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Path To Fertility Blogger Lisa Rosenthal  

Lisa Rosenthal has over twenty-five years of experience in the fertility field, including her current roles as Coordinator of Professional and Patient Communications for RMACT and teacher and founder of Fertile Yoga, a class designed to support, comfort and enhance men and women's sense of self. Her experience also includes working with RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association and The American Fertility Association, where she was Educational Coordinator, Conference Director and Assistant Executive Director

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LGBTQ Family Building Event

  
  
  

LGBTQ Family Building Event - April 5, 2014

GPTB TCC EVENT 2014On April 5, 2014, from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m., the Triangle Community Center (TCC) of Fairfield County, CT and GayParentsToBe will host “Getting Started: A Lunch & Learn on LGBTQ Family Planning.” During the event, a panel of experts will discuss family building in the LGBTQ community. The event will include a light lunch and is being held at TCC’s new location at 618 West Avenue in Norwalk.


The panel of experts is comprised of Mark Leondires, MD, Medical Director for Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut (RMACT) and GayParentsToBe; Lisa Tuttle, PhD, who specializes in third-party assisted reproduction at RMACT; and Elizabeth Swire Falker, Esq., who is a prominent lawyer specializing in third-party assisted reproduction. The panel will take questions from the attendees and will explore many facets of surrogacy, including medical (in vitro fertilization or IVF), psychological (emotional impact of choosing an egg donor, gestational carrier) and legal (importance of using an attorney).

 

TCC LGBT Center Logo“With Connecticut laws conducive to gay parents and its renown quality of life, Fairfield County is an increasingly attractive destination for LGBTQ families,” says Anthony Crisci, Executive Director of TCC.  “As our community grows, TCC is proud to provide a support system for new and existing LGBTQ families. Events such as this Lunch & Learn signify TCC’s coming of age with a new office, new team and new programs.”


For 23 years, TCC has been offering resources and programs for a wide range of interests and ages within the LGBTQ community. GayParentsToBe.com and Dr. Leondires, who are long-time supporters of TCC, are excited to be a part of expanding the family building program.


“TCC is an ideal partner for GayParentsToBe.com because we both have a mission to provide education and help our community overcome obstacles to creating the families of their dreams,” says Dr. Leondires, who is a board-certified reproductive endocrinologist. “I am proud to share my expertise and insights with the LGBTQ community as both a physician and a dad who worked with a gestational carrier for both of my sons.”


Learn more about the “Getting Started: A Lunch & Learn on LGBTQ Family Planning” and reserve your spot. Please share the info!

 

 

On April 5 from 12 p.m. – 2 p.m. the Triangle Community Center (TCC) of Fairfield County, CT and GayParentsToBe will host “Getting Started: A Lunch & Learn on LGBTQ Family Planning.” During the event, a panel of experts will discuss family building in the LGBTQ community. The event will include a light lunch and is being held at TCC’s new location at 618 West Avenue in Norwalk.

The panel of experts is comprised of Mark Leondires, MD, Medical Director for Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut (RMACT) and GayParentsToBe; Lisa Tuttle, PhD, who specializes in third-party assisted reproduction at RMACT; and Elizabeth Swire Falker, Esq., who is a prominent lawyer specializing in third-party assisted reproduction. The panel will take questions from the attendees and will explore many facets of surrogacy, including medical (in vitro fertilization or IVF), psychological (emotional impact of choosing an egg donor, gestational carrier) and legal (importance of using an attorney).

- See more at: http://gayparentstobe.com/lgbtq-family-building-event/#sthash.nRuDVEhs.dpuf

On April 5 from 12 p.m. – 2 p.m. the Triangle Community Center (TCC) of Fairfield County, CT and GayParentsToBe will host “Getting Started: A Lunch & Learn on LGBTQ Family Planning.” During the event, a panel of experts will discuss family building in the LGBTQ community. The event will include a light lunch and is being held at TCC’s new location at 618 West Avenue in Norwalk.

The panel of experts is comprised of Mark Leondires, MD, Medical Director for Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut (RMACT) and GayParentsToBe; Lisa Tuttle, PhD, who specializes in third-party assisted reproduction at RMACT; and Elizabeth Swire Falker, Esq., who is a prominent lawyer specializing in third-party assisted reproduction. The panel will take questions from the attendees and will explore many facets of surrogacy, including medical (in vitro fertilization or IVF), psychological (emotional impact of choosing an egg donor, gestational carrier) and legal (importance of using an attorney).

- See more at: http://gayparentstobe.com/lgbtq-family-building-event/#sthash.nRuDVEhs.dpuf
LGBTQ Family Building Event

LGBTQ Family Building EventLGBTQ Family Building Event

Surrogacy Out of the Closet - Jimmy Fallon and Nancy Juvonen

  
  
  

Jimmy Fallon and Nancy Juvonen Share Surrogacy News

Surrogate and Jimmy Fallon

I'm still not sure why Jimmy Fallon and Nancy Juvonen used a surrogate. Which is totally ok with me as it is none of my business. 

 

Like many other people who work with infertility and fertility treatment, I applaud them both for speaking up about having used a gestational surrrogate

 

That's probably not my business or yours either. OK, it's definitely not our business. 

 

But by sharing their news, their way of creating their family, they have opened a door. 

 

I don't believe that they've opened the door to telling us all the details of their medical conditions that led them to using a surrogate. Am I the only one in the country who, frankly, doesn't care? 

