Whether you are interested in growing your family through surrogacy or giving the gift of parenthood as a surrogate, you may have many questions about the surrogacy process and how it works.
While the surrogacy process may vary based on your state laws, surrogacy professional and individual circumstances, the following step-by-step guide will help you prepare for what’s to come throughout your surrogacy journey.
1. Decide if Surrogacy is the Right Choice
The first step in any surrogacy process is to carefully consider whether surrogacy is right for you. Becoming a surrogate or a parent through surrogacy can be a long and emotional journey, and it is a big commitment for both parties.
Just like with any major decision, couples and individuals considering surrogacy should carefully research surrogacy laws, consider its pros and cons, and even speak with various surrogacy professionals to truly understand if surrogacy is right for them.
For Prospective Surrogates: Becoming a surrogate is a life-changing decision that can be extremely fulfilling, but it is not without its challenges. Surrogacy requires you to commit to another family for a year or more as you undergo medical and psychological evaluations and procedures, endure all of the challenges related to pregnancy and labor, and carry a baby that isn’t your own. But many women accept these challenges and believe the positives far outweigh the negatives.
If this describes you, not only does surrogacy give you the unique opportunity to give an incredible and selfless gift to another person or couple, but it also provides you with life-changing financial benefits and can create lasting, meaningful relationships between you and the family you helped create.
If you remain uncertain about surrogacy or need more information before making your decision, consider reaching out to a surrogacy agency or attorney to learn more about whether surrogacy is right for you and whether you are ready for the surrogacy process.
For Prospective Intended Parents: There are many reasons to consider growing your family through surrogacy, whether you are a couple who has struggled with infertility, a member of the LGBT community or are looking to expand your family as a single parent.
Before you begin the surrogacy process, it is important to educate yourself about the risks and benefits of surrogacy and ensure that you are ready to fully commit to the process. Hopeful parents considering surrogacy should be aware of the financial and emotional investment required and should ensure that they have the resources to commit to surrogacy and parenthood.
If you or your spouse are struggling with the decision to become parents through surrogacy, or if you need additional information before making your decision, consider reaching out to a counselor or surrogacy specialist before proceeding with the surrogacy process.
2. Prepare for Surrogacy
Once a prospective surrogate or intended parent has decided to commit to surrogacy, they must then determine their goals and needs of the surrogacy and the type of surrogacy professional they want to work with.
First, there are two types of surrogacy to consider:
- Traditional – In traditional surrogacy, the surrogate is also the biological mother of the child she carries. Her egg is fertilized using sperm from the intended father or a donor using intrauterine insemination.
- Gestational – In gestational surrogacy, the child is not biologically related to the surrogate mother. The embryo is instead created using an egg from the intended mother or a donor and sperm from the intended father or a donor using in vitro fertilization. Once the egg is fertilized in the laboratory, the embryo is transferred to the surrogate.
Secondly, there are two types of surrogacy professionals who can complete your surrogacy:
- Surrogacy Agency – May provide any or all surrogacy services, including matching, screening, case management, support, counseling, legal and more.
- Surrogacy Attorney – Required in any surrogacy to complete the legal work, but may not provide other important services found with a surrogacy agency.
Intended parents and surrogates will need to consider these and other factors as they plan and prepare for surrogacy.
For Prospective Surrogates: Once you have decided that surrogacy is right for you, you will need to consider several factors and make decisions based on your situation.
- Do you already know the intended parents, or will you need to work with an agency to find a match?
- What type of surrogacy are you most interested in — gestational or traditional?
- Would you like to work with an agency throughout the surrogacy process, or are you going to pursue surrogacy independently?
These decisions (among many others) will help you determine what you’d like your surrogacy to look like and help you develop your surrogacy plan, which outlines your goals and preferences throughout the surrogacy process. If you choose to work with an agency, you will work closely with a surrogacy specialist to add details to your surrogacy plan, from the type of relationship you’d like to have with the intended parents to your comfort level with carrying multiples. The information you provide in your plan will help facilitate the match with prospective intended parents.
Your surrogacy professional will work closely with you to ensure you have met all screening requirements and are ready to move on to the next step of the process.
For Prospective Intended Parents: At this stage in the process, you will begin creating your surrogacy plan, which is an outline of your goals and preferences for your surrogacy process. You will create your surrogacy plan by considering:
- The type of surrogacy you’d like to pursue (gestational or traditional)
- Whether you need donor sperm or eggs
- Whether you know a surrogate or will need matching services
- Whether you will work with an agency throughout the surrogacy process, and if so, which surrogacy agency you will use
- Your goals for surrogacy
Once you have determined the type of surrogacy you’d like to pursue and have selected either a surrogacy agency or attorney, you will then begin to complete the screening process to meet your agency’s qualifications for intended parents, which may include a home assessment, criminal and child abuse records checks and more.
After you have been screened and approved by your surrogacy agency, you will be ready to begin the journey of finding a surrogate mother, if necessary.
3. Find a Match
One of the most exciting and important steps of the surrogacy process is finding the right surrogacy opportunity with a surrogate mother or intended parents.
If you have already located a surrogacy opportunity, you may only need to work with an attorney who specializes in assisted reproductive law. However, if you have not yet found a surrogacy opportunity, you will likely need to enlist the matching services of a surrogacy agency. Here’s how a match works:
When a prospective surrogate mother or intended parents begin working with a surrogacy professional, their surrogacy specialist will help develop their surrogacy plans. Based on their surrogacy plans, they will likely create a profile to show to other intended parents or surrogate mothers who are also looking for a surrogacy opportunity.
Once the surrogacy agency identifies a surrogate mother and intended parents who share similar surrogacy plans, the agency will provide them with a profile of the other party to see if there is interest in a match.
