Skip to main content

Surrogacy provides an opportunity for individuals and couples to realize their dreams of parenthood, especially when facing challenges with natural conception. Medications that ensure the health and safety of the surrogate and the baby are central to the success of this journey. These medications prepare the surrogate’s body for the embryo in the case of gestational surrogacy, creating an environment that closely mimics natural hormonal conditions and ensures the uterus is ready for pregnancy.

In this blog, we’ll cover what medications you might be required to take as a surrogate. We’ll also cover why these treatments play an essential role in a successful and healthy surrogacy.

Why Medications Are Necessary in Surrogacy

Medications help surrogates achieve hormonal balance and prepare the uterus for the implantation of an embryo. In natural pregnancies, the body regulates hormones like estrogen and progesterone to manage the menstrual cycle and prepare the uterus for pregnancy. 

However, in gestational surrogacy, where the surrogate does not share a genetic link with the embryo, external hormonal regulation is necessary. This is accomplished through medications that synchronize the surrogate’s cycle with the intended mother’s or egg donor’s, ensuring optimal timing for embryo transfer. Without these medications, the surrogate’s body may not produce sufficient hormones for implantation and pregnancy.

The surrogacy medical process demands a close partnership between surrogates and their healthcare team. Fertility specialists monitor the surrogate’s hormonal levels and cycle, adjusting medications as needed to ensure the uterus is adequately prepared for the embryo. Surrogates are required to adhere strictly to the medication schedules and dosages prescribed by their doctors to maximize the chances of successful implantation and pregnancy. This collaborative approach ensures medical care is specific to each surrogate’s needs.

Common Medications Before Embryo Transfer

Before an embryo transfer in surrogacy, several key medications are prescribed to ensure the surrogate’s body is ready for pregnancy. Here are some medicines you may be prescribed as a surrogate:

Birth control pills are used early in the process to regulate a surrogate’s menstrual cycle. This synchronization allows for precise timing when initiating ovarian stimulation. Typically, these pills are taken daily for about two to four weeks, depending on the individual treatment plan.

Lupron (Leuprolide) plays a critical role in managing a surrogate’s reproductive hormones. Lupron prevents premature ovulation by temporarily suppressing the body’s natural hormone production, ensuring the cycle can be precisely controlled. This injectable medication usually starts a week or two before ovarian stimulation and is administered subcutaneously, which means it’s injected under the skin. Lupron is often used in conjunction with birth control pills, starting about two weeks after the birth control begins and continuing until just before the egg retrieval of the intended mother or egg donor.

Estrogen is essential for thickening the uterine lining, creating a receptive environment for the embryo to implant. It can be administered in various forms, such as pills, patches or injections. Estrogen treatment generally commences after the initial baseline ultrasound and continues until about one to two weeks before the planned embryo transfer.

Antibiotics like doxycycline or tetracycline are sometimes prescribed approximately five days before the embryo transfer to minimize infection risks during and after the procedure. Both antibiotics are typically taken as pills and are important for maintaining a healthy reproductive process by preventing and treating any existing bacterial infections.

Steroids, such as methylprednisolone (medrol), may also be prescribed to suppress the immune system slightly, which helps prevent embryo rejection. These steroids are typically started about five days before the embryo transfer and administered orally in pill form.

Prenatal Vitamins are recommended before and throughout the pregnancy to ensure the surrogate and baby receive the proper nutrients for healthy growth and development. 

Estradiol is administered as oral pills or transdermal patches to thicken the endometrial lining, creating an optimal environment for embryo implantation. Treatment typically starts around days two to three of a woman’s cycle. It adjusts based on the endometrial response, aiming for a thickness of eight mm (imminent menarche) or greater by progesterone initiation.

Each medication regimen is carefully tailored to the individual surrogate by their fertility specialist, based on ongoing monitoring of hormone levels and ultrasounds. This management ensures a surrogate’s body is in the best possible condition for a successful embryo transfer.

Pregnant woman lying down with a stuffed bunny resting on her belly.

Medications During the Embryo Transfer Phase

During the embryo transfer phase, surrogates will start progesterone, which is critical in preparing the uterus for the embryo. Progesterone is administered a few days before the embryo transfer to thicken the uterine lining and signal the uterus to produce the nutrients necessary for nourishing the embryo. This supports successful implantation and the early stages of pregnancy. Progesterone can be administered as vaginal suppositories or gels, which have a direct effect on the uterus, or through intramuscular injections, which maintain consistent hormone levels in the bloodstream.