 

 

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons (Vivanista1)

Gestational Surrogates Create Families, Not Secrets

What I do care about is that the door they've opened allows us in and it also allows something out. 

 

Secrecy. 

 

Secrecy can't survive in the daylight. And neither can ignorance.

 

And that's huge. 

 

Gestational surrogacy is an option that is used to create families. It is not an option that is often talked about because it is still true, very true, that we feel shame around infertility.

 

We feel less than, ashamed even, that our bodies don't work properly to conceive and carry our children. So we don't talk about it. Or worse, we pretend and even lie about the circumstances of our childrens' births.

 

What about privacy? Aren't people entitled to that? Even if they're a celebrity? 

 

Well, yes.

 

And, no. 

 

It's clear to all of us that privacy is a hard won commodity if you are a celebrity. Even when tons of money are thrown at keeping their lives quiet and private, unless they very deliberately step out of the public eye, privacy is elusive.

 

Huge Thanks to the New Parents

 

So huge thanks to Jimmy Fallon and Nancy Juvonen for accepting the lack of privacy and not keeping it a secret or lying about it. It frees all the rest of us to admire them and it educates the world about what gestational surragacy is and is not. 

 

They're already great parents. Making decisions about disclosure and honesty took a lot of courage and that's what makes great parents.

 

Great courage.

 

Congratulations to Jimmy Fallon and Nancy Juvonen. On the birth of their daughter and the birth of their family and on letting the secrets slip into the darkness. 

 

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The New Normal - Fall TV Review | Surrogacy and More

  
  
  
The New Normal

A Review of The New Normal

By Katlyn Duncan

 

Out of all the new 2012 Fall TV shows, the one that shows a lot of promise is “The New Normal,” airing on Tuesdays at 9:30 PM EST on NBC. The New Normal was created by Ryan Murphy (best known as the creator of Glee and American Horror Story) and Ali Adler.

 

The premise of the show is relevant to our culture today with all the technological advances in reproductive medicine, by way of creating “unconventional” families, hence the name of the show . . . The New Normal. David (played by Justin Bartha, “The Hangover”) and Bryan (played by Andrew Rannells, Broadway, “The Book of Mormon”) are a gay couple living in Los Angeles. They are both very successful; David is a gynecologist and Bryan is a television producer. One day Bryan gets the idea that they could be happier if they were able to have a baby.

Finding a Surrogate Finds Its Way to Primetime

They go through the process of finding a surrogate in Goldie (played by Georgia King, “One Day”), who has just moved to L.A. with her nine-year-old daughter, Shania (played by Bebe Wood), after her husband was caught cheating on her. The four get along perfectly but where is the fun in that? Jane (played by the hilarious Ellen Barkin, “The Big Easy”) is Goldie’s conservative and outspoken grandmother who follows Goldie to L.A. to bring her back home and away from the gay couple. Goldie sticks to her guns to be the surrogate for Bryan and David, forcing both families to live with each other’s quirks.

The New Normal Tops The Fall TV List 

After watching the first episode of The New Normal, I found this show to be at the top of my DVR list. The casting of the show is perfect and I love the banter between all of the characters. My stand-out characters are Jane and Bryan who consistently bump heads on many issues outside of him being gay. NeNe Leakes (Roz Washington on “Glee”) plays Bryan’s personal assistant, Rocky, who is another person that Jane constantly insults, but Rocky is anything but shy and tends to dish it right back. Shania has grown on me in the past few episodes and she is definitely a talented actress who I can only compare to the brilliant young actors from Modern Family. 

 

Overall, this is a refreshing show among the new comedy line-up this year in television. Ryan Murphy has been known to highlight the differences among people and celebrate them, and The New Normal is no exception. If anyone is looking for a unique comedy to tune into or wants to try something new, I highly recommend this show!

The New Normal Review

 


Katlyn joined the RMACT in August 2012 as the Andrology and Endocrinology Supervisor. She has two Bachelors of Science degrees from the University of New Haven in Forensic Science and General Biology. She is so pleased to be a part of the amazing RMACT team!

Books About Infertility: An Insider Book Review

  
  
  

A guest blog--how exciting! 


Rachel is a patient coordinator with Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut (RMACT). She has been with RMACT for four and a half years as a valued member of our team. Rachel is responsible for helping our patients navigate through fertility treatment options and for coordinating information, scheduling and communication between different members of the RMACT team.

Woman Reading

Recently, we were discussing books--we're big readers here at RMACT--and Rachel mentioned her newest read. When we talked further, it came out that the book was directly about third party reproduction, infertility and all the relationships that were affected. Read on to hear what Rachel had to say:


An Insider Book Review: Jennifer Weiner "Then Came You"

"I found myself this past Saturday at the public library in my town, trying to find a good book to relax and enjoy the beautiful weather with. Not since "The Hunger Games" trilogy and "Fifty Shades of Gray" (since its huge following, I am not embarrassed to say yes, I read it!) have I really found a book that I couldn’t put down. So in the new release section, I saw a fairly new book by author Jennifer Weiner, called "Then Came You". I had read a few of her books before, one being "In Her Shoes," which was made into a movie a few years back. I picked it up and perused the summary. After reading the summary, I knew I had to check this book out. Three days later (and many hours hiding from chores and other things I should have been doing) I closed the book with mixed emotions about what I had just read.


