Surrogate program is a perfect match for Iowa couple
When Jeanne and Dewayne Scott decided in 2010 that they were ready to have a baby, they knew they were going to have to take a non-traditional approach. Jeanne has antiphospholipid antibody syndrome (APS) – a blood disorder that causes her immune system to attack some of the normal proteins in her blood, making her blood clot more than the average person’s.
Having APS didn’t necessarily mean Jeanne couldn’t have children of her own, but it did mean pregnancy would be extremely risky for both her and the baby–there would be a greater risk of miscarriage or stillbirth, as well as some potential dangers to Jeanne during delivery, including high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia, as well as dangerous blood clots during and after delivery.
“We looked at adoption, but Dewayne really wanted a baby that was genetically linked to us so we started looking for a gestational carrier or program,” Jeanne says.
They didn’t have to look far. The Eldridge couple found the program they needed at University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, less than an hour away from home.
Jeanne received a referral from her hematologist and met with Ginny Ryan, MD, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the UI Women’s Health Center. She learned the center works with three carrier and egg donor agencies from across the country, all of which carefully screen the women who will serve as carriers or egg donors. The center also provides infrastructure support–taking care of legal issues, setting up financial escrow accounts to pay for costs incurred throughout the pregnancy, and providing psychological counseling for both the carrier and the parents.
Having that kind of an inter-agency partnership works well for both the patients and for the UI program.
“It takes some of the responsibility out of our hands, although we’re still responsible for the outcomes and the final medical screening of gestational carriers and egg donors,” Ryan says. The agencies are in larger cities, so there is a broader diversity (of carriers), which allows us to serve more people.”
Because Jeanne and Dewayne wanted a genetic link to their baby, they opted to have one of Jeanne’s eggs fertilized rather than use donor eggs. Although a friend had offered to be their carrier, they learned through a screening process that she was not a match for them. Their agency, based in New Jersey, identified several possible carriers, including a woman in Cedar Rapids.
“That really worked well for us because we got to be involved in her OB care,” Jeanne says. “We continued to use University of Iowa for her care, which allowed us to really participate in the pregnancy.”
Dewayne said being able to participate throughout the pregnancy was particularly helpful.
“We were reading, ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’ and trying to figure out where our little girl was at different stages of the pregnancy,” he says. “We were trying to keep pace with the book.”
Their daughter, Allison Taylor Scott, was born in 2012.
“We were lucky that our gestational carrier, someone who initially was a complete stranger, let us be in the delivery room, she let us take part in everything,” Jeanne says.
The carrier is still a part of the family’s life, and they all get together occasionally. Jeanne says Allison will be told about the pregnancy and the process when she’s old enough to understand.
Ryan says the UI program has expanded the number and type of patients served. By partnering with different outside agencies the program can now serve people with a wide range of medical diagnoses, and also is available to same-sex couples who want to become parents, as long as there is a genetic link to at least one of the parents.