one of the most satisfying experiences imaginable.

Fight the Battle Against Infertility

Infertility issues bring heartbreak to Intended Parents on a daily basis. By becoming a Surrogate Mother, you are taking real action to help people overcome these hardships. These Intended Parents have no other options except to rely on the generosity of people like you to solve a seemingly impossible problem.

Become a Role Model

Becoming a Surrogate Mother is a real statement about your strength of character and your capacity for self-sacrifice, in order to aid and support others in need. Acts of such a selfless nature garner respect from friends and loved ones, as well as your community as a whole.

If you have kids of your own, it is a great opportunity to demonstrate the human capacity for kindness and giving.

Paying it Forward

A Surrogate Mother must have their own children to embark on this journey for others. Many women choose to be a Surrogate because they have been blessed with their own children and they want other people to experience that joy. They ability to give back and help another person in need is very appealing. Surrogates want to #be the change in someone’s fertility story.

If you would like to learn more about becoming a Surrogate Mother in Canada, call our Fertility Consultants today.  We have personal experience and the expertise to help you make the right decision for you.

What Should a Surrogate Mother Look For in Potential Intended Parents?

What Should a Surrogate Mother Look For in Potential Intended Parents?

Becoming a Surrogate Mother is a very personal choice. The reasons why a woman chooses to be a Surrogate Mother vary. I chose to be a Surrogate Mother to help another woman who couldn’t conceive become a mother. When starting out on your journey as a Surrogate Mother, take time to think about who you are meant to help. Is it a single parent, a heterosexual couple or a same sex couple?

Once you decide who are wanting to help as aSurrogate Mother, you will begin to “date” potential Intended Parents. This is a very important part of the process. Just like dating a potential romantic interest , you quickly learn what you are looking for in this relationship.

Are you looking for someone who is wanting the same amount of contact as you are? For me, this wasn’t my birth story. This story belongs to the Intended Parents I worked with and to their babies. I was just the person who was lucky enough to birth them into this world. I wanted Intended Parents who shared that outlook. My Intended Parents were at all my appointments and were in the delivery room. I also wanted to make sure that parents cut the cords of their babies as my husband and I had done for ours.

How do you feel about selective reduction or termination of pregnancy due to birth defects in the fetus? This is a very important subject and one that makes you look inward. I needed to find Intended Parents who would take any number of children that resulted from this Surrogacy. I was not in favour of selective reduction for multiples. With that being said, I felt that I could not decide what another person could live with if it was determined that the fetus had a birth defect. In that case, I was willing to terminate if the Intended Parents chose.

Intended Parents are looking for certain things when it comes to their Surrogate Mother too. They will be dating you as much as you are dating them. I have spoken to couples who said their Surrogate was to only eat organic foods, or would refrain from exercising. I even spoke with someone who said they didn’t want their Surrogate to have an epidural during birth. And while those aren’t the people I chose to work with, there is a Surrogate out there for them that will work with their choices. It’s all very personal.

The main thing for me in my journeys was the relationship I built with my Intended Parents. I did not know them ahead of time. We were complete strangers who took the time to build an honest and open friendship. I wanted to feel like we could talk about anything. My Intended Parents and I became support systems for each other through the ups and downs of fertility treatments while fulfilling their dreams to be parents.

Lisa: Watching our First Surrogate and Intended Parents Meet

Lisa: Watching our First Surrogate and Intended Parents Meet

Watching First Surrogate and Intended Parents Meet under Fertility Match

When I was a Surrogate Mother, one of the most exciting things was meeting my Intended Parents for the first time. We were already matched and had emailed and chatted on the phone numerous times. But meeting in person was truly like a first date. Everyone is nervous to meet the other party. The reality of the situation sets in. The Fertility Match journey is beginning.

I was honoured to be part of this excitement recently. Our wonderful intended parents T & J met their surrogate L and her family for dinner and I was there with my family.

I can only describe this as a large (and loud) celebration. Like old friends coming together. There were lots of hugs and laughter. This is the joy of a Fertility Match.

This is the moment where and intended parent and Surrogate Mother bond begins. With this journey our warm, loving surrogate mother L wants her family fully involved. Her children are very excited for their mother to be the change for other people. L is not only giving an wonderful gift to T & J, but she’s being an incredible role model for her children. As I sat there watching T & J chat with L and her husband, I knew that their journey together is going to be an incredible experience for everyone.