Estrogen may continue to be administered to maintain optimal uterus conditions for implantation. Additionally, in some cases, a low dose of aspirin is prescribed to improve blood flow to the uterus and reduce the risk of blood clots during the transfer.

Post-Transfer Medications and What They Do

After the embryo transfer, ongoing medication support is crucial for the successful continuation of the pregnancy. Estrogen may be continued until around 8-12 weeks of gestation, a critical period until the placenta is developed enough to take over hormone production.

Progesterone supplementation, begun just before the embryo transfer, also plays a vital role post-transfer. It helps maintain the uterine lining and supports early pregnancy by ensuring the uterus is prepared to nourish the developing embryo. This hormone is usually administered through vaginal suppositories, gels, or intramuscular injections and continues until the placenta becomes sufficient to support the pregnancy, around the 10-12 week mark.

Additional medications may include low-dose aspirin and prenatal vitamins. Aspirin is often recommended to improve blood flow to the uterus and reduce the risk of blood clots, enhancing implantation rates and supporting early pregnancy. Prenatal vitamins are crucial for providing essential nutrients that support a healthy pregnancy. Occasionally, antibiotics might be continued for a few days post-transfer to minimize infection risks. Together, these medications create an optimal environment for the embryo to implant and for the pregnancy to thrive during its early stages.

Addressing Common Concerns and Side Effects

Many women naturally have concerns about the side effects of surrogacy medications. While most surrogates do not experience side effects from the medications involved in the surrogacy process, it’s important to be aware of what might occur.

Here’s a general overview of potential side effects associated with commonly used medications:

  • Hormonal Medications: These can lead to bloating, breast tenderness, mood changes, nausea, and headaches.
  • Lupron: Possible side effects include hot flashes, fatigue, and headaches.
  • Injection Site Reactions: Medications administered via injection can cause tenderness, redness, or irritation at the injection site.
  • Antibiotics: These may cause digestive issues or increased sensitivity to the sun.
  • Steroids: Generally well-tolerated but can occasionally lead to minor side effects like mood swings and increased appetite.

Fertility clinics closely monitor surrogates throughout the medication process, adjusting dosages as needed and ensuring any side effects are managed promptly. Open communication with the medical team is crucial, allowing for personalized care and effective management strategies. Additionally, working with a surrogacy agency like Joy of Life gives you access to a full team of support. They are always available to assist with medication schedules and address any concerns, ensuring you feel supported and cared for throughout the process.

The Importance of Adhering to Medication Schedules

Adhering to the prescribed medication schedule is key to success. Medications like estrogen, progesterone, and lupron regulate hormone levels to prepare the uterus for embryo implantation and support early pregnancy. Even minor deviations from the medication schedule can disrupt this delicate hormonal balance, significantly reducing the chances of successful implantation and normal pregnancy progression.

Surrogacy agencies are excellent resources for helping surrogates adhere to their medication schedules. They offer comprehensive support, including counseling on the importance of strict adherence, reminders for medication times, and practical strategies for managing schedules. Surrogacy staff can also provide tools and tips for maintaining the medication regimen during daily routines or travel. This structured support helps surrogates fulfill their commitment to the medication protocol.

Pregnant woman standing while touching her belly with a doctor in the background.

Navigate Your Surrogacy Medication and More With Joy of Life

The role of medications in surrogacy is to ensure the health and preparation necessary for a surrogate to carry out a pregnancy successfully. From hormone regulation to post-transfer care, each step is critical to both the surrogate’s well-being and the baby’s development. Adhering to medication schedules is essential, as it directly impacts the success of the embryo implantation and the ongoing health of the pregnancy.

At Joy of Life, we’re dedicated to supporting our surrogates with comprehensive care and detailed guidance throughout their journey. Our team ensures that every surrogate receives the necessary medical oversight and support, making the process as smooth and informed as possible.

Apply to become a surrogate today and join a community that values and supports your incredible contribution.

Joy Millan

Author Joy Millan

I’m Joy, the founder and CEO of Joy of Life. With a professional background as a fertility clinician, I’ve spent thousands of hours working with surrogates and intended parents alike. As a mother of two, I often wished for more support and a deeper commitment to care for those embarking on non-traditional family-building journeys. This is why I established Joy of Life: to create a more robust, compassionate experience in parenthood for both parties involved with surrogacy. In 2021, I stepped back from daily operations at Joy of Life to fight cancer. Fortunately, the combined 20 years of experience from our incredible team has allowed me to focus on my health & recovery. I continue to provide company guidance and serve as the head liaison for our network of doctors, clinicians and caregivers.

More posts by Joy Millan