The book was told from the point of view of four women. The first was a young woman in college, who donated her eggs to a fertility clinic. The second was a woman in her twenties with two young sons; she applies to be a gestational carrier (the word surrogate is often used which is not the correct term and a little outdated). The third was a forty-two-year-old woman (pretending to be thirty-eight) who would be the “intended parent”. The fourth was the stepdaughter of the intended parent. The story tells the journey from the eyes of each woman.

Reading From the Perspective of Reproductive Medicine

Working in the field of reproductive medicine and being very passionate about what I do, I of course questioned this book from every angle, saying to myself “This would never happen!” and “That’s not legal!”, when applicable. After I tried to step out of what I knew to be true and untrue, I found myself very wrapped up in the story of each of these women. Although in the beginning, the motivating factor of each of these women was probably not what one would hope for, each of them did end up realizing the miracle they were able to accomplish by each doing their individual part in this process.


It made me think about what each fertility patient in our practice experiences as well as what those close to them experience. It is not only the person undergoing these treatments, but family and friends that are also affected. It is okay and very normal for those close to you to experience the ups and downs that go along with fertility treatment. This includes both the disappointments and also the triumphs. This book showed what the individuals being treated went through, but also how it affected their family and loved ones. I think it’s very important that patients realize it’s o.k. to lean on those close to you. The book reminds us that support on all sides of this journey is very important.

 

The Portrayal of Fertility Treatment in Today's Fiction

 

Another realization I got from this book is that fertility treatment is now something fairly common and not something unheard of anymore. For a popular author to dedicate an entire novel to these issues definitely means it is a topic that people want to read about. Some patients I have talked to feel embarrassed or less of a woman (or man) when they encounter fertility issues. This book encourages you not to be ashamed and think you are less of a woman or man. I couldn’t agree more.


At the end of this book, the little girl born through third party fertility treatment has to write a family tree. The author highlights how, in the little girl’s class, there are two children with either two moms or two dads as well as two sets of twins--all born through using gestational carriers. It is not something to be ashamed of but something to be aware of as a possibility that is available to help some people make their dreams come true.


The last thing I want to add is that anyone who goes out and reads this book, please know that many of the circumstances and legalities referenced in this book are not true and used only for fictional purposes. I have to admit, the ending of this book is very outlandish and I don’t actually think would ever happen. I personally loved the book and the characters in the book. I also loved how they evolved from doing their part in this for one reason and then coming to realize that they were actually making someone’s dreams come true. The fact that an author took the time to dedicate an entire novel to this topic means that it is very relevant in society and is not something to be ashamed about but to realize how lucky we all are that there are so many new technologies that can make dreams come true!"

 

Infertility Wrong Doings- An Attorney Gone Bad? Theresa Erickson, Esq

  
  
  

Infertility- Reproductive Health World is Rocked by Attorney Theresa Erickson, Pleading Guilty to Fraud

Some of you may have seen the news reports about Theresa Erickson, a well known reproductive attorney from San Diego.

 

You may have read about how she broke the law and has pled guilty.

 

Pamela Madsen, possibly the most well known voice in fertility advocacy, wrote THE blog about this as the news broke. She explained what was done, clearly, succinctly, fairly and with compassion.

 

In a nutshell? Here it is. Pamela wrote a paragraph that explained what was illegal about what was done. In her words:

 

"California State law allows a woman planning to carry a baby for someone else to enter an agreement with the prospective parents before she becomes pregnant. This is legal, and how the world of gestational surrogacy works.  What went wrong here is that the pregnancies had already been established before Erickson and others knew who the true intended parents were going to be."

 

That was just one of the illegal parts. Then there were so many layers of unethical, deceitful and just plain wrong parts.

 

At the expense of good english, the wrongest part?

 

She betrayed people. She betrayed desperate people.

 

Men and women who wanted babies to complete their families who went to someone with a big name, a woman that supposedly could be trusted. She betrayed them.

 

She betrayed women, who while they were not donating genetic material, still had a good faith understanding that there were intended parents who existed. Who were not at all aware that they were creating a "product" that would be sold.

 

There was a whole lot of lying that went on here. Some of it was illegal. Some of it was unethical. Some of crossed lines from one to the other.

 

And of course, the question here, is for what? The simple answer is for money. This made Theresa Erickson a lot of money. A lot more money, a lot more easily.

 

If you want to hear the story, detail for detail, it's all over the news. Read it.

 

For me, I feel a lot of the same things that a lot of other people are feeling about this.

 

Shocked.

 

Sad.

 

Angry.

 

Betrayed.

 

And yes, suspicious. That's perhaps the most unfortunate result of the choices that Theresa Erickson made. It makes me wonder about how any of us go ahead and trust others in this type of situation.

 

It makes me aware of how hard it could be for you to trust other professionals in the field of reproductive health and infertility.

 

As Pamela points out in her blog, there are checks and balances that are put into place to prevent abuse and betrayal with third party reproduction.

 

Is it perfect? Evidently not. Is it possible for any system or set of guidelines to work perfectly, especially if someone is determined to abuse them? Absolutely not.

 

Simple answer to a very complex, upsetting situation:Trust who you are working with, with good reason.

 

Due diligence. Know that you have the right and responsibility to ask questions and understand how things are working. Get a second opinion or a second lawyer to look at paperwork. This is not the time to be a good patient or client. This is the time to be the squeaky wheel. Ask questions.

 

Yes, it will be more expensive. Yes, it does put the onus on us as patients, in a field we are unfamiliar with.Yes, that seems somewhat unfair and more tedious than it should have to be.

 

And yes, it is necessary.