This is our dream at Fertility Match.  To make this connection for couples in finding the right Surrogate or Egg Donor and changing lives in a positive way. It brings tears to my eyes even just thinking about what the future holds for so many intended parents who choose Fertility Match to help them with their journey.  Call us anytime if you have questions about our service. We’d love to hear from you.

-Lisa
Co-Founder of Fertility Match Canada

Ottawa Citizen: Baby Mamas: Pair launch a ‘fertility consultancy’

Ottawa Citizen: Baby Mamas: Pair launch a ‘fertility consultancy’

This is an article published by the Ottawa Citizen about Fertility Match Canada launch and our focus on making a difference in the fertility industry.

Ottawa Citizen, May 26, 2017
Wanted: women willing to give their time and their bodies to help other women become mothers — for purely altruistic reasons.

Ottawa’s Liz Ellwood and Lisa Casselman have opened up a new fertility consultancy [Fertility Match Canada] to help infertile couples find egg donors and surrogates. Fertility Match is one of fewer than 10 such agencies across Canada. And they all face increasing demands for egg donors and surrogates in a seller’s market.

Ellwood, 34, and Casselman, 41, have seen both sides of the surrogacy equation. Ellwood was diagnosed with cervical cancer at 24. Despite freezing eggs at the McGill Reproductive Centre in Montreal, they were not viable. She eventually decided to find an egg donor and a surrogate mother. She now has a five-year-old daughter.

Ellwood met Casselman while looking for a surrogate. Casselman was already carrying a baby for another couple, but the two remained friends. Casselman is the mother of eight — she already had three children and a stepchild and became a surrogate twice after that, carrying two sets of twins for separate couples.

“We’re looking to find some amazing people and guide them through this journey,” Ellwood says.

There are few statistics, but demand for donors and surrogates in Canada is much higher than supply. Between 2014 and 2015, the number of embryo transfers made to a surrogate increased by 23 per cent from 413 cycles to 533, according to the Canadian Fertility & Andrology Society.

Egg donation and surrogacy are legal in Canada, but donors and surrogates can’t charge for their services, although they can be compensated for their expenses, such as medical costs and pregnancy-related expenses, such as clothing, food and exercise classes.

Under the Assisted Human Reproduction Act, agencies can’t charge for matching would-be parents with egg donors and  surrogates. Federal law prohibits paying a woman to be a surrogate, or advertising such a payment. It also prohibits paying someone “to arrange for the services of a surrogate mother” or accepting such a payment, or advertising of arranging these kinds of services.

It’s in stark contrast to the U.S., where egg donors and surrogates are paid, though those amounts vary widely.

Under the law in this country, Canadian donors and surrogates are helping infertile couples for altruistic reasons.

“No one really understands what ‘arranging’ services means, as it is not defined under the act,” says fertility lawyer Sherry Levitan. “Most of the agencies interpret it as matching surrogates with intended parents, but that isn’t my view.”

At the same time, Canada is becoming an increasingly attractive place for foreign couples seeking a surrogate.

Around the world, doors are closing on couples seeking third-party reproduction, including in Thailand, Vietnam, India and Mexico, Levitan says.

In India, for example, surrogates protested after the government announced it would ban foreign couples from hiring Indian surrogates. The Indian government had argued that hiring out wombs for rent was exploiting poor women. Last year, India drafted a law that would permit only infertile couples who have been married for at least five years to seek a surrogate, who must be a close relative.

For couples around the world, the U.S. and Canada are still options. In fact, Canada is a destination for would-be foreign parents. Overseas agencies point out to clients that the costs of prenatal care and the birth are covered under Canada’s health-care system. The exchange rate makes it even more attractive to couples in western Europe, Asia and the U.S., Levitan says.

It is widely expected that Health Canada will soon change the regulations in the Assisted Human Reproduction Act that deal with paying egg donors and surrogates. But as it stands, for most intended parents, the first step is usually word-of-mouth. “You never know whose neighbour’s cousin might want to be a surrogate,” Levitan says.

She believes that agencies are necessary to protect all of the parties. “A new intended parent working independently without an agency is vulnerable to experienced surrogates who may be trying to avoid some of the regulations and safeguards put into place by agencies,” she says.

“There is so much information and support that is required, and it is perfectly legal to charge for — and advertise — those services.”

