Intended Parents

The 4 Risks of International Surrogacy

While popular in the past, the increasing risks of international surrogacy today can make your family-building process dangerous, difficult and even impossible.

Surrogacy, like any other medical and family-building process, comes with inherent risks. As you embark on this journey, you’ll need to find the best way to minimize these risks.

In most cases, you can do this by selecting the surrogacy process that’s safest — a gestational surrogacy rather than a traditional surrogacy, an agency-assisted rather than independent and, maybe most importantly, a domestic surrogacy instead of an international one.

But, what’s so risky about an international surrogacy?

In the past, it was commonplace for intended parents to go abroad to complete their family through surrogacy — but times have changed. While the risks of international surrogacy still existed back then, today, they and their repercussions are much more prominent. For those setting their dreams on surrogacy, it’s important to recognize the risks of pursuing this process overseas to have as successful a family-building journey as possible.

Surrogacy laws and subsequent risks will vary by country, so American intended parents should always consult with an international surrogacy agency and an experienced surrogacy lawyer before committing to a surrogacy process.

Below, we’ve outlined some of the important risks you should know if you’re considering international surrogacy.

1. Health Risks

When you pursue surrogacy, you’re placing immense trust in your surrogate — that she’s medically fit to carry your baby, that she can provide a healthy environment while your baby is in utero and more. Domestic surrogacies help solidify that trust, as each surrogate is thoroughly screened before being matched to ensure that she is physically, mentally and emotionally prepared for the surrogacy process. This way, you can better prevent delays or disappointment in your surrogacy than if your surrogate had not been properly screened.

This is where international surrogacy can be risky; not all international surrogates are screened as extensively as those in the United States. While surrogacy agencies usually complete a medical screening, they may not complete psychological screening — which indicates whether a surrogate is comfortable with the surrogacy process and willingly entering into this journey.

In addition, surrogacies completed in the U.S. must meet the standards of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. This means all American assisted reproductive technology professionals are held to certain regulations — but many international countries don’t have a similar system. If you don’t have the chance to tour your medical facility in your surrogate’s country, you may not be confident in what kind of medical advances are possible there. What may be commonplace in the U.S. may be extremely rare in your surrogate’s country — which will put her and your embryos in danger.

2. Legal Risks

Surrogacy is a rapidly advancing family-building process. Just as medical facilities in other countries may not keep up with the new technology available, legislators may not be able to regulate surrogacy as quickly as it’s changing in their country. Therefore, the legal protections that intended parents can expect in the United States may not be available in other countries.

One important legal consideration is establishing parentage. First off, if an LGBT couple completes a surrogacy in a country that doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage, they cannot both establish parental rights until they arrive back in the United States, adding more complexities to an already complicated legal process. Some countries may not allow pre- or post-birth parentage orders, which may prevent foreign intended parents from placing their name on the birth certificate or cause a surrogate to have inherent parental rights. It’s rare, but there are certainly cases where international surrogates fight for custody of a baby.

In response to situations like this, many international countries have banned foreign intended parents — and other countries are reviewing more legislation that could result in similar restrictions. If you’re an intended parent in a foreign country, there is always the legal risk that a ban could be struck while you’re in the middle of your process, stranding you with invested time and money and no idea whether your surrogacy will be completed. A Hague-like organization could also create international standards for surrogacy, which would also halt processes in countries that don’t already meet strict, protective legal regulations.

3. Political Risks

On the same note, political circumstances can quickly change the legal possibility of American intended parents completing a surrogacy in another country. The United States and another country could develop a hostile relationship and, in return, that country may retaliate by making surrogacy illegal for American intended parents (just like when Russia placed an adoption ban on hopeful American adoptive parents in 2012). Political instability of international leaders can also lead to similar results for American intended parents.

Even if surrogacy is legal in the country you choose, it’s important to consider exactly how Americans are viewed in that country. If a surrogate were to carry a baby for an American couple, would she face abuse and prejudice? Would a surrogate even want to carry a baby for an American couple?

These are complicated questions to ask, but they’re important ones to make sure that you can complete your surrogacy as quickly and efficiently as possible. Your international surrogacy agency should give you an honest description of what previous surrogacies have been like in this country and whether you might face discrimination because of your nationality.

4. Financial Risks

Finally, it’s important to point out the financial risks involved with international surrogacy, especially considering how so many intended parents are interested in this route because of its seemingly lower costs.

Upfront, international surrogacy may seem cheaper — agencies don’t charge as many overhead fees, a surrogate’s compensation is lower, etc. However, there’s a reason why international surrogacy seems cheaper at the beginning, as many surrogacy professionals don’t provide the quality and quantity of services that domestic surrogacy agencies do. So, international intended parents find themselves picking up that extra cost for those services, which include:

  • Legal representation
  • Travel costs, especially when the process is delayed
  • Immigration processes
  • Extra medical procedures
  • And more

While your surrogacy process may go smoothly and not require extra costs, it’s important to recognize how these extra expenses may add to your original agency fees. Domestic surrogacy agencies, on the other hand, are usually more transparent with what their fees are, what they cover and what additional expenses intended parents can expect to incur.

Whichever process you decide to pursue, make sure that you talk at length with your surrogacy agency to determine which services are covered and which additional ones you’ll need to pay for as you complete your surrogacy journey.

So, is International Surrogacy Worth It?

Clearly, international surrogacy comes with many risks. But, as long as you’re prepared for these risks and take possible steps to combat them, international surrogacy may be a possibility for you.

However, if you enter the international surrogacy process without being able to properly prevent or reduce these risks, you will likely be setting yourself up for delays and potentially failure in your surrogacy process. If you are worried about these risks of international surrogacy, you can always choose to pursue a safer domestic surrogacy process, where you can be guaranteed protections that don’t exist in an international surrogacy.

Talk to an appropriate surrogacy professional today to learn more about international vs. domestic surrogacy.

Are you interested in learning more about surrogacy or starting the process in the United States? Complete our form to request free surrogacy information now.