Carrying a baby for someone else is often a brand-new experience for gestational surrogates. Before you take this path, it’s important to do extensive research to find out exactly what the surrogacy process is like — and whether it’s right for you.
But, with so much focus on the actual process of surrogacy, you may not think about what happens after until you’re actually at that point. How will your postpartum recovery be different from your previous pregnancies?
Even more important — is surrogate maternity leave and compensation available to you once you have given birth?
Postpartum recovery is hard, and many women need time away from work responsibilities to get back to their normal routine. Gestational surrogates are no different. But, if you’re not bringing a child home from the hospital, you may be unsure of the policy involved during your postpartum period.
Every employer and surrogacy professional is different, but here’s a general guide to what you can expect in regards to surrogate maternity pay and maternity leave after your journey is complete:
Are Gestational Carriers Entitled to Maternity Leave?
With your previous pregnancies, it might have seemed like a given that you were granted maternity leave after birth. Not only did you need time to physically recover from the pregnancy and childbirth experiences, you had a brand-new baby at home who required your attention 24/7.
But, if you’re a gestational carrier, you won’t have a baby at home to care for. Will you still be able to take advantage of maternity leave?
The answer is yes. What a woman plans to do with a baby after birth does not impact her ability to take maternity leave. As long as she meets the normal eligibility criteria for the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), she can take up to 12 weeks off work, unpaid, to recover from the “serious medical condition” of pregnancy. Even though a carrier will not be caring for the child herself, she will still need time to physically recover — and her job will be protected for up to 12 weeks.
In order to be eligible for surrogate maternity leave, a woman must:
- work for a covered employer;
- have worked 1,250 hours during the 12 months prior to the start of leave;
- work at a location where the employer has 50 or more employees within 75 miles;
- and have worked for the employer for 12 months (they do not need to be consecutive).
Talking to your employer about taking maternity leave, however, can be a difficult conversation. It’s important to be as honest and forthcoming as possible, as early as you think is necessary in your surrogacy journey. Remember, your job will be protected if you get pregnant, but your employer will still appreciate the early heads-up and any extra steps you take to ensure your responsibilities are handled at work during your maternity leave.
Will Employers Give a Surrogate Maternity Pay?
When it comes to maternity pay for surrogate mothers, an employer’s policy should not differ based on whether or not you will raise the child you deliver. Instead, many employers apply their general maternity/paternity leave policy to any gestational carrier taking time off for postpartum recovery.
While some employers in the U.S. offer generous paid leave to employees, it’s definitely not the norm. In most cases, a surrogate (or any other expectant parent) will not be paid for their maternity leave; they will instead be required to take vacation time or unpaid medical leave while they recover from childbirth.
The earlier you talk to your employer about their maternity leave protocol, the earlier you’ll know whether you will get paid during this time off. If not, you’ll need to speak with your surrogacy attorney and surrogacy specialist to make sure the intended parents will cover your lost wages during this period. Remember: Your surrogacy professionals will advocate for your financial needs to ensure you are not unduly burdened by your decision to carry a child for someone else. Whether or not you receive surrogate maternity pay from your employer, you will receive income to help support your family during your postpartum recovery.
Talking About Surrogate Maternity Leave and Compensation with Your Employer
When it comes to determining your surrogate maternity leave and compensation, you must be willing to speak with your employer. While your surrogacy specialist will have set policies for certain payments, what you will actually be reimbursed or paid will depend upon your employer’s policies, too.
Discussing your gestational pregnancy with your employer can be a complicated conversation. Your surrogacy attorney should help you prepare for this conversation by making you aware of your local workers’ laws and the compensation policies you are eligible for with them. It’s a good idea to prepare yourself with a list of talking points and questions, too, so you know exactly what you want to discuss with your employer when it comes to surrogate maternity pay and maternity leave.
Here are a few tips:
- Wait to tell your employer about your pregnancy until it has been confirmed or you reach your 20-week mark. A lot can happen within the first stage of the surrogacy process, and there’s always the chance something may not work out as planned.
- Whether or not you tell your boss that you are carrying a gestational pregnancy will be up to you.
- If you can, avoid giving your employer a set time you will be gone. Many surrogates recover much more quickly from surrogacy than they did their own pregnancies, but you don’t want to preemptively force yourself back into the office before you are ready. Just pledge to keep your boss informed during your postpartum recovery.
- Consider what you will tell your coworkers about your pregnancy. You might take this as an opportunity to educate about surrogacy; otherwise, you may find yourself facing an unexpected baby shower from your coworkers.
Remember: These conversations about surrogate maternity pay and leave as they apply to your career can be complicated, but you should be proud of your decision to become a surrogate — and be willing to talk about your journey openly with those who need to know. When you become a gestational carrier, you automatically become an ambassador of sorts for the surrogacy process. Therefore, you might have some awkward conversations and answer some uncomfortable questions at certain times.
Want more information about maternity pay for surrogate mothers? Contact a surrogacy professional today.