 

 

 

 

 

 



Top Infertility Program- A Therapist Can Make All the Difference

  
  
  

Top Infertility Practice- Therapists help make fertility treatment easier to manage

At Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut (RMACT), we know how important it is to treat a person as just that, a whole person. Not as a walking infertility problem.

 

We have two therapists who work with RMACT to compassionately support and guide our patients. Below are frequently asked questions that they have answered. If you have more, please post at the end of the blog. Questions and comments will come directly to me. I will forward them to either Jane or Lisa if you would like. RMACT Infertility Therapists- Dr. Lisa Tuttle and Jane Elisofon MSC, LCSW


1.    What kind of therapist are you? 

 

Jane Elisofon is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, with a four year post Masters certificate in psychotherapy and Lisa Tuttle has a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology. Both Jane and Lisa specialize in fertility counseling and are part of the Integrated Fertility and Wellness Program at RMA.   (To learn more about us, click here to read our professional biographies)



2.    What services do you offer for fertility patients?

 

We individualize the counseling depending on what each patient is struggling with and looking to accomplish. We try to understand our patient’s feelings and help them learn ways to manage these emotions more effectively so that they do not feel overwhelmed, unfocused, and upset with themselves. Our non-judgmental responses and our validation that their feelings are ‘normal’ in the context of their situation, can be a relief to them.  Sometimes suggesting a different way to view a situation brings clarity and the awareness of better choices.



During the initial session, we will work with the patient to determine what their needs and wishes are, and develop a treatment plan based on this information.  The frequency of patient sessions and whether the sessions are individual or include their partner are part of this treatment plan.  Many patients find themselves grappling with ‘next step’ decisions, such as considering IVF or egg donation, and often a couple find themselves not on the same page about what they want.  Many patients are experiencing deep feelings of loss due to a miscarriage or due to being informed that they cannot conceive without an egg or sperm donor.  Although these emotional reactions are normal, professional help can assist you in grieving and moving beyond your loss. Our counselors can provide you with ways of thinking about your decision so that as a result you have made the best individualized decision for yourself and your partner. Some patients may want to focus on learning stress reduction and relaxation techniques.  We are flexible to accommodate their wishes and their financial realities.



3.    Does insurance cover my seeing you?

 

Both Jane and Lisa are not “in network” for insurance, however, we have all of the credentials necessary for you to receive ‘out of network’ insurance coverage.  Patients are asked to pay us at the time of our visit and we give them a receipt that they can submit to their insurance company for some reimbursement. Since both Jane and Lisa lead or co-lead educational support groups, patients may choose this help modality as it is free to RMA patients.



4. I’ve always been able to handle my own problems before, why should I come see you with this one? 

 

There are very many high-functioning people who find themselves really struggling when they are faced with the stress of infertility.  It is a profound life crisis. Often this life crisis brings to the surface past losses
and painful experiences. Thus the emotions can be overwhelming and confusing.
Some couples feel "stuck" in their attempt to make an important decision in this
process. To make matters worse, they may feel as if they are at opposing
viewpoints and can see no point of resolution. We are experienced in the
particular issues of infertility patients, and aware of the medical aspects as well.
Our ability to introduce you to new ways to discuss these issues  can make us particularly helpful to you. Our goal is to assist you in the exploration of your particular issues in ways that can benefit you long after you have completed this fertility process.



5. I don’t want anyone to know that I’m coming to see you. Will this be confidential? Even from the doctors or my partner?

 

The sessions with our counselors are confidential.  Certainly patients can, and often do, choose to have some information from their counseling sessions shared with the RMA medical team, when it can be helpful to their treatment. .  
    

Patients who are planning to use donor egg, donor sperm or gestational surrogacy will be required to meet with Jane or Lisa for a “recipient consultation”.  In this circumstance, the counselor must submit a brief report to the doctors summarizing the discussion of the questions asked in all of the donor recipient consultations.  The doctors only need to know that you have thought through the issues pertinent to donor recipients so that the RMA staff knows that you will not be faced with unexpected issues after your child is born.
   

The entire RMA staff is aware that a patient’s trust in us is a necessity and protecting your confidentiality is an important part of this trust.



5.    I know I shouldn’t be feeling a lot of the feelings that I am feeling. Isn’t there a way to handle this without coming to see you? 

 

Don’t assume that you “shouldn’t be feeling what you are feeling”.  There is a wide range of “normal” feelings for fertility patients to experience that includes grief, anxiety, depression, anger, jealousy, hopelessness, and so much more.  Feelings are not “good” or “bad”; they are just feelings and cannot hurt anyone.  We can help you learn to understand, accept and cope with these emotions in ways that will result in your having compassion for yourself and feeling better about yourself.



6.    Will I need medication and if so, can you prescribe them? 

 

Some patients might benefit from medication for depression or anxiety, and this will be something that we help you to evaluate. Of course, the decision is yours.  If you decide that medication would be helpful, we will refer you to a psychiatrist that can prescribe the appropriate medication that is also safe for a woman who is trying to become pregnant.



7.    The idea of counseling is scary to me.  How do I know that it will help, not hurt?



Many people are uneasy about getting counseling because it is unknown and unfamiliar.    A skillful counselor is able to make certain that patients are benefitted by the time they spend in counseling, and that no harm is done. There are many ways in which we can help reduce your distress: help you put your feelings into words, which can bring relief and comfort; explore new ways of viewing an issue so as to open up new options when you have felt stuck with no options that felt right for you; or, teach you stress reduction techniques that you can use at particularly stressful times or to help you cope more easily with your daily routine and sleep.



