Now that your surrogate is pregnant, she’s eating for two. But this isn’t just any unborn baby—this is your baby. Understandably, the health development of your unborn child is one of your primary concerns now. Can you ask your surrogate to follow a special diet?
When choosing a surrogate or gestational carrier, there’s one fact that intended parents might have difficulty accepting: Your carrier will be entirely responsible for the nutritional health of your unborn baby. What she eats gets broken down and absorbed into the bloodstream where it can be transferred to the fetus by way of the placenta. If you’re already feeling a lack of control over your reproductive options, the lack of control over your surrogate’s food choices might only deepen those feelings. Add on that this is new kind of relationship that comes with an astonishing financial investment and it all might have you wondering what options you have to make sure nothing is left to chance.
Many dads-to-be wonder if they can ask their gestational carrier to follow certain diet restrictions, such as eating only organic foods, increasing their protein intake, and avoiding caffeine (including chocolate). Or they might require that their carrier adhere to food restrictions based on their religious or cultural backgrounds. Some surrogates are happy to oblige but others might find your requests conflicts with their own tightly held morals, customs, or freedoms. Communicating your wishes to your surrogacy agency and working out the details of your arrangement with your matched surrogate in a contract will help avoid major conflicts down the line.
“Remember, your surrogate is helping you build your family but she's also getting paid for it; don't be afraid or timid to set expectations and indicate your preferences,” said Will, a new dad who had his son through surrogacy and the help of Gay Parents To Be.
Most importantly, building a foundation of mutual trust will put help put both you and your surrogate at ease and eliminate negative stress. You should trust that your gestational carrier, who has gone through a rigorous screening process to become a carrier (or "GC") wants to give you a healthy baby and will follow the advice of her doctors. Additionally, the screening agency has strict requirements of surrogates and monitors them throughout the pregnancy so you don’t have to. Micromanaging your surrogate’s diet—or other aspects of her lifestyle—might cause unnecessary strain on the relationship.
What could make it take longer to match with my surrogate?
Your best chance at finding the right surrogacy match is to be as open and honest about your wants heading into the selection process. The details of your arrangement become the foundation upon which you will build trust with this person. Rest assured you won’t be alone to figure out the fine details all on your own: Before you settle on a match, your agency or fertility clinic should facilitate a group session led by an experienced LCSW who can help you identify and discuss important details and difficult topics. They’ll help you navigate how and how often you and your GC will communicate, as well as any wishes or needs you have in regards to her diet, exercise, and postpartum breastfeeding, among other sensitive topics.
However, certain requests or requirements may increase the time it takes to match with a surrogate.
Think through your requirements: What kind of person do you want your surrogate mother to be? Do you have specific wishes for their age, medical history, and cultural and/or religious background? How much contact would you like to have and, given that, do you require that she be local to you? Do you want your surrogate to follow a strict diet? What kind of relationship would you like to have post-birth? You should also examine your budget and the compensation expectations for surrogates in your target location.
Although it can be a difficult subject to approach, you must discuss your ethical feelings on terminating a pregnancy and find someone who will carry out your wishes in the event that the fetus’ health or viability could be impaired or the GC’s own life or health is in danger due to the pregnancy. Although particular wishes might extend the process of finding a surrogate, being clear on your wishes or expectations in advance will ultimately help avoid potential complications in the future.
How can I be in control during my surrogacy journey?
Putting your future child’s gestation and birth in the hands of a near stranger is a nerve-wracking and expensive proposition. You may seek to control some aspects of the pregnancy—even unconsciously—as a way to feel closer to the process. But this can often lead to feelings of micromanagement, which builds resentment and could deteriorate the trusting relationship between you and your surrogate. Reframing your goals will be more useful.
Instead, consider how you might gain connection with your gestational carrier and the fetus with your presence and actions, through visitations, doctor’s appointments, and regular updates. If being involved in the pregnancy is something you are interested in, make sure you discuss possibilities with your agency or fertility clinic so that it can be worked into your agreement with your matched GC.
If you have personal reasons to circumscribe a specific diet for your GC to follow, be sure to discuss it with your surrogacy agency so you can find the right match for your family’s needs. But also remember that Dr. Google isn’t an alternative for the advice of a real physician. Take comfort in knowing that your agency or fertility clinic is overseeing any requirement agreed upon during the surrogacy process. If you want to engender the necessary trust and respect between you and your GC, remember to always keep things in perspective.
How do I create a good relationship with my surrogate?
Trust is a critical component of any intended parent-surrogate relationship. You may feel more in control if you dictate your surrogate’s every move and meal but it’s likely to backfire. It may make your gestational carrier feel like you lack trust in her experience, motives, and judgments.