Ellwood and Casselman say what they’re offering isn’t matching-for-money, but rather help in navigating a complicated system to find a donor or a surrogate who best meets the needs of every intended family. The agency screens both would-be parents and would-be donors and surrogates rigorously, Ellwood says.

“We want people to feel valued. We don’t want them to feel alone.”

Carolynn Dubé, executive director of Fertility Matters Canada, which promotes awareness and equal access to fertility treatments, says about one in six couples experience infertility. In about 30 per cent of the cases, it is attributed to the man, in 40 per cent of the cases it’s the woman, and 20 per cent it is a mixture of both. The reason is unclear in 10 per cent of cases.

“Some people will get IVF and move on and live happily every after. Some people will have uterine cancer at 20 and never be able to carry a baby,” Dubé says. “There are people who are interested in donating because they have a gift they can give someone else. It’s an incredible gift.”

The total cost of having a baby through surrogacy is between $60,000 and $100,000, depending on whether there is a need for an egg donation and fertility clinic costs, Ellwood says. Couples suffering from infertility are often mourning their own inability to have a child. Often, fertility treatments have failed. Would-be parents want to have complete trust in the person who will carry their child.

And there are a lot of ways for trust to fail, before and during the pregnancy and after the birth. In one case reported in 2013, a Spanish couple took their premature twins home, leaving the surrogate to pay a $58,000 hospital bill.

When Ellwood first started looking for an egg donor, she went to a U.S. agency. The first potential donor got pregnant with her own child, there were problems with the second donor’s hormone levels and there were questions about the blood tests of the third donor. Ellwood started looking in Canada. The first potential egg donor simply disappeared. She was successful with the fifth donor.

“People wouldn’t call us. You never knew what was happening. No matter what you did, it was out of your hands. It was awful,” she says. “We really lucked out with our surrogate. She really hung in there for us.”

Casselman had her own woes as a surrogate. She says she had to go to court to recover some of her expenses from one set of intended parents. She and Ellwood say now they thought there had to be a better way to do it, to make sure both sides of the agreement know exactly what they’re in for.

“We said, ‘We should start an agency [Fertility Match Canada] to help both parties have a better experience,’” said Ellwood. “It’s a bit like a courtship. It’s an important decision.”

There are a number of issues that both sides have to agree on, Casselman says: how many embryos will be transferred; whether or not there will be a “selective reduction” if the surrogate is carrying multiple embryos. They have to agree on whether amniocentesis (prenatal testing that can determine abnormalities as well as sex of the fetus) will be done, and whether they agree to terminate the pregnancy if the results indicate a chromosome abnormality such as Down syndrome.

The parties also have to agree on what kind of relationship the donor and surrogate will have with the family after the birth — whether to stay in contact, have no contact, or allow contact if there are crucial questions about the baby’s medical profile.

Casselman has wanted to be a surrogate since she was eight and her aunt’s premature baby died. The idea was reinforced when she was a teenager and learned about surrogacy. It’s best for a woman considering surrogacy to complete her own family first, she says. Her entire family gathered around the table before she made the final decision to be a surrgoate. Her children always knew that the baby would not be coming to their house to stay.

“I just wanted a great story to tell. We want every couple, every surrogate, to say this was a great experience. It’s very important to do this the right way, and do it with love and caring.”

Levitan likes what she has heard from Ellwood and Casselman so far. “They are aiming at the highest standard,”she says. “Not every agency is that accessible and transparent. If they keep to those ideals, I will be delighted.”

Fertility Match will be holding a webinar on egg donation on June 6 and one on surrogacy on June 7. For more information, visit fertilitymatch.ca/webinars.

 

Glossary of terms

Third-party reproduction: Donor-assisted reproduction in which DNA or surrogacy is provided by someone who is not an the intended parent

Intended parents: People who become the legal parents of a child born through surrogacy

Surrogate: A woman who carries a baby with the intention of surrendering the child to someone else after birth

Gestational surrogate: A woman who carries a child to whom she is not genetically related

Traditional surrogate: A woman who is the genetic mother of the baby she carries, but who intends to relinquish custody to the baby’s intended parents at birth

Interspousal donations: One partner in a lesbian relationship who carries a baby that is genetically linked to the other partner. IVF is a necessary part of this process

In Vitro Fertilization or IVF: The process of fertilization by extracting eggs, retrieving a sperm sample, and manually combining an egg and sperm in a laboratory dish. The resulting embryo or embryos are then transferred to the uterus

