Because surrogacy is still an emerging field, there are often a lot of questions about how the process works. If you’re new to the world of surrogacy, you might have some questions of your own. And that’s great! Asking questions is one of the best ways to learn.
To get more information about how the surrogacy process works for intended parents, contact a surrogacy professional today.
Surrogacy is a complex topic, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with questions about how it works and where to begin. As you consider adding to your family through surrogacy, find answers to some of the most common surrogacy questions for intended parents below.
What is surrogacy?
Surrogacy is a legal and social arrangement between intended parents and a surrogate mother, who becomes pregnant through an embryo transfer and carries the pregnancy for the intended parents. The intended parents assume full parental rights, and the surrogate is compensated in exchange for her services.
What is the difference between traditional surrogacy and gestational surrogacy?
In traditional surrogacy, the surrogate’s own eggs are fertilized using artificial insemination, making her the biological mother of the baby. In gestational surrogacy, the surrogate becomes pregnant through in vitro fertilization and has no biological connection to the baby. Both forms of surrogacy have many advantages, disadvantages and implications for intended parents to consider.
Who works with a surrogate mother?
Surrogacy is an increasingly common choice for parents looking to add to their families. The following people might consider working with a surrogate:
- People who have struggled with infertility
- Prospective single parents
- Same-sex couples
- Anyone who is unable to safely carry a pregnancy to term
Can I pursue surrogacy as a single parent or same-sex couple?
Yes. Surrogacy can be a wonderful way for single parents and same-sex couples to add to their families. Look for a surrogacy agency who is single parent and LGBT-friendly and who can meet your needs throughout the process.
What are the chances of success with surrogacy?
Surrogacy success rates are influenced by the IVF clinic you work with, the health and viability of the embryo you use and the health and fertility history of your surrogate. Your fertility clinic can help you determine your best chances of achieving a successful pregnancy in your specific circumstances. In addition, most surrogacy professionals will perform multiple embryo transfers until a healthy pregnancy is achieved, making the overall surrogacy success rate very high.
Who are surrogates? How are surrogates screened?
Surrogates are women of all different backgrounds who want to help other prospective parents add to their families. While their situations can vary significantly, all surrogates must meet certain requirements before they can be matched with intended parents. Exact screening and eligibility requirements are determined by the agency you work with. Some common requirements for surrogates include:
- Be within a specified age range
- Have a healthy BMI
- Abstain from smoking and drug use
- Have previously carried at least one healthy pregnancy with no major complications
- Receive no governmental assistance
- Be able to travel to and from appointments
- Have no felony convictions
- Submit medical and drug history information
- Complete background checks and an in-home assessment
- Complete a psychological evaluation and medical workup
How and why are intended parents screened?
In addition to surrogate screening requirements, most agencies also screen prospective intended parents. This mutual screening process ensures that all parties are physically, psychologically, legally and financially ready for surrogacy. For intended parents, this process usually involves self-disclosed social and medical history information, background checks and an in-home assessment.
How long does the surrogacy process take?
The length of the surrogacy process may vary based on the following factors:
- Your professional’s advertising, matching and screening services and the number of surrogates they are currently working with (this impacts your wait time to be matched)
- Your surrogacy plans, goals and preferences, which may simplify or prolong the matching process
- The number of cycles and embryo transfers required to successfully achieve a pregnancy
- The legal services required in your specific circumstances
- And more
Typically, you should plan to wait 1–2 years from the time you sign on with a surrogacy agency until you have a child.
How can I find a surrogate?
Intended parents may find a prospective surrogate in two ways: through their own networking and advertising efforts, or with the help of an agency’s matching services. If you have not already identified a surrogate, a surrogacy agency can help you find pre-screened surrogates who are compatible with your surrogacy plans. These professionals often provide expert matching services and maintain detailed databases that pair intended parents with surrogates based on each party’s goals and preferences.
How do surrogacy agencies match intended parents with surrogates?
The matching process may differ depending on the surrogacy professional you work with, but surrogacy matching services generally include the development of your surrogacy plan and your intended parent profile. This information will be used to find compatible matches and give surrogates a basic introduction to you, your family, and your goals for surrogacy.
When your agency identifies prospective surrogates who have similar needs and desires for the surrogacy, you will have an opportunity to review their profiles. When you and a surrogate express mutual interest in each other, you will be given the opportunity to get to know each other better before moving forward with a match.
Can I work with a surrogate I already know?
Yes. If you have a friend or family member who is willing to carry a surrogate pregnancy for you, you can pursue identified surrogacy. However, identified surrogacy can have some implications on your relationship with your surrogate, and you should consider working with an agency to get needed support and contact mediation throughout the process.
Should I work with a surrogacy agency?
As you begin your surrogacy journey, you should decide whether you’d like to work with a surrogacy agency or complete an independent surrogacy with the help of an attorney. Agency and independent surrogacy each have their pros and cons; however, surrogacy is generally more complicated if you choose to go without the assistance of an agency.
In independent surrogacy, intended parents will be responsible for finding and screening a surrogate on their own and then coordinating all of the necessary services and events of the surrogacy, including:
- The embryo transfer and other medical procedures
- Counseling and support services
- Legal services
- Finding an egg or sperm donor, if necessary
- And more
Full-service agencies generally provide and/or coordinate all of these services on your behalf.
It is up to each intended parent to decide whether a surrogacy agency or attorney would better meet their needs. You should do careful research and consider many surrogacy professionals before selecting the one you’d like to work with.
How much contact will we have with our surrogate? How involved will we be during the pregnancy?
