Oregon has become a hub for women willing to become pregnant and carry children for others. OPB is following one of those women, Mardi Palan, as she acts as a surrogate for a gay couple from Israel. This is the second story in an ongoing series. Click here to read part one, about the first step in the surrogacy journey: a contract.
Mardi Palan is a hair dresser. She has a partner and a one-year-old son Forest. As a surrogate, she hopes to get $30,000 for a down payment on a home.
But first, she has to get pregnant.
Back in July, a huge box arrived in the mail, filled with medications, hormones and syringes.
"I was kind overwhelmed,” said Palan.
The box came with a calendar and a list of all the medications she needs to take to help her synchronize her cycle with an egg donor.
“So each day, prenatal vitamin, aspirin, antibiotic and then a shot," she said. "And then they send you a video of how to inject the shots. And each shot has a different needle, too. So the one that I’m doing right now is just a baby needle. And then later on the progesterone is inter-muscular. So it’s a huge needle. So it’s kind of scary to look at. I’m like, 'Oh!'”
The first shot is Lupron and it’s used to decrease Palan's natural hormones. Essentially, it stops her from ovulating.
Palan also takes aspirin, to thin her blood. Clots can be a problem when taking hormones.
And she was taking birth control pills to make sure she doesn’t get pregnant before the eggs are transferred, but she stopped taking those last month.
Finally, both Palan and her partner, Caleb Weidenbach, have to take an antibiotic.
Although he agreed to take the pill, Weidenbach said he questions the requirement.
“I understand that if there is some kind of infection, they probably don’t want that to be shared with the egg," he said. "But I feel like maybe they should do a test, to see if there’s an infection, instead of just kind of handing out the antibiotics.”
The medicine is used to treat bacterial diseases like pneumonia and urinary tract infections.
Palan is working with Oregon Reproductive Medicine in Portland. It’s one of the area’s biggest in vitro fertilization clinics and has clients across the globe.
Oregon Reproductive Medicine partner Dr. Brandon Bankowski said the antibiotic is a precaution.
"We are looking for any advantage we can get," he said. "Anything that, in the literature, has been shown or suggests that it will provide benefit without providing harm — will increase the implantation rates — we've added into our protocols."
Bankowski also said he thought that over time Palan would become more comfortable with her shots.
“What we see really is that the first day is the worst," he said. "Because there’s all this build up and then after they do it they’re like, ‘Ah well. That wasn’t that bad.’”
So, was he right? OPB checked back with Palan after she’d been injecting herself for about six weeks.
“I thought it would be a lot worse," she said. "The first time I had to do the big needle, that was a little intimidating. But when you do it, you like feel stronger after that. You’re like, this is not that hard. You can do it. And so it hasn’t been that bad actually.”
About a week before the egg transfer, Palan stopped injecting Lupron and started injecting the hormone progesterone, which can help support a developing embryo.
Meanwhile, donated eggs were fertilized by sperm from each intended parent, and they were allowed to grow in a lab for a few days.
Dr. Bankowski says a geneticist has to mimic the journey that eggs make through the fallopian tube and into a uterus.
“The conditions of the uterus are different. So we have to change the environment that the embryos are in,” he said.
On Aug. 15, Bankowski transferred two eggs from the lab into Palan's body, using the same procedure he always follows.
"I actually play the same music every time," he said.
Palan won't know until later this month whether everything was successful and she's pregnant.