When you become a surrogate, you are making a life-changing decision — not only for the intended parents you are helping but also for yourself. Surrogacy is one of the most amazing gifts you can give to another couple or individual, but it is also a long and sometimes challenging process that requires strength, selflessness and commitment. This leads many women to wonder: Is this the right path for me? Am I ready to begin the process? How do I become a surrogate mother?
If you are considering surrogacy, this guide will walk you through the screening, medical and legal requirements to help you decide whether you are ready to begin the surrogacy process.
Screening Requirements for Surrogates
Women looking for information on how to be a surrogate should first understand the initial requirements for prospective surrogate mothers. After contacting a surrogacy professional, the first step to becoming a surrogate is to meet the agency’s qualifications and pass its screening requirements. This screening process helps protect the health and safety of the surrogate as well as the baby and ensures you are physically and psychologically ready for the surrogacy process.
Surrogate requirements vary by agency, but according to standards set by the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, the general qualifications for becoming a surrogate may include:
- Be within a certain age range. According to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, surrogates should be between the ages of 21 and 45, but some agencies require their surrogates to be older or younger
- Have a healthy BMI of 30 or less (calculate your BMI)
- No smoking or illicit drug use
- No government assistance
- Have at least one previous successful pregnancy and no more than five vaginal births or three cesarean deliveries
- Be currently raising your child(ren) in your home
- Have no major complications from previous pregnancies
- Have no felony convictions
- Be free of treatable STDs for at least 12 months
- Have no history of postpartum depression
- Discontinue use of antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications at least 12 months prior to surrogacy
- Wait at least 12 months since last tattoo or piercing before beginning surrogacy
- Be able to travel as needed for appointments
- Have a stable lifestyle and support system
If you meet your surrogacy professional’s general qualifications for surrogate mothers, you can proceed with the screening process. The surrogate screening process will vary depending on the agency you work with, but it will often include the following elements:
- An application: The initial application will likely ask you some general questions about you and your reasons for pursuing surrogacy. After submitting the initial application, you will be contacted by a surrogacy specialist, who will gather more detailed information from you.
- Social and medical history information: This may be included with your initial application. In many cases, the social and medical history forms provided by a surrogacy agency will ask you to submit detailed information about you, your family, your health history and even your personality.
- A physical examination: You will be required to meet with a fertility specialist for a physical exam and other lab work to ensure you are healthy enough for surrogacy.
- An in-home assessment: A social worker may meet with you in your home to talk more about your goals and motivations for pursuing surrogacy. This meeting helps the social worker get to know you better and provides you with an opportunity to ask questions and learn more about the process.
- Background checks: You will need to consent to standard criminal records and background checks.
- A mental health evaluation: You will likely meet with a mental health care professional to ensure that you fully understand the emotional impact of surrogacy and to determine that you are psychologically ready for the challenges of surrogate motherhood.
While the screening process may seem laborious, it is important for everyone involved. You can take comfort in knowing that intended parents will also be screened to ensure they too are ready for surrogacy.
Medical Requirements for Surrogates
Because your health is so central to a successful surrogacy, it will be closely monitored throughout the entire surrogacy process, from the time you are screened until the delivery of the baby. As a surrogate, you will be required to undergo several medical tests and procedures and take fertility medications throughout the process.
The medical requirements for surrogates can be thought of in several stages:
- Medical screening: This is part of the screening process. It will likely involve a physical as well as a variety of laboratory testing. You will be screened for sexually transmitted diseases and other communicable diseases, as well as certain viruses and infections that can affect your fertility. You may need to undergo an ultrasound to determine the health of your uterus, and there is a possibility that you will be screened for drug use. Your spouse or partner will likely also need to be screened for STDs and drug use.
- Fertility treatments: After signing legal contracts with the intended parents, you will need to prepare for surrogate pregnancy with multiple fertility treatments, blood tests, injections and ultrasounds throughout the embryo transfer process (as well as through the beginning of your pregnancy). You will be prescribed several medications, such as birth control pills and other hormones, which will help regulate your cycle and prepare you for in vitro fertilization (IVF).
- Embryo transfer: The intended mother’s (or donor’s) egg will be fertilized in the laboratory using the intended father’s (or donor’s) sperm. After a brief incubation period, it will be time to transfer the fertilized embryo into your uterus for implantation. This procedure is relatively quick and painless and usually does not require medication or anesthesia. You may be required to stay at the fertility clinic for a few hours and rest for a few days after the transfer.
- Prenatal care: You will be required to make routine visits to the fertility clinic to receive regular blood tests and ultrasounds. Once a heartbeat is heard and a healthy pregnancy is confirmed, you may be transferred to your own OB. You will continue to receive prenatal care as you would with any pregnancy, though checkups may be more frequent to ensure the health of the baby.
Throughout these medical processes and your entire pregnancy, you will maintain regular communication with the intended parents. If you are both comfortable, they may want to be present for doctor appointments so they can experience all of the excitement of the pregnancy along with you.
Legal Requirements for Surrogates
One of the most important requirements in any surrogacy arrangement is the legal contract. Every surrogacy agreement is different depending on your circumstances and your relationship with the intended parents. Your specific legal rights and obligations will be outlined in your contract.
Prior to beginning any medical procedures, you and the intended parents must agree to and sign the contract, which will clearly outline all of the legal aspects of the surrogacy, including:
- Possible risks
- Your responsibilities as the surrogate
- Relinquishment of the child
- And more
In most cases, the intended parents’ attorney will draft the contract. You will then review the contract with you own attorney to ensure that all of your requests have been included. Once all necessary revisions have been made and both parties agree to the terms of the contract, you and the intended parents will sign the paperwork and the contract becomes legally binding. At that point, you can begin receiving payments and prepare for the embryo transfer.
Surrogacy laws vary by state and the legal process can be complex, so it is important to work with experienced legal counsel to ensure your rights are protected. It is highly recommended that you obtain your own attorney to represent your interests throughout the process.
I Want to Be a Surrogate Mother. Now What?
If you meet the qualifications to become a surrogate and are ready to commit to the required legal process and medical procedures, you are ready to take the preliminary steps in the surrogacy process:
- Determine the type of surrogacy you are interested in. There are two types of surrogacy: traditional and gestational. In traditional surrogacy, the surrogate is the biological mother of the child she carries, and her egg is fertilized using intrauterine insemination. In gestational surrogacy, the child is not related to the surrogate mother and the fertilized embryo is implanted using in vitro fertilization.
- Choose a surrogacy professional. You may choose to work with a surrogacy agency or an independent surrogacy attorney, depending on the services and support you will need. Remember that the process and requirements for surrogacy may vary based on the professional you choose to work with, so do your research and be sure to select a surrogacy professional that meets your individual needs.
- Develop a surrogacy plan. Once you have selected a surrogacy agency and completed the screening process, your surrogacy specialist will work with you to outline your goals and desires for your surrogacy. You will make important decisions about the types of intended parents you’d like to work with, your comfort level with carrying multiples, and more. This surrogacy plan will help guide the remainder of your surrogacy experience.
Once you have created your surrogacy plan, you will be ready to be matched with prospective intended parents and begin the legal and medical processes. With the right legal, medical and screening preparation, you will be well on your way to becoming a surrogate mother.
Are you ready to become a surrogate? Want to learn more about the surrogacy process? Contact a surrogacy professional now for free information with no obligation.