How often are IVF clinics or surrogacy/donor agencies talking about the unexpected outcomes that happen?
Not too often, which is surprising given that the average success rate for an IVF cycle in the United States is 63%, under the best conditions (younger age of egg source and financial ability to pay for multiple cycles). Unexpected outcomes with surrogacy should be a conversation topic with every match, attorney, mental health professional, and agency as you go through the process.
Forward Fertility feels it is just as critical to share news about when things do not go as planned as it is to share the successes of treatment. By sharing these stories, we give the people who have experienced them space to share, we allow others to see them and hear their stories, validating their experiences, and we also can use this as a way to educate others who are going through the process, so that they may know what might happen or also feel less alone when the ‘unexpected outcome’ does happen.
Multiple Failed Embryo Transfers – Unexpected Outcome
Q. Share a little bit about what happened during your surrogacy match that was not expected. A complication? A loss?
I think literally each of my transfers had an unexpected outcome. I knew the possibilities of what could happen, but definitely based off of my 3 keeper pregnancies, I expected to be pregnant from the first transfer. My surrogacy journey was full of trials. I wish there had been some explanation of why.
Q. How did you feel when you found out? How did those feelings change over time?
I felt frustrated and after the last loss [an early miscarriage]. I felt like my body had failed me and the IPs. It was pretty tough knowing that I would miscarry [and having to go back for multiple repeat blood pregnancy tests and ultrasounds].
Once we knew the pregnancy was not viable, it was quite difficult to have to go back for blood work each week, knowing the monitoring wasn’t for an ongoing pregnancy. After the bleeding started and we knew the pregnancy was not viable, it was the first time I didn’t pray for something positive on my way to the clinic. That was pretty painful. I understand why they need you to continue to go. It’s tough going back. I had to go back so many times ….it’s almost like running salt in the wound.
Q. Was there anything that the health care providers or your support system did that helped you during this time?
My IPs were so extremely supportive and said the most wonderful things to me. They said something along the lines of deserving all the good karma I could get [for how I’d tried to help them]. Even during the most difficult loss, they were there. They understood that not only was it painful for them, but for me as well.
As far as people checking in, I think it was just about the right amount. It was nice to know people cared.
Q. What do you wish you’d known going into the surrogacy process that you did not know? Do you think you were informed of this possible complication and thought it ‘wouldn’t happen to you’? Or, were you surprised and taken aback when the complication/loss occurred?
I was definitely told about all of the possibilities and potential complications, but I was surprised anyway. I don’t think you go into it thinking that what happened to me, would be the outcome, which is a good thing or no one would do it. It could be nice to have someone explain what chemical pregnancies and miscarriages potentially look like. Explaining how long it might take for the HCG to go to zero would be nice. However, might be a strange conversation at the beginning of the process…. I don’t know.
Q. What advice do you have for surrogate support systems (medical, family, parents-to-be, agency) for providing the best support possible to a surrogate during something like this?
The only real advice I have is, no matter what your current story, be prepared for every outcome and have a very strong support system.
To support systems and medical staff, I would want them to know that as potential surrogates, we want this so badly for the IPs and when it doesn’t work out, we feel that loss deeply, at least I did. It wasn’t our baby, but we wanted that for the IPs. Know that sometimes we just need someone to vent to, and don’t necessarily need a response or answer. As far as medical staff, it might be nice to have answers as to why things aren’t going well. A thorough review of the positive and negatives in terms of moving forward with additional transfers would also be helpful.
Q. What advice do you have for women considering surrogacy, knowing what you know now?
All of that being said, I wouldn’t go back for anything. I met many very amazing people and had an eye opening experience!
THANK YOU, ASHLEY.
Thank you for sharing your experience. Even when ‘everything looks great’ it does not always result in a pregnancy and we don’t always know ‘why’, which can leave everyone unsettled. Being a surrogate is hard when it works, and even more difficult when it does not. As a surrogate or parent who experiences a loss or something unexpected, sharing your experience and knowing that you did everything in your power to optimize the outcome will hopefully provide some peace.
Keep learning and sharing – check out these links.
This organization started in order to support surrogates and the parents they are matched with when they face pregnancy loss, one of the unexpected outcomes with surrogacy. Learn more here.
When you have unexpected outcomes with surrogacy, getting information is critical. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists provides some helpful Q&A about pregnancy loss.