9.  How do I know if I should see a mental health professional?


Certainly if you are having trouble sleeping, eating, or concentrating, these are signs of distress. If you are arguing a great deal with your partner or other people, you are probably overwhelmed and unclear about what you are feeling.  You may be simply feeling sad, alone, angry and hopeless, or feeling intense anxiety or stress and would like some relief.  Or perhaps you are unable to make a decision about what to do next… another medical treatment, adoption, egg or sperm donation, or childfree living?  In all of these cases, it is very likely that counseling would be helpful.



More questions? Ask us here, we will get you an answer. We're here to help.

Surrogacy | Gestational Carriers - A Tribute

  
  
  

Surrogacy and gestational carriers continue to be highlighted in the news with such stories as Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban adding a second daughter to their family, born through a surrogate mother.  And there is the older news about Sir Elton John and David Furnish welcoming a son named Zachary Jackson Levon Furnish-John, born on Christmas Day via a surrogate in California.

 These are stories of joyful parents.   However, the story behind the story is that of the amazing women who help fulfill the dreams of family buidling for the famous and 'not-so-famous'.   As a reminder of their contributions, we wish to re-publish a popular blog post covered on Path to Fertility that covers the journey of gestational carriers and surrogates.

 

Dr. Mark P. Leondires,  Medical Director and lead physician with Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut discusses gestational surrogacy and gestational carriers:

Are you aware that approximately 15% of the female population who are of reproductive age experiences some trouble having a family? We consider that group of women to be infertile or sub-fertile. Within that population, there are a small segment of women who, for different reasons, are not able to carry a pregnancy even though their egg pool is still viable. There are a wide range of reasons, beginning with medical conditions; destructive diseases of the uterus; and surgical complications which prevent them from being able to carry a pregnancy.   These conditions may pose potential life threatening effects for the potential mother's health if she becomes pregnant. It may also be that her uterus cannot successfully carry a pregnancy without incurring repeat miscarriages.  The choice that this particular group of women has is to use a surrogate (gestational carrier) to have a child. 

Over the past 7 years of assisting couples in starting families, I have been overwhelmed by the incredible human component of women who offer to be gestational carriers or gestation surrogates.  Observing the relationship between a woman helping another woman receive the greatest gift, a child; has been inspiring. The concept of carrying someone else's child has been popularized in the movies and lay press to the degree that women may not realize there is a real, genuine need for this service and not just in Hollywood make-believe.  Women who have children, conceive naturally with good pregnancy outcomes may no longer be able to imagine their lives without their children; but can imagine if they were physically  not able to carry a pregnancy how their lives would be completely different.  And there are women whose only option for children biologically related to them is to use a gestational carrier.  This is different than the usual causes of infertility as they truly have no other medical or treatment choices in the matter of carrying a baby in their own uterus.

Becoming a Surrogate Mother | Gestational Carrier

The process of being a gestational surrogate or gestational carrier involves finding a woman who has had healthy pregnancies; feels she is done having her own children; and would like to participate in the joy of helping another woman have a child for whome there is no option otherwise. The women who need this help, are in some ways forgotten in the infertile population, as most women have a healthy uterus. The women who need to use a gestation carrier often struggle with not only the emotional issues of being unable to carry their own child, but also the additional financial burden and challenge of finding a woman who is willing to do this for them.

RMA of Connecticut's practice recently assisted a couple working through emotional and psychological issues in connection with a gestational carrier.  Having dealt with issues of a disease called fibroids, which destroyed her own uterus, the couple chose the route of a gestational carrier.  Next was the challenge to find a suitable gestational surrogate on physical, medical, and emotional grounds.  Then there are the financial realities of compensating a gestational carrier for their medical bills associated with a pregnancy and for the time and effort the gestational carrier provided carrying the pregnancy.  The cost of a gestational carrier ranges from $15,000-$50,000.  Given all that, the couple found a truly special person who provided the opportunity to give the gift of life and to fill an important role in another family's life. 

The relationship between these two women began in our office and progressed throughout the pregnancy.  The gestational carrier seemed as happy as the genetic parents were to learn of a positive pregnancy test.  On every obstetrical visit, the intended parents accompanied the gestational carrier and progressed through the pregnancy by her side.  Having been pregnant several times before, the gestational carrier lead a normal life as healthy pregnant women do, at times dealing with the concern and anxious tone of the intended mother about whether she should carry groceries up the steps.  An ultrasound screen with movement and dancing.  These moments are unforgettable and built a relationship among the families.  The gestational surrogate had other children who were helped to understand and know the intended parents and were allowed to be part of taking care of the "baby."  In the delivery room, the delivered baby was surrounded by loving people with many emotions. The joy of the birth of a child, joy of finally being able to have a child, the joy of giving of oneself to help someone else have a family, and tears of happiness and relief that this part of the journey was now complete. What a selfless and loving act for a gestational carrier to give up this child they carried for 9 months to parents who never would have known such joy without her incredible efforts.  Stories such as these do not often make it to the press or the movie screen, nonetheless they are real. 

For some women who need a gestational surrogate, this will be the only way to conceive a child biologically connected to either partner. We encourage others to consider becoming a gestational carrier or surrogate to help women and men in the process of having a family. 

