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Surrogacy is an agreement in which a woman chooses to become pregnant through an embryo transfer and carry the resulting pregnancy for intended parents. It’s recommended that professionals be involved to guide both parties through the medical, legal and emotional processes.
There are a few different types of surrogacy: gestational vs. traditional, compensated or altruistic, and independent or agency-assisted.
Keep reading for some answers to common questions about these specific types of surrogacy.
A person who is waiting to become a parent via surrogacy is called an “intended parent.” Couples and individuals of all types may choose this path to parenthood, but most commonly, intended parents are:
- People who have struggled with infertility
- Prospective single parents
- Same-sex couples
Anyone who is unable to safely carry a pregnancy to term
Surrogates come from all different backgrounds, but they have one important thing in common — the desire to help people in an incredibly unique and important way. There are plenty of misconceptions about the women who become surrogates, but, in the end, they’re just women who are able to help build a family.
A common requirement for surrogates is that they’ve already completed their own family, so they’re usually raising children of their own and are typically married.
Below we’ll answer more questions about what it takes to become a surrogate, as well as address a couple of those myths you’ve likely heard about surrogates.
The difference is in whose egg is used. In traditional surrogacy, the surrogate’s egg is used, so she’s the biological mother of the baby. In gestational surrogacy, the egg comes from an intended mother or a donor, so the surrogate is not biologically related to the baby.
Traditional surrogacy is rare today, because there are serious legal and emotional risks associated with the surrogate being the biological mother of the baby. Very few professionals will complete traditional surrogacies. Instead, gestational surrogacy is what is commonplace and often preferred by all involved.
An embryo will be created in a fertility clinic lab using IVF and will later be transferred to the surrogate’s uterus by a fertility clinic doctor.
For the surrogate, this experience of becoming pregnant will be entirely different from her previous pregnancies in a number of ways. She’ll take a carefully timed series of medications to prepare for that embryo transfer, be monitored more closely than she would with a “traditional” pregnancy, and more.
In general, there’s more regulation and doctors involved in the process than people imagine.
This is a question with an always-evolving answer. Essentially, it depends on where you’re at. In the United States, surrogacy laws vary from one state to the next, from one type of surrogacy to another, and more. We have a guide to those state laws here. Don’t let the laws intimidate you, but do remember:
Surrogacy law is complex, and the safety of a child could be at stake. That’s why it’s absolutely necessary to work with an experienced professional to secure a legal surrogacy contract that protects both parties — no exceptions.
In gestational surrogacy, no. In traditional surrogacy, yes.
The baby is biologically related to the two people who contribute the egg and sperm when the embryo is created, not whose uterus the baby is carried in.
That means that if intended parents need the help of egg and/or sperm donors to create an embryo, the baby will be biologically related to the donor(s). If the egg and/or sperm come from the intended parents, then the baby is biologically related to them.
Again, when it comes to genetics, what matters is the egg and sperm — the uterus doesn’t have anything to do with it.
While many women have hearts generous enough to be a surrogate for someone else, only a special few women will also meet the requirements to become a surrogate. These screening processes are there for the protection of the surrogate herself, as well as to protect intended parents and any resulting children.
There are physical, social, legal, and emotional requirements. The specifics of these criteria can vary somewhat depending on the state and the surrogacy professional, so contact a professional to learn more.
This might seem like a lot, but it’s important that a woman is 100 percent ready and healthy enough for surrogacy in every way before she begins — for her own overall wellbeing and for the wellbeing of the intended parents’ baby.
Yes. For the safety of surrogates and children, intended parents are usually screened. There are a number of requirements for intended parents that must be met. Their results will determine if they’re actually ready to begin the surrogacy process.
Some states and professionals will have specific or additional requirements that intended parents must meet, so check with a professional for more information.
That just depends on the individual relationship and the preferences of those involved. Most surrogacy partners find that they enjoy staying in touch before, during and even after the journey. Other partners prefer less contact and will be content to go their separate ways after the baby is born.
Contact schedules can be established to help create healthy boundaries and clear expectations for everyone from the beginning. Intended parents and surrogates will usually know when the other is going to check in with an update about the baby, although some partners enjoy just chatting and sharing their excitement.
Because of the emotional and personal nature of surrogacy, many surrogates and parents form a close and lasting friendship between the two families.
Not all surrogates are paid, but most are. There’s “altruistic” and “compensated” surrogacy.
Although altruistic surrogacy sounds nice, it’s not always recommended because it can sometimes bring up feelings of resentment. Surrogates go through a lot for someone else’s family. While all surrogates do this because they want to help, the compensation paid usually makes things feel more “fair” in the relationship.
Remember that a surrogate will need to take time away from work and her children for surrogacy- and pregnancy-related appointments and recovery. She’ll also be making significant sacrifices to her time and body, and she’s putting forth no small effort into this journey. Compensation for all of this is fair and reasonable.