Pre-implantation genetic screening or PGS: Identifying embryos containing chromosomal abnormalities that result in IVF failure, miscarriage or babies born with conditions such as Down Syndrome

Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis or PGD: Evaluating embryos gathered through the IVF process for genetic disorders before they are implanted. In most cases, one or both partners have been genetically screened and identified to be carriers of disorders such as cystic fibrosis an hemophilia

Selective reduction: Abortion of one or more, but not all, of the embryos in a pregnancy with multiple embryos

Oocoyte banking: Egg freezing for women who have to delay childbearing for medical or social reasons

 

National Post: Joy to be mom after cancer battle

National Post: Joy to be mom after cancer battle

This is an article published by the National Post about Fertility Match Canada Co-Founder, Liz Ellwood, and her courageous story of battling Cancer at the age of 24 and fighting to realize her dream of becoming a mom.

INFERTILITY AWARENESS, A joint venture with the Infertility Awareness Association of Canada · May 20, 2008 | Last Updated: May 21, 2008 2:00 PM ET

Late in 2006, Ottawa resident Liz Ellwood, then 24, received a devastating blow: A regular pap smear showed she had cervical cancer. First, she faced a life-and-death battle with a devastating illness; second, she knew that even if the cancer was completely cured, the treatment would likely make her infertile.

But Liz Ellwood is a fighter. Her spirit saw her through two surgeries and six weeks of combined chemotherapy and radiation last summer. She showed just as much determination when it came to ensuring that some day, she would be a mother. New procedures at the McGill Reproductive Centre in Montreal allowed her to freeze 19 of her eggs before she started treatment.

Granted, the radiation and chemo affected her uterus; she will not be able to carry a child herself. But Ms. Ellwood has explored having a surrogate

mother. When she is ready, doctors at McGill will transfer the embryos (fertilized with her partner’s sperm) to the surrogate mother’s uterus. “I will miss being pregnant,” she says. “I always wanted to carry my own children, but at least I will know the joys of being a mom; 10 years ago,it would have been impossible.”

Perhaps surprisingly, the entire procedure has cost Liz Ellwood just $700 to date. The centre’s Little Miracles Fund paid for her treatment, while Ms. Ellwood paid only for the cost of anaesthetics and drugs.

Little Miracles is a fitting name for what McGill does, says its medical director, Dr. Seang Lin Tan. The survival rate for the human ova it freezes is 82%, he says, and they can be preserved well beyond the lifetime of the donor.

At some point, Ms. Ellwood will return to the clinic with her partner and her surrogate mother, and Dr. Tan’s team will perform the rest of the procedure.

For Ms. Ellwood, the fight to eventually become a mom started with a regular check-up with her gynaecologist. A pap smear just seven months earlier showed no trace of cancer. This time, however, her doctor called her back to say cancer cells were indeed showing up. To make matters worse, further tests showed that this cancer was a rare form, growing inside the cervix and not on its surface.

Luckily, the Ottawa General Hospital had one of two surgeons in Eastern Canada skilled in performing the necessary surgery. Unfortunately, the operation was not completely successful.

“I needed another surgery; this time in Quebec City,” Ms. Ellwood says.

“That was a success but to ensure that not a trace of cancer remained, I had to start six weeks of daily chemo and radiation at Ottawa General early last summer.

“As soon as I was diagnosed I talked with my cancer specialist about preserving my eggs ‹ freezing them for the future,” she says. “At that time, he didn’t know anything about the procedure. His concern was saving my life; mine was for my future.”

Liz Ellwood went to her gynaecologist, who arranged an appointment with the Ottawa Fertility Centre, which referred her to Dr. Tan’s team at McGill.

“I started treatment just before Christmas and two weeks later, the eggs were successfully frozen,” she explains.

“Once that was over, I was ready to face anything they could throw at me — the operations, the chemo, the radiation. I knew I had secured my future.”

That future is looking brighter all the time. Ms. Ellwood and her partner are looking forward to raising a family. “I knew him before being diagnosed; we started dating while I was undergoing treatment and we just became closer and closer,” she says.

She has already looked into arranging a surrogate mother. Although she will not be paying the surrogate, the treatment itself will cost about $25,000.

“I have started saving all my income tax refunds,” she says. “The most recent CT scan showed I was clear of the cancer. We are waiting now for anMRI just to be sure.

“What I do know is that, despite everything, I can and will be a mother.”

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