The IVF portion of your surrogacy journey can take longer than you expect, and here at Gay Parents To Be we know that waiting and wishing can be the hardest part of this process. After years of helping dads-to-be build families, we understand that doing your research and preparing for your next step can help you feel more in control throughout your journey.
As you know, your surrogacy journey begins with a consultation and fertility testing, followed by the personal plan that you build with your fertility provider (One intended father or two? Known egg donor or anonymous? Are you going to complete genetic embryo testing?) Once you have a clearer idea of your path forward, you can take those next steps of matching with an egg donor, creating embryos, and begin to look for a surrogate.
While all of the steps above are integral to your family building journey, it’s rare that you (as a dad-to-be) will need to be in your doctor’s office on the days your egg donor is screened or her eggs are retrieved. Your sperm can be frozen ahead of time, and thawed on the day of the retrieval - this way everything is ready to go on the day of retrieval to create your embryos.
What is a Fresh Embryo Transfer?
A fresh embryo transfer usually happens five days after your donor’s eggs are retrieved. During those five days in the lab, the retrieved eggs are combined with one or both dads’ sperm so fertilization can take place. Your embryology team is working hard to make sure that your embryos have the best chances for survival - consider them your child’s very first babysitters!
By day five, the embryo(s) are now considered blastocysts (over 200 cells) and are ready for transfer.
What is a Frozen Embryo Transfer?
If you are moving forward with an FET (frozen embryo transfer), that means that you have embryos previously frozen. There are a few reasons that your fertility specialist might recommend a frozen embryo transfer, including:
The opportunity to test your embryos for chromosomal or genetic abnormalities, a process that we call PGT-A or PGT-M (formerly known as PGS testing). PGT and PGS stand for preimplantation genetic “testing” and “screening”, respectively.
The ability to coordinate the many puzzle pieces of your surrogacy journey. Between the timing of your egg donor’s cycle, the preparation of your surrogate’s uterus, and the fact that you and your surrogate may live in different states from your fertility clinic, there are a lot of moving parts in this process!
It’s important for you to know that frozen embryos are safe - they can be cryopreserved for years before they are thawed and transferred.
Whether your fertility journey involves a fresh or frozen embryo transfer, most intended parents (that’s you, dads!) choose to be at the clinic with their gestational carrier on that day. Your surrogate’s partner might be there too - it’s a special day, and all of your collective support systems are there for you. So, what does that day of embryo transfer look like?
What Happens During the Embryo Transfer for Gay Men?
On the day of your embryo transfer, the lab team will thaw an embryo and place it into the uterus of your gestational carrier. This doesn’t take as much time as you may expect - an embryo can be thawed in about an hour or so!
Embryo transfer day is exciting - you, your gestational carrier, and her partner will all be in the same room, watching the short procedure happen on an ultrasound monitor.
Important Note: Embryos are sensitive to certain odors, so perfumes, colognes, and scented hair or body products are not allowed inside the embryology lab. This is a good day to skip the spritz! Don’t worry, your care team will make sure to tell you important details like this ahead of time.
After a series of verification to make sure the correct embryo has been selected, your embryologist loads that embryo carefully into a catheter.
Each embryo is 1/100 the size of a printed period, but can still be seen on ultrasound because the lab staff loads a small air bubble into the catheter as well. Air shows up as bright white on the ultrasound, so when the embryo is delivered into your surrogate’s uterine cavity you can see a small flash of white. This process is virtually painless for the gestational carrier and requires very little recovery time. Most people travel home or go to work the very next day!
The next part is perhaps the most challenging - you have to wait over a week to find out whether your embryo transfer “took”. This wait may feel like it takes forever, and is completely out of your control, but this is a time to stay positive, check in with your gestational carrier, and try your best to relax.
Remember, every parent that comes to a fertility clinic has to go through this same wait, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or method of conceiving. And if you need some extra encouragement, your care team at your clinic and surrogacy agency are there - we’re all rooting for you!
Want to learn more about the ins and outs of the embryology lab?
As the Brand Specialist, Emma is the marketing lead for Gay Parents To Be, helping to build awareness of the brand not only as a direct path to parenthood, but also as a general resource for fertility information in the LGBTQ community. She loves the chance to attend conferences on LGBTQ health and family building, and meet prospective patients.