If both parties are interested in moving forward, they may get to know one another better through phone calls, emails or in-person meetings and may then make the match official by drafting the initial legal contract.
For Prospective Surrogates: As the surrogate mother, you will get to decide what types of intended parents you would like to work with and the type of relationship you’d like to have with them, and your surrogacy professional will work to find a family that matches your preferences on these and other factors.
You may look for intended parents based on:
- Sexual orientation
- Amount of contact shared during the surrogacy process
- And more
To help facilitate the matching process, your surrogacy specialist may work with you to create a profile of text and photos that will help intended parents get a sense of who you are and why you are pursuing surrogacy. Once a match has been made, you will have the opportunity to get to know the intended parents through contact mediated by your surrogacy professional and determine whether they are a good fit.
For Prospective Intended Parents: At some point in your journey, your surrogacy professional will likely ask you to create a surrogacy plan, which outlines your goals and preferences for the surrogacy process. This plan will be used to help create a match between you and a prospective surrogate.
In addition, you may create a profile that includes photographs and information about you and your family that will help potential surrogates get to know you better. You may have the opportunity to browse similar profiles for prospective surrogates. Once you’ve identified a surrogate you’d like to match with (or when a surrogate has identified you), your surrogacy professional will coordinate a meeting or phone call that will allow you to get to know each other better.
Once you’ve determined that the surrogate you’ve matched with is right for you, you are ready to move on to the next step of the surrogacy process.
4. Satisfy Legal Requirements
Once a surrogate and intended parent have decided to move forward together, they will need to make it official by drafting a legal contract. Each party will have their own attorney to ensure that their legal interests are represented and protected.
Each party will meet with their respective lawyer individually to review the legal aspects of the surrogacy. Once everyone agrees to the terms of the contract and each lawyer has had a chance to review and approve it, contracts will be signed, and the embryo transfer process can begin.
For Prospective Surrogates: Your attorney will meet with you to discuss all of the legal aspects of surrogacy, from compensation to possible risks. Your attorney will review the contract that was drafted by the intended parents’ attorney to ensure it matches your requests. Once contracts are signed, you will begin receiving a monthly allowance to help cover the costs agreed upon in the contract.
For Prospective Intended Parents: Your attorney will meet with you one-on-one to discuss your legal rights, possible risks and the compensation you and your surrogate agreed to. Once the contracts are signed, it will be time to move into the next phase — fertilization and pregnancy.
After the first trimester, your attorney will work with you to establish you as the legal parents of your child, which will allow you to make medical decisions for the baby and include your names on the birth certificate. This is called a pre-birth order, which is an important step in declaring the child as legally yours.
5. Begin the Fertilization and Embryo Transfer Process
Once contracts have been signed, it is time to begin medical procedures to prepare for the embryo transfer. This process will likely be handled by an agreed upon fertility clinic.
The intended mother or egg donor will be given medication to help her develop eggs and will undergo an egg retrieval procedure. The eggs are then fertilized in the laboratory to create an embryo, which will be transferred to the surrogate. The surrogate will undergo fertility treatments prior to the embryo transfer and during the pregnancy.
Once a healthy pregnancy is confirmed and the baby’s heartbeat is heard, the surrogate will begin receiving payments for base compensation and monthly allowance. She will also begin receiving prenatal care, which will continue throughout the pregnancy.
For Prospective Surrogates: To increase the chances of a successful embryo transfer, you will likely be prescribed fertility medications prior to the transfer. When it is time, the intended parents’ fertilized egg will be placed in your uterus for implantation.
The transfer procedure is relatively quick and painless and does not require medication or anesthesia. You will likely be required to remain at the fertility clinic for a few hours after the procedure, and you will need to rest for a few days afterward.
A few weeks later, you will return to the fertility clinic to take a pregnancy test and confirm the pregnancy. You will continue to visit the fertility clinic for regular blood tests and ultrasounds to track the progress of the pregnancy. When a heartbeat is heard on the ultrasound (usually about six weeks after the successful embryo transfer), you will begin receiving payments.
From there, your pregnancy will not be all that different from any other pregnancy, though you may have more frequent checkups to ensure the health of the baby, and you will share your pregnancy journey with the intended parents.
For Prospective Intended Parents: The medical procedures required for surrogacy will depend on your circumstances and whether you are using an egg donor. If you or your partner’s eggs will be used in the surrogacy, you will be administered medications to stimulate egg production. When the time is right, you will undergo a relatively minor egg retrieval procedure.
Once the eggs have been harvested — either from the intended mother or an egg donor — they will be fertilized using sperm from the intended father or a donor. The embryos are incubated and assessed for development prior to being transferred to the surrogate mother.
After the embryo transfer, the pregnancy will be confirmed. Once a healthy heartbeat is heard a couple of months later, the surrogate will begin receiving payments. You should continue to provide emotional support to your surrogate throughout her pregnancy, and share in the process with her.
6. Welcome the New Baby!
After the long surrogacy process, the birth of the baby is a life-changing event for both the surrogate and the intended parents. Most times, the intended parents will join the surrogate at the hospital for this momentous experience.
After the baby is born and the surrogate is discharged from the hospital, the new family and surrogate can all return home, the parents with their new baby and the surrogate with the satisfaction of giving the selfless gift of parenthood to someone who couldn’t do it on their own.
The surrogate and new family will forever be connected and may wish to maintain a relationship throughout the child’s life. The surrogacy agency may be able to facilitate this relationship and continue to provide any other support that is needed after the surrogacy.
There are few processes more special and exciting than building a family. Whether you are considering building your own or helping someone else build theirs, surrogacy can be an incredibly rewarding and fulfilling experience.
Are you ready to start the surrogacy process? Do you want to learn more about becoming a surrogate or growing your family through surrogacy? Contact a surrogacy professional now for free information with no obligation.