Instead of trying to control the pregnancy, find other ways to connect with your surrogate and unborn baby. There are lots of ways to develop a relationship with your baby in utero. For example, you may want to set up visitations with your GC to witness their growing belly and for the fetus to hear your voice. Plan to be present for doctor’s appointments, as welcomed by your gestational carrier.
It’s common, for example, for dad’s-to-be to accompany their GC for the 20-week anatomy scan, as it is the most detailed and anticipated ultrasound during pregnancy. You can also ask about receiving photos and videos during the pregnancy. Research shows that babies can hear you in utero and can recognize those voices following birth, so maybe you’d like to send her recordings of you talking or singing so that she can play them to her belly.
As long as you communicate your needs and wants clearly and respect those of your surrogate, you will cultivate a successful relationship.
How do I talk to my surrogate about difficult topics?
Difficult topics can be uncomfortable to talk about openly as you are finding a surrogate, but the benefits greatly outweigh the initial awkwardness. Examine your own feelings and viewpoints surrounding pregnancy and childbirth so that you can be matched with someone from the start who will abide by your wishes. Your agency or fertility clinic should be able to help you identify difficult topics and can facilitate a group session between you and your surrogate with a LCSW—a neutral third party trained in communication and conflict resolution—so you can bring up any potential issues or hard topics in an open, supportive environment. Your GC, too, will be grateful for the chance to outline difficult issues prior to entering into a contract with you.
How often should I communicate with my surrogate?
Every surrogacy relationship is unique and therefore there’s no template for what’s a normal or expected amount of contact. It’s only what feels right between you and your GC. Perhaps keeping in frequent contact will allow you to feel involved and at peace; for others, constant updates might be exhausting or incite anxiety. No matter how you feel about the frequency of contact with your carrier, it is something you should consider and discuss with your agency and potential surrogates during the match process. Creating a schedule for communication with your GC can go a long way to reducing friction and maintaining a positive relationship with your surrogate.
How often should I visit my surrogate?
Your surrogate is pregnant and the reality of holding your baby is getting closer each day. Being present during the pregnancy is a great way to feel connected and involved in a process where you might otherwise feel removed. However, the amount and type of contact you have with a surrogate is a decision that should be approached mutually with your GC. You should consider how much contact would feel appropriate, how much is reasonable given your and your surrogate’s location.
Be open to discussing this as you are choosing a surrogate to make sure you are matched with someone who shares your feelings and expectations. How often would you like to see your surrogate? Would you like to attend any doctor’s appointments? How much contact would feel invasive to your GC? There are no right or wrong decisions as long as you take care to communicate your wishes ahead of time and you remain sensitive to the needs and wishes of your GC.
How can I trust my surrogate to eat healthy during her pregnancy?
Now that you and your surrogate have communicated expectations surrounding nutrition and more, you might be wondering if she’ll actually follow through. Remember that you’ve built a relationship through a great deal of consideration from both parties. Your GC has expressed to you the joy it will bring her to help you—her intended parents—build a family. Now is the time to trust that you and your surrogate share the same goal: to deliver to you a healthy baby.
Your surrogate was carefully vetted and knows the steep responsibility of being a GC. She understands that you are counting on her to take all reasonable precautions during pregnancy, including maintaining a healthy diet. Your GC will also be in the care of medical professionals who will be monitoring her and the fetus’ health and educating her on any special nutritional needs during gestation. Additionally, there are strict requirements to become a gestational carrier, which your agency or fertility clinic will monitor throughout the pregnancy.
Trust the match process but also be reasonable and flexible; she’s pregnant after all! Pregnancy cravings can be strong and few “unhealthy” foods pose a high degree of danger to the fetus if eaten only on occasion and in moderation.
Should I stay in touch with my surrogate after her pregnancy?
Think of the enormous amount of gratitude you’ll have for the woman who carried and delivered you your healthy baby. Strong bonds often develop, due to the personal nature of the surrogacy-intended parent relationship. “You'll find post-birth is that the surrogate—indeed, her significant other, extended family, even her own kids—will end up being an important facet of your chosen family,” said Will, who went through the surrogacy process.
Every relationship is different but if this is one you’d like to continue, then you should talk to your GC about their feelings around keeping in contact after the pregnancy. Many intended families go on to have strong relationships with their surrogate past pregnancy. Others part ways once the contract is completed—and that’s OK too. Some intended parents even seek out an extended professional relationship in order to allow the baby to breastfeed.
If you think you’d like to continue your relationship with your GC past pregnancy, be sure to bring it up during the match process in order to be placed with a surrogate who will be open-minded to the potential. You’ll need to sort out any logistical details related to the post-birth care of the baby ahead of time.
If you want a refresher on the steps in the surrogacy process, read more here. If you think you’re ready to take a step to start your own surrogacy journey, we’re happy to help you schedule a consultation.
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.