Being a surrogate is not a decision to make lightly, read our article that lays out some of the core steps to becoming a surrogate and what your journey will look like.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 a monthly allowance. She will also begin receiving prenatal care, which will continue throughout the pregnancy.
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.
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.
Have more questions about surrogacy? Make sure to head over to our surrogacy board to learn more and ask any questions you may have and get answers from actual surrogate mothers who have been where you are.