Why It Is Important to Consult with a Reproductive Lawyer

What has been in the news recently on Good Morning America and Dateline concerns a woman who gave birth to twins.  She is a gestational carrier who is NOT genetically related to the twins AND the intended parents used both donor sperm and donor egg so NONE of the parties are  genetically related to the twins.  This is HIGHLY unusual.  Adding to the complexity, the twins were delivered in one of the five states that do not recognize contracts between gestational carriers and intended parents.  If you are considering the path of traditional surrogate or gestational carrier, I recommend discussing your options with a reproductive lawyer that can provide the best guidance in these matters.

Invitro Fertilization | IVF

Lastly, there is the magic of in vitro fertilization facilitating family building for other types of couples as well.  Same sex female couples often use IVF where one is the egg donor and one is the gestational carrier using anonymous donor sperm.  Same sex male couples use one partner's sperm and a donor egg and a gestational carrier.  Interestingly, a fair amount of research has been done on children from these new types of families and the children are found to be emotionally and developmentally well - lending support to the concept that love is what makes a family.

Below is related news coverage with Melissa Brisman, a reproductive lawyer and good friend, discussing her personal and professional experiences with surrogates and gestational carriers.  Her surrogate agency specializes in different types of surrogacy and gestational carrier arrangements and has helped hundreds of families in family building with surrogates.

 

Note:  While the terms surrogate and carrier are general terms they should not be used as they are misleading and misunderstood. The proper terms should be as follows:

Traditional Surrogate - When a woman is pregnant with a baby who is genetically linked to her.  That is, that the egg used was her own.  This is very rarely done, given the multiple legal, ethical, and social issues of that genetic link.

Gestational Surrogate or Gestational Carrier- When a woman is pregnant with a baby who IS NOT genetically linked to her.  This process is most frequently utilized when a woman cannot carry a child; her husband's sperm is used to fertilize his wife's egg and the embryo which results are transferred into the gestational carrier's womb/uterus.  This represents a different legal entity than a traditional surrogacy arrangement as the woman giving birth is NOT genetically related to the baby born.

Intended Parents- The couple who intend to care for and raise the child that has been conceived and born.  These are the people who finance the medical care for the fertility treatment cycle, delivery, and compensate the carrier for the 9 months of pregnancy.  These are the couples that are willing to go to extraordinary means to bring a child into their home.

- Dr. Mark P. Leondires,  Medical Director and lead physician with Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut:

What Do Surrogacy, Fertility, Same Sex Couples, Celebrities and Military Wives All Have in Common?

  
  
  

Monday Text
Lots and lots in the fertility news categories these days. Surrogacy especially.

A personal favorite is Neil Patrick Harris and his longtime partner, David Burkta, and their new twins. Interesting though, that I have yet to see one in-depth, thoughtful article about them. Most of what I have read are either very abbreviated articles, news press release type comments, congratulation pieces or even tweets.

I’d like to think that’s because surrogacy and same sex couples are not really incredibly hot news. That in fact, this is a lovely announcement to make, but not really news. Wouldn’t that be grand? If a celebrity gay couple having twins by surrogacy wasn’t really news? Just another sort of ho hum way to create a family?

We’re probably not quite there yet. Not quite ho hum. But it is also lovely not to read a lot of really ugly stuff out there. At least not yet, at least not easily found.

So why not go with congratulations to the new parents, we wish them well.  

Also in the news, perhaps not the flip side, but just a small turn are the stories about military wives and surrogacy. Amy Demma, a reproductive lawyer, licensed in New York State and Massachusetts brought this story to my attention, via, yes, facebook.

Interesting that part of the focus on the story regarding military wives and surrogacy had to do with cost of pregnancy and who should be covering that. If it’s a surrogate relationship, should the surrogate’s insurance company be paying for it when the surrogate herself is going to profit from the arrangement and not keep the baby?  Should it somehow be arranged that the intended parent’s medical insurance company provide pregnancy services? Does that make sense? Frequently the intended parents pick up the cost of the medical aspects of the pregnancy. Perhaps that makes the best sense.

One reason that this conversation is so heated is because of the question of who pays to support the pregnancy.  When it’s a military wife who is the surrogate, than that begs the question of whether we, taxpayers, are in fact supporting these pregnancies because of the health coverage the surrogates have through the government.

Here is some of the conversation that is happening around this topic:

On MilitarySOS.com, an online support network for military spouses and family members, a blogger wrote: "Taxpayers are footing the bill for medical care for military beneficiaries. They should not be expected to pay to care for someone who isn't a military beneficiary."

Melissa Brisman, a reproductive lawyer based in New Jersey, helps explain why surrogacy can be appealing to the military personnel:

"They move around a lot, so they really can't get their teeth into a career, and if they want to contribute to society and do something useful, it's a good use of their time," said Brisman, whose agency employs about 20 military surrogate mothers out of more than 200. "A lot of them are just strong family people...and what a better thing to do for somebody than have a baby for somebody who can't."

Expect to hear more about this, in the mainstream news. In November, Glamour Magazine will be doing the following:

Partnering with the Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute, Nosheen and Schellmann's findings appear in the November issue of Glamour magazine.

"We found out that there is basically no regulation," said Schellmann. "We were like, "This is the Wild West. There are no [federal] laws regulating this industry at all, and almost anything is possible."

So yes, surrogacy is in the news. We’ll be hearing more about it, I’m sure. Lots of opinions on all different sides about how, who, what, where and when. Reproductive law is a field that has blossomed to manage everyone’s best legal interests and to avoid complications that can be heart rending.

