The Surrogacy Process Roadmap – Step By Step
A detailed breakdown of each step and stage in the long surrogacy journey
Surrogacy is quite a long journey and if you’re considering it, it may be useful to know what to expect and understand the timeline.
Although each surrogacy journey is different and its length depends on varying factors, the average process takes about 19-22 months. Here is a breakdown of the five steps that make up your journey to parenthood.
Surrogacy is a method of assisted reproduction where a woman (the carrier or surrogate) carries a pregnancy for someone else who is or are intended to be the child’s legal and natural parent or parents.
Basic Information About Surrogacy
There are two types of surrogates: a gestational carrier is a surrogate who is not genetically related to the child she is carrying and a traditional surrogate, who carries a child genetically related to her but relinquishes potential parental rights to the intended parent or parents. Both surrogacies are not achieved by sexual intercourse.
Who needs a Surrogate?
There are a few reasons people turn to the surrogacy process to start or grow their family:
- Heterosexual couples with fertility challenges.
- Single women who are unable to carry a child for whatever reason.
- Single men who need the help of an egg donor and surrogate in order to become a parent.
- Same sex couples.
What are the surrogate-friendly states?
In the US, some states are considered surrogacy-friendly, which means they permit surrogacy or have a history of favorable surrogacy rulings.
The following states are examples of surrogacy-friendly states:
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New York
- Rhode Island
On the opposite side of the scale, the three non-surrogacy friendly states are Nebraska, Michigan and Louisiana. The other US states fall somewhere in between, which means their laws offer varying levels of protection for both surrogates and intended parents.
The Surrogacy Process, Step By Step
Surrogacy is a journey and if you’re considering using it, it may be useful to know what to expect and understand the timeline. Although each surrogacy journey is different and its length depends on varying factors, the average process takes about 19-22 months.
Here is a breakdown of the five steps that make up your journey to parenthood.
Step #1 - Finding A Surrogate
Average time frame: 1-6 months
Your first step is to find your ideal surrogate, the one that matches your specific preferences, as well as an egg donor where applicable. There are a few ways to search for surrogates:
- Agency databases - surrogacy agencies have databases available where you can browse surrogates according to various filters, such as physical attributes, education level, ethnicity and other elements. Each potential surrogate undergoes a thorough pre-screening process before she is added to the database.
- Fertility clinics - some fertility clinics have prospective surrogate databases, though they tend to be limited. Of those clinics, most also screen surrogates to ensure they are ready for the process.
- Family and friends - some people have the option of using an identified or independent surrogacy, which means they know someone who is willing to carry their future child.
Once you have identified your surrogate, you will meet her either physically or via video conference. If, after everyone learns more about each other, both parties are happy with the match, you’ll move on to the next stage and officially start your journey:)
Step #2 - Medical and Legal
Average time frame: 1-2 months
At this point, the surrogate will undergo medical screening and when she’s cleared by your IVF doctor, while you’ll start working with a lawyer to draft your surrogacy contract and the surrogate will review it with her lawyer. At the end of this process, which could take a few weeks, you will sign an agreement that protects both you and the surrogate.
If you're using an egg donor, she will also undergo thorough medical screening at this stage.
Step #3 - Embryo Transfer
Average time frame: 4-6 weeks
After legal contracts are placed, your surrogate will start the medical process preparing her for the transfer of embryos, which means she will receive the medications and be monitored at her local clinic. If you’re working with an agency, they will coordinate the monitoring and make all the necessary arrangements.
Simultaneously, the intended mother or egg donor will undergo an egg retrieval procedure and the eggs will be fertilized in a lab to create an embryo. In some cases, intended parents already have their own embryos available.
When the time is right, the embryo will be transferred to the surrogate via IVF. The surrogate will then return home and continue to be tested, until a healthy pregnancy is confirmed and tests confirm a heartbeat. If, sadly, the first transfer is not successful, the second attempt will take place after a wait of about 6 to 8 weeks.
Once the heartbeat has been confirmed, the surrogate will start receiving her compensation according to the signed agreement.
Step #4 - Pregnancy
Average time frame: 40 weeks (nearly 10 months)
This is the longest step of your journey (but also the most exciting), during which you can expect to receive regular updates on the pregnancy and your baby.
For about 10 weeks of pregnancy, your surrogate will be monitored by your fertility specialist. After 10 weeks, your surrogate will have regular ultrasound check-ins, performed by her OBGYN who will ultimately deliver the baby. Many intended parents attend the 20 week ultrasound if they can, because that’s when the anatomy scan of the baby is performed and you can find out the baby’s sex.
During this time, intended parents will be working on their birth plan and decide how they want the delivery day to look like. If you’re working with a fertility agency, your coordination team will help you work on this document. For example, your plan can include the following information:
- Who will be present in the delivery room?
- Who will the baby be handed to first after the birth?
- Who will take photos during the delivery?
To ensure everyone is aware of your wishes, it’s a good idea to take this document with you to the hospital and keep in mind that there can always be unpredictable factors during the birth.
During this time, your lawyer will start work on the prebirth judgment to ensure that your name is placed on your baby’s birth certificate.
This is also the right time to start preparing for the arrival of your baby, decorate and prepare the nursery and pack your bags and book your travel if your surrogate isn’t local.
After the birth, many parents and surrogates stay in touch for years to come.
Step #5 - Postpartum
Average time frame: a few days-3 months
Once your baby is born, the gestational carrier and her husband, if applicable, will need to relinquish their rights and state they are not the child’s parents by signing legal documents, and your attorney will establish your child’s legal parentage. In some states, this process can start during the pregnancy.
In case one or both of the parents aren't biologically related to the child, you may also need to complete an adoption process.
Back in the hospital, as soon as you get clearance from the doctor it’s time to take your newborn home. However, international parents will be required to wait until the baby has a passport and can travel with them back home.
If you’re ready to start your journey, you may find it easier to use our free platform to search, find and connect with surrogates and agencies.
Want to learn more about the process? Find out how much the surrogacy journey will cost you
If you have any questions or queries, contact us and we will do our best to help.