Many times, when women are considering becoming surrogates, they’re excited for the opportunity to change someone else’s life. However, they often ask some of the same questions:
What kind of medicine do I have to take to become a surrogate?
Do I have to take shots?
Do they hurt?
It’s completely normal for women considering surrogacy to be wary of the medication involved, especially if they have heard conflicting information in their personal research. Medication of any kind can have a huge impact on your body, and it’s natural to be cautious of the effects of the specific medicine required to be a surrogate.
Like with any other aspect of surrogacy, it’s important that you fully understand the medical process and all of the medications involved before you commit yourself to this life-changing process. The absolute best person to talk to about surrogate medication is a surrogacy agency or a fertility specialist; they can better explain the medications you may need to take based on your personal circumstances and medical history.
In the meantime, keep reading this article for the basic information you should know about the medications involved during the surrogacy process.
Why Do Surrogates Need to Take Medication?
In a natural pregnancy, the woman’s body takes care of all the hormones needed to prepare the uterus for conception, maintain the pregnancy, and help the embryo grow and develop. However, a surrogate pregnancy is not a natural pregnancy — and these hormones must be replicated with particular surrogacy medications.
Throughout your surrogacy medical process, you will be prescribed a variety of medications to coordinate and control your cycle. This will ensure your uterus is as prepared as possible for the embryo transfer and a successful implantation is more likely to occur.
As you are undergoing medical screening to become a surrogate, your fertility specialist will work with you to develop an individualized medication plan based on your body and the circumstances of your surrogacy. Your doctor will be with you every step of the way to make sure you are comfortable and fully understand the medications you are taking (and any side effects that may arise). Any questions you have about your medical instructions should always be directed to your doctor or your pharmacist.
A List of Surrogacy Medications
Each surrogacy is unique, which means that the specific medication you will need to prepare for and maintain a healthy pregnancy will be unique to you. That said, there are a few common medications that surrogates need to take, like:
Doxycycline is an antibiotic used to fight bacteria. Early in your cycle, you and your partner may be prescribed this medicine to fight any low-grade pelvic infections that you have. Often, the medication is just a way for doctors to ensure you are healthy and ready for a surrogacy cycle. It could also work to ensure your body accepts an implanted embryo.
Doxycycline is usually taken as an oral tablet; in fact, you have likely taken it before if you have experienced any infections or your general physician wanted to protect you from potential infections. For most women, doxycycline does not cause any side effects.
Lupron is an important medication for any woman preparing for an embryo transfer, as it helps to inhibit and moderate the hormones associated with your natural menstrual cycle. Doctors prescribe this medication to help sync your cycle with that of the intended mother or egg donor, as it temporarily halts your ovaries from premature ovulation.
Typically, a surrogate starts taking Lupron about 14 days after she starts birth control (another medication used to control her cycle prior to transfer). You will discontinue Lupron before the egg retrieval is performed on the intended mother or egg donor.
Lupron is the surrogacy and IVF medication that many surrogates can be wary of, as it is self-injected with a ½-inch needle. However, remember that your physician will completely explain the process of administering this, and many prospective surrogates enlist someone in their household to help them complete these injections. Most women get used to the pinch of administering Lupron after the first few shots.
Some possible side effects of Lupron include headache, fatigue and hot flashes.
Estrogen is an important hormone for the regulation of your menstrual cycle and a healthy pregnancy. Usually, estrogen is produced by the ovaries to thicken the uterine lining and maintain an early pregnancy. In surrogacy, you will take birth control bills to regulate the amount of estrogen in your system and coordinate with the intended mother’s or egg donor’s cycle.
A surrogate will take estrogen in combination with Lupron to regulate her cycle and prepare for the embryo transfer process. Usually, a woman continues her estrogen replacements until the 12th week of pregnancy, after which the placenta takes over the natural production of estrogen. Your estrogen may be administered through a pill, suppository, injection or a patch applied to the skin. Your doctor will work with you to find the appropriate method for your body.
Women who use the skin patch may experience skin redness, irritation, nausea and fluid retention, while those who use the oral pill may experience bloating, nausea or breast tenderness — symptoms very similar to those associated with premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Overall symptoms may also include weight changes, headaches, stomach upset and cramping.
Progesterone, like estrogen, is an important hormone for pregnancy. Once your uterine lining reaches the ideal thickness, you will start taking progesterone replacements to further prepare for a successful embryo transfer, as this hormone signals to the uterus to start producing the necessary nutrients to support an embryo.
Usually, you will take progesterone days before your embryo transfer and continue taking it until your 12th week of pregnancy. Progesterone, like Lupron, is commonly administered through injections. However, progesterone often requires a larger needle and is injected intramuscularly, which means a spouse, partner or nurse has to administer the shot.
Side effects of progesterone include bloating, irritability and tenderness of the injection site. It may also cause breast tenderness, vaginal discharge and dizziness.
In addition to its effectiveness as a painkiller, aspirin has been suggested to improve implantation rates and pregnancy in women undergoing IVF — which is why you may need to take a low dose to assist with your cycle stimulation. Aspirin is taken as a pill, and it is generally used during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Side effects of aspirin are usually minor but could include upset stomach, heartburn or easy bruising.
Tetracycline is an antibiotic, and is usually taken prior to embryo transfer to prevent infection and rejection of the embryo. It’s taken as an oral tablet and side effects are minor, including stomach upset and sensitivity to sun.
Medrol increases the chance of successful embryo implantation by suppressing the autoimmune system. The low-dose steroid is taken as an oral tablet and, for most women, there are no side effects.
- Prenatal Vitamins
One of the last common medications you’ll take as a surrogate is prenatal vitamins. You may take these before your transfer, and you will definitely take them during your pregnancy. These medications ensure that you and the baby are receiving the nutrients you need to stay strong and healthy. These medications are taken as pills and can cause mild side effects like constipation, diarrhea, nausea or upset stomach.
Unlike your medications for the embryo transfer, your prenatal vitamins will usually be prescribed to you and managed by your local OBGYN during your pregnancy.
What Medications Do You Need to Take?
Because every surrogacy and every surrogate is different, what medications you will be required to take during your journey will depend on several factors. Only your fertility specialist or doctor can give you an accurate explanation of what your medication schedule will look like, so it’s important you speak to one if you are curious about the details of the medical surrogacy process.
To learn more about the medications involved in surrogacy, contact a surrogacy professional today.