When all is said and done, we are bringing babies, children, human beings into the world. Changing the faces of families. Creating families where they would not be possible otherwise.

Wherever else the conversation leads us, I’d like to say a heartfelt welcome to those children who are so genuinely and passionately wanted by their parents.

 

 

Egg Donation, Infertility and Sharon LaMothe-Conversation Continues

  
  
  
 As As promised, we are continuing the conversation about egg donation and infertility today, with Sharon LaMothe. Sharon has a unique perspective into this issue as her bio clearly shows.

 

Sharon LaMothe has been in the Infertility Industry since 1998 when she signed her first Gestational Surrogacy contract. She subsequently gave birth to twin girls and in 2000 was invited to join a FL law firm recruiting and managing surrogacy arrangements. Sharon then co-owned and operated Surrogacy Consultants of Florida, LLC, the first successful independent surrogacy agency in Florida.

Sharon LaMothe is currently the owner of Infertility Answers, Inc. ,the Creator of Surrogacy 101 (the blogs), and The Third Party Blogspot, as well as writes for The Business of A.R.T.

Lisa,

You bring up some very good points and each and every one has been debated back and forth between the religious, the feminists, right to life and pro choice groups. I personally don't see the Intended Parents saying what THEY need or want regarding the monetary value of said donation. Is there an Intended Parent group out there who has joined hands and said that they will NOT pay more then X for 'donated' eggs? Or is there a group of Egg Donors who have stated that they will not except less then Y for their 'donation'? I haven't heard of one.

What I have found, when money is involved, whether it be for egg donation or surrogacy, that there is the cogitation that 'women are being paid' for the use of their body or body parts and that instantly means that they are being exploited. Here in America, I say not true! Women accepted into these donor programs and clinics, especially those being offered more then the average amount, are intelligent, educated and, for the most part, well informed. Especially if they are being matched through an agency that is well equipped to answer all the questions that a donor may have and then offer information that the donor may not have thought about. Education is key as is communication. Remember, here in the states we have protocol and almost every clinic I know of follows pretty much the same procedure when it comes to qualifying a donor to cycle with one of their patients. This includes a psychological evaluation. Now having said that, I am well aware that not all clinics require a mental health professional to meet with their donors but most do and I am certainly an advocate for evaluating both egg donors and surrogates, not only to be sure that they are well informed of the process and mentally/emotionally stable but the elevation offers another professional prospective and I find it very hard to believe that if ANY mental health professional thought that an donor or surrogate were being exploited that they wouldn't pull the plug right then and there and let everyone involved know about it.

Which brings me back to money. Realizing that the ASRM has set guidelines for payment for donors and not surrogates/carriers says something to me. That somewhere, someone thinks that egg donors are too young and incompetent to think for themselves but surrogates/carriers, because they have to be mothers to their own child in order to carry a baby for someone else first, must, therefore, be mature and competent. You never really hear of any controversy regarding what a Gestational Carrier receives regarding compensation. (I know of experienced GC's signing contracts for 50K+. Now I will step out on the slippery slop with you, Lisa) Although if I owned a donor agency I would follow the ASRM guidelines for compensation mainly because the entire field is unregulated and it's nice to have some sort of meeting of the minds, I don't think there is a need for a cap in compensation nor do I feel that women who get paid for donation is a bad thing. Intended Parents/Recipients want and need eggs, young women often have college loans, car payments and the like and some already have a family and want to support their own children. I look at most of these scenarios as Families helping Families...Women helping Women...however you want to phrase it and there is nothing wrong with that. If an egg donor is asking for 'too much money' for her donation then she will not attract recipients that find her request out of their budget. It's really quite simple. To be clear, I do believe that it is the process of the donation (medications, appointments, pain, retrieval and recovery) and not the eggs, however, that a donor should be compensated for. Just as a Surrogate or Carrier is not paid for the baby, a donor should not be paid for the eggs.

Sharon LaMothe

Thanks Sharon, for weighing in on the subject. It's a real pleasure to have someone with your experience discussing some of the issues that are important around this subject.

 Next week, the conversation will continue with one of our RMACT team members who has been working in the field for many years. That part of the conversation will be from the point of view of the parents who are receiving donated eggs. If you are a parent through egg donation and would like to add your comments and thoughts, we would love to have you. If you would like to discuss your experience anonymously, please let me know. If you leave a comment on this blog, it will come directly to me and I will not post anything without express approval from you, the writer.

Tomorrow, Saturday, Fertile Yoga in both Norwalk and Brookfield! Fertility Summer Seminar Series continue next week as well.




Special Relationships of Gestational and Surrogate Carriers on their Fertility Journey

  
  
  

 

Dr. Mark P. Leondires,  Medical Director and lead physician with Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut discusses gestational surrogacy and gestational carriers:

Are you aware that approximately 15% of the female population who are of reproductive age experiences some trouble having a family? We consider that group of women to be infertile or sub-fertile. Within that population, there are a small segment of women who, for different reasons, are not able to carry a pregnancy even though their egg pool is still viable. There are a wide range of reasons, beginning with medical conditions; destructive diseases of the uterus; and surgical complications which prevent them from being able to carry a pregnancy.   These conditions may pose potential life threatening effects for the potential mother's health if she becomes pregnant. It may also be that her uterus cannot successfully carry a pregnancy without incurring repeat miscarriages.  The choice that this particular group of women has is to use a surrogate (gestational carrier) to have a child. 