The frequency and type of contact you have with your surrogate before, during and after the pregnancy will be addressed as part of your surrogacy plan. You can have as much or as little contact as both parties are comfortable with. Many surrogacy agencies offer contact mediation services for this purpose.
How does the medical surrogacy process work? Who handles the medical procedures?
The medical surrogacy process will not begin until legal contracts are agreed to and signed by both the intended parents and surrogate. At that point, the surrogate may begin taking fertility medications to prepare her body for pregnancy and increase the chances of a successful embryo transfer. The intended mother or egg donor may also be given medication to help her develop multiple eggs, which will be collected during an egg retrieval procedure.
The eggs are then fertilized in the laboratory using the intended father’s or donor’s sperm. A predetermined number of embryos will be transferred to the surrogate. A few weeks later, the pregnancy will be confirmed, and when a healthy heartbeat is heard on the ultrasound, the surrogate will begin receiving compensation. The surrogate will continue to receive routine prenatal care and attend regular checkups throughout her pregnancy to ensure the health of the baby.
Generally, medical procedures will be handled by an agreed-upon fertility clinic. The intended parents will stay in contact with the surrogate throughout her pregnancy. Depending on the agreed upon amount of contact and involvement the intended parents would like to have, they may be able to attend key appointments with the surrogate.
How much does surrogacy cost?
Surrogacy costs can vary significantly based on a number of factors, including the type of surrogacy you pursue, the professional and surrogate you work with, the services you need throughout the process and the course of the surrogate’s pregnancy.
Generally, intended parents are responsible for the following costs:
- Agency fees
- Advertising services
- Matching services
- Counseling, education and support
- Screening costs
- General case management and oversight
- Variable expenses
- Legal services
- Medical expenses
- Surrogate compensation and reimbursement
While agency fees are usually set by the surrogacy professional and rarely change, variable expenses can change significantly based on your individual situation, making it difficult to estimate overall surrogacy costs. However, most surrogacy arrangements range from $60,000–$125,000.
Will the surrogate be related to the baby? Will she have parental rights?
The relationship your surrogate has with your baby will depend on the type of surrogacy you pursue. In traditional surrogacy, the surrogate acts as the egg donor as well as the carrier, making her the biological mother of the baby. In these cases, she will have parental rights that need to be legally terminated when the baby is born.
In gestational surrogacy, on the other hand, the embryo is created using the intended mother’s (or donor’s) egg and the intended father’s (or donor’s) sperm, and the surrogate has no genetic relationship to the baby she carries. In these cases, the surrogate, also called a gestational carrier, does not have any parental rights to the child.
Will I be the biological parent of my child?
Surrogacy often allows one or both intended parents to maintain a genetic connection to their child. If you are an intended mother with healthy, viable eggs, or an intended father with healthy, viable sperm, your genetic material can be used to create the embryo. In many cases, this allows both parents in a heterosexual relationship to be the biological parents of their child.
Whose name goes on the birth certificate?
The names that are entered on the baby’s original birth certificate will largely depend on state surrogacy laws. Many surrogacy-friendly states allow intended parents to file a pre-birth order, which instructs the hospital to enter the intended parents’ names on the original birth certificate.
In other cases, the birth certificate may need to be re-issued with the intended parents’ names following additional legal work completed after the baby is born. In some states, same-sex couples will need to complete a second parent adoption in order for both parents to be listed on the birth certificate.
In traditional surrogacy, the surrogate is the biological mother of the child, and her name will appear on the original birth certificate along with the intended father’s name. A stepparent adoption may be required for the other intended parent to be listed on the birth certificate.
Where is surrogacy legal? What are the legal requirements of surrogacy?
Surrogacy laws vary by state. The practice is only prohibited in a handful of states, but of those that do recognize surrogacy arrangements, some are more surrogacy-friendly than others. However, intended parents from any state should be able to successfully pursue surrogacy, as long as they work with a surrogate in a state where it is legal. Your surrogacy professional should be able to answer any legal questions you have and help you navigate the legal surrogacy process in your state.
Regardless of where you and your surrogate live, every surrogacy arrangement will involve a legal contract. You and your surrogate will each have your own attorney who will contribute to the contract drafting process and ensure your legal interests are represented and your rights are protected. These contracts will outline everyone’s rights and responsibilities throughout the process, potential risks and agreed-upon compensation.
After the first trimester, you may also work with your attorney to complete a pre-birth order and establish yourselves as the legal parents of your child.
What if the surrogate wants to keep the baby?
Unless you are pursuing traditional surrogacy, in which the surrogate is the biological mother of the child she carries, your surrogate will not have any parental rights to the baby. Your attorney will work with you to establish your parental rights through a pre-birth order, if possible, and your contract will outline the surrogate’s relinquishment of the child.
If you are concerned that your surrogate may develop a strong bond with your child during pregnancy, she may benefit from an agency’s counseling and support services. These services may also help you overcome any anxiety you are experiencing throughout the surrogacy process.
What are the first steps to become intended parents?
When you are ready to commit to the surrogacy process, you should start by determining your goals for your surrogacy journey. Consider the type of surrogacy you are interested in and the surrogacy professional you would like to work with.
Once you have found the surrogacy professional that is right for you, your surrogacy professional can help you navigate the process and achieve your surrogacy goals.
Surrogacy has a lot of moving parts, and going in with a good understanding of how the process works can give you a heightened feeling of confidence. If you didn’t see your question(s) here or have addition questions, reach out to a surrogacy professional today to get the support you need.