How to Become a Surrogate Mother? Everything You Need To Know About Becoming A Surrogate
How and why do women become surrogates, what are the steps involved in the process and what is the average surrogate compensation? All the answers to all your questions about surrogates.
Whether your reasons are altruistic, financial or both - becoming a surrogate is one of the most selfless choices you can make, but it is also a very complicated process. That’s why it’s crucial you fully understand the commitment you’ll be making, the challenges you may face and the journey you are about to embark on.
What is a surrogate mother?
Surrogacy is a method of assisted reproduction where a woman (the carrier or surrogate) carries a pregnancy for the intended parent or parents who cannot conceive, either due to a medical condition or because they don’t have a uterus. So surrogates are the women who consent to carry a child for a couple or person and help them build their own family. There are two types of surrogacy and both are not achieved through sexual intercorse. The first is called a gestational carrier and is a surrogate who is not genetically related to the child she is carrying. The second is a traditional surrogate - a woman who carries a child genetically related to her and relinquishes her potential parental rights to the intended parent or parents.
Why become a Surrogate?
Elsa Hensel, a two-time surrogate who is planning her third journey, explains that there are many misconceptions about surrogates and their motivation.
“...You do not do surrogacy for money,” says Elsa. “Nobody that is a surrogate does it for the money. You do it because you want to help a family, you want to help them bring a baby into the world. Part of the problem is people not being educated [on surrogacy]. So they say, ‘oh, you’re doing it for this much money’ and I see it all over social media, just people having these totally wrong views about surrogates and why they do it, what they do and what goes into it. We need to change that,” she concludes.
Surrogate Mother Requirements
To become a surrogate the candidates need to meet certain requirements, including:
- Age (usually between 21 and 45)
- Financial stability
- Overall good health
- BMI lower than 32 (in most cases)
- At least one successful previous pregnancy
- Previous pregnancies and deliveries without any complications
- No history of smoking or drug use, including legal drugs such as marihuana
- A good and stable support system.
- No criminal history
But those surrogacy requirements aren't the end of it, as surrogacy disqualifications are determined by multiple factors.
Surrogacy candidates need to complete a psychological evaluation and a physical exam, to make sure they can sustain a pregnancy both emotionally and physically.
In other words, it’s not that easy to become a surrogate because there are a number of surrogacy disqualifications. Typically, only 1 out of 10 surrogate applicants actually becomes a surrogate.
It can take about 3 months to complete the qualification process and in most cases, the psychological evaluation is done only after the surrogate was matched with intended parents.
Surrogate mother pay
There is no one single answer to the question ”how much do surrogates make,” because the financial compensation varies from state to state and from agency to agency, and heavily depends on the surrogate’s circumstances.
A first time surrogate compensation is typically between $30,000 and $40,000. Proven surrogates typically have a base compensation ranging from $40,000 to $60,000.
This compensation is purely for your time and effort, and there are other minor compensations and fees that could apply during the process, such as start of medication fee, transfer fee, invasive or semi-invasive procedure fee, mock cycle fee and so on.
The steps involved in the process to become a surrogate mother
The surrogacy process consists of many milestones. Let’s go over them, one by one.
Normally, before you match with intended parents the intended mother or egg donor will undergo an egg retrieval procedure and the eggs will be fertilized in a lab to create embryos. Some agencies wait for the intended parents to have embryos in order to match them, because they want to make sure there will be embryos to transfer to you, the surrogate, as soon as you’re ready and avoid delays or complications.
Once you match with intended parents, you will undergo medical screening and when you’re cleared by an IVF doctor, you will sign a surrogacy contract with the help of a surrogacy lawyer - one that protects both you and the intended parents.
After legal contracts are placed, you will start the medical process preparing you for the embryo transfer, which means you will receive the medications and be monitored at your local clinic. The agency will coordinate the monitoring and make all the necessary arrangements.
When the time is right, you will undergo an embryo transfer via IVF and then return home and continue to be tested, until a healthy pregnancy is confirmed.
If the first transfer is not successful, the second attempt will take place after a wait of about 2 months.
Once a heartbeat has been confirmed, you will start receiving your compensation according to the signed agreement.
Now you will begin the longest and most exciting part of your journey: the pregnancy.
IVF clinics usually monitor the pregnancy for the initial 8-10 weeks. After the heartbeat has been confirmed, you will be transferred to your personal OB-GYN and continue the rest of the pregnancy under their care.
It’s worth noting that many intended parents attend the 20 week ultrasound if they can, because that’s when the anatomy scan of the baby is performed and they can find out the baby’s sex, in case they didn’t already find that out by doing PGT testing on their embryos .
Once the baby is born, you (and your partner, if applicable) will need to relinquish your rights and state you are not the child’s parents by signing legal documents. In some states, this process can start during the pregnancy.
After the birth, many parents and surrogates stay in touch for years to come.
Choosing your agency
First of all it’s important to understand that there are many advantages to using an agency because simply put, they make the process much easier for surrogates.
Agencies make sure surrogates meet the recommended ASRM guidelines and guide and support them every step of the way. Many agencies’ coordinators were surrogates themselves, so especially for first time surrogates the support they provide throughout the process is extremely important.
For the most part, surrogates are so well looked after that they aren’t even aware of the amount of work that goes into being a surrogate. This process is very complicated and can easily be overwhelming, so having an agency taking care of every detail and making sure the journey goes smoothly allows surrogates to focus on being pregnant and nothing else.
But with so many agencies out there, how will you know which one to choose?
Basically, an agency is a very personal choice. It’s all about feeling that connection to the staff and the agency’s vibe. There is a wide range of providers and each offers very different experiences. Think about why you want to become a surrogate and what you would like your process to look like, and then find the agency that’s more like-minded and therefore better for you.
To make sure you find the agency you’ll feel comfortable with, take the time to talk to different agencies, do your research and feel free to ask questions. Make sure the process is clearly explained to you, that you know exactly what your compensation will be and what the risks and requirements are. It's also a good idea to inquire about the staff and ask to see their credentials, and ask the agency for references from women who worked with them in the past. If an agency refuses to provide references, it might be a good idea to cross them off your list.
Still have questions? Need more information? Feel free to drop us a line and ask us anything. We’re here to help.