Over the past 7 years of assisting couples in starting families, I have been overwhelmed by the incredible human component of women who offer to be gestational carriers or gestation surrogates.  Observing the relationship between a woman helping another woman receive the greatest gift, a child; has been inspiring. The concept of carrying someone else's child has been popularized in the movies and lay press to the degree that women may not realize there is a real, genuine need for this service and not just in Hollywood make-believe.  Women who have children, conceive naturally with good pregnancy outcomes may no longer be able to imagine their lives without their children; but can imagine if they were physically  not able to carry a pregnancy how their lives would be completely different.  And there are women whose only option for children biologically related to them is to use a gestational carrier.  This is different than the usual causes of infertility as they truly have no other medical or treatment choices in the matter of carrying a baby in their own uterus.

The process of being a gestational surrogate or gestational carrier involves finding a woman who has had healthy pregnancies; feels she is done having her own children; and would like to participate in the joy of helping another woman have a child for whome there is no option otherwise. The women who need this help, are in some ways forgotten in the infertile population, as most women have a healthy uterus. The women who need to use a gestation carrier often struggle with not only the emotional issues of being unable to carry their own child, but also the additional financial burden and challenge of finding a woman who is willing to do this for them.

RMA of Connecticut's practice recently assisted a couple working through emotional and psychological issues in connection with a gestational carrier.  Having dealt with issues of a disease called fibroids, which destroyed her own uterus, the couple chose the route of a gestational carrier.  Next was the challenge to find a suitable gestational surrogate on physical, medical, and emotional grounds.  Then there are the financial realities of compensating a gestational carrier for their medical bills associated with a pregnancy and for the time and effort the gestational carrier provided carrying the pregnancy.  The cost of a gestational carrier ranges from $15,000-$50,000.  Given all that, the couple found a truly special person who provided the opportunity to give the gift of life and to fill an important role in another family's life. 

The relationship between these two women began in our office and progressed throughout the pregnancy.  The gestational carrier seemed as happy as the genetic parents were to learn of a positive pregnancy test.  On every obstetrical visit, the intended parents accompanied the gestational carrier and progressed through the pregnancy by her side.  Having been pregnant several times before, the gestational carrier lead a normal life as healthy pregnant women do, at times dealing with the concern and anxious tone of the intended mother about whether she should carry groceries up the steps.  An ultrasound screen with movement and dancing.  These moments are unforgettable and built a relationship among the families.  The gestational surrogate had other children who were helped to understand and know the intended parents and were allowed to be part of taking care of the "baby."  In the delivery room, the delivered baby was surrounded by loving people with many emotions. The joy of the birth of a child, joy of finally being able to have a child, the joy of giving of oneself to help someone else have a family, and tears of happiness and relief that this part of the journey was now complete. What a selfless and loving act for a gestational carrier to give up this child they carried for 9 months to parents who never would have known such joy without her incredible efforts.  Stories such as these do not often make it to the press or the movie screen, nonetheless they are real. 

For some women who need a gestational surrogate, this will be the only way to conceive a child biologically connected to either partner. We encourage others to consider becoming a gestational carrier or surrogate to help women and men in the process of having a family. 

What has been in the news recently on Good Morning America and Dateline concerns a woman who gave birth to twins.  She is a gestational carrier who is NOT genetically related to the twins AND the intended parents used both donor sperm and donor egg so NONE of the parties are  genetically related to the twins.  This is HIGHLY unusual.  Adding to the complexity, the twins were delivered in one of the five states that do not recognize contracts between gestational carriers and intended parents.  If you are considering the path of traditional surrogate or gestational carrier, I recommend discussing your options with a reproductive lawyer that can provide the best guidance in these matters.

Lastly, there is the magic of in vitro fertilization facilitating family building for other types of couples as well.  Same sex female couples often use IVF where one is the egg donor and one is the gestational carrier using anonymous donor sperm.  Same sex male couples use one partner's sperm and a donor egg and a gestational carrier.  Interestingly, a fair amount of research has been done on children from these new types of families and the children are found to be emotionally and developmentally well - lending support to the concept that love is what makes a family.

Below is related news coverage with Melissa Brisman, a reproductive lawyer and good friend, discussing her personal and professional experiences with surrogates and gestational carriers.  Her surrogate agency specializes in different types of surrogacy and gestational carrier arrangements and has helped hundreds of families in family building with surrogates.


 

Note:  While the terms surrogate and carrier are general terms they should not be used as they are misleading and misunderstood. The proper terms should be as follows:

Traditional Surrogate - When a woman is pregnant with a baby who is genetically linked to her.  That is, that the egg used was her own.  This is very rarely done, given the multiple legal, ethical, and social issues of that genetic link.

Gestational Surrogate or Gestational Carrier- When a woman is pregnant with a baby who IS NOT genetically linked to her.  This process is most frequently utilized when a woman cannot carry a child; her husband's sperm is used to fertilize his wife's egg and the embryo which results are transferred into the gestational carrier's womb/uterus.  This represents a different legal entity than a traditional surrogacy arrangement as the woman giving birth is NOT genetically related to the baby born.

Intended Parents- The couple who intend to care for and raise the child that has been conceived and born.  These are the people who finance the medical care for the fertility treatment cycle, delivery, and compensate the carrier for the 9 months of pregnancy.  These are the couples that are willing to go to extraordinary means to bring a child into their home.

- Dr. Mark P. Leondires,  Medical Director and lead physician with Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut:

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