It’s a common misconception that surrogates get rich from surrogacy. But, after being reimbursed for the pregnancy expenses such as doctor’s bills, the average base compensation for a first-time surrogate is about $25,000 — enough to set aside for a new home or her child’s college fund, but not exactly a fortune. Clearly, they’re not in it for the money.
There are a lot of acronyms and reproductive jargon used when talking about the surrogacy process, and there’s also plenty of terminology that people aren’t used to. Some of these terms are synonymous and people just tend to have personal preferences on what to use. On the other hand, some terms do mean different things.
Clearly, there’s a bit of a learning curve, so don’t feel bad if you don’t know the surrogacy lingo! This guide and this guide are helpful if you want to start decoding.
From the time a person begins the process to the moment the baby is born, it usually takes one to two years.
There are a number of variables that will affect this: time spent waiting for a match with a surrogacy partner, however long it takes for the surrogate to become pregnant, and more. Here’s a good time breakdown of the average experience.
Because of all the variables involved in the surrogacy process, it’s impossible to know exactly how much the process will cost for the intended parents until the process is over. Those variables include variations in medical needs/costs, medications, travel requirements and much more.
That being said, intended parents can expect to pay anywhere from $60,000 to $150,000. Remember: You generally “get what you pay for” when it comes to services and protection, so cutting corners and costs is generally not recommended.
Surrogacy can certainly be costly. However, there are a few tips we always recommend to try to keep the costs as low as possible.
There are a number of different ways that intended parents and surrogates can connect. But ensuring safety and avoiding scams is one thing to keep in mind, and finding a surrogacy partner that has the same preferences and goals is another important consideration. It’s a bit of an art!
Here, you can learn more about how intended parents find surrogates and how surrogates find intended parents.
Sure. Partnering with a friend or family member is called “identified surrogacy.” However, this option can come with unique emotional challenges, so it’s important that everyone involved receives pre-surrogacy counseling and has a legal contract, no matter how much they love and trust one another. This helps keep the existing relationship healthy and happy.
If married, a surrogate’s spouse must agree to the legal terms of the surrogacy contract, because they’ll need to confirm that they claim no parental rights and be aware of other important responsibilities and risks.
A surrogate’s spouse and children must be emotionally on board with her decision, not only for those legal purposes, but because a surrogate’s family is her primary source of emotional and practical support. So, especially for women working with surrogacy professionals, the support and excitement of the whole family is actually required.
Do children born via surrogacy show any differences from “traditionally” conceived/birthed children?
Surrogacy is still relatively new, so long-term studies are still underway. However, current research on surrogacy- and IVF-conceived and -born children and adults show no physical difference from anyone else.
People often worry if there will be any mental or emotional ramifications to individuals born via surrogate. The answer seems to depend on whether or not the parents keep the child’s history a secret from him or her. If the parents tell the child his or her surrogacy story early on, reports have shown the children to be as well-adjusted as anyone else. Closed vs. open adoption is a good example of how openness affects the long-term happiness of individuals.
A custody tug-of-war in surrogacy situations is a popular myth, but it’s a not actually an issue. One of the requirements for a surrogate when she works with an agency is that she must be raising her own child. Surrogates have completed their own families, and now they just want to help someone else complete theirs.
Remember that in gestational surrogacy, the surrogate isn’t biologically related to the baby at all. While women do become attached to the baby that they carry for nine months, surrogates routinely say that their surrogate pregnancies didn’t emotionally feel like their pregnancies with their own children. They often say it feels more like “babysitting,” so it is a happy moment to hand the baby to the intended parents, not a sad one.
Additionally, it’s usually not even possible for the surrogate to keep the baby, because the intended parents are the legal parents, as well as often the biological parents.
Rarely. But it can happen, absolutely. In any pregnancy (surrogate or not) there’s a certain amount of physical risk, and there’s also the risk of emotional consequences such as postpartum depression. In the surrogacy process, there are additional risks associated with IVF and the emotions experienced throughout the journey with the intended parents.
Fortunately, negative effects — physical, mental, or emotional — are very rare for gestational surrogates. After their journey is complete, most women talk about how much they enjoyed the experience and say they’d do it again.
Yes. The studies on closed vs. open adoption on adoptees show just how important it is to tell children about their history from day one. That’s why intended parents are counseled and encouraged to tell their child his or her surrogacy story from infancy and to make surrogacy a positive and normal part of their lives.
Although not all former surrogates will stay in touch with the family they helped create forever, some do. Either way, a child grows up knowing about the woman who helped bring him or her into the world and even about his or her egg or sperm donors, when applicable.
Quite a bit! The process is, as you’d imagine, fairly complex — legally and medically. There are a lot of moving parts involved, long before steps are even taken to initiate a pregnancy. Don’t worry — we’ve broken it down into a six-step explanation to make things a little less overwhelming.
Contact a surrogacy professional here. Whether you’re thinking about becoming a surrogate or a parent through surrogacy, they’ll be able to answer any additional questions you have, provide you with information and help you get started.