While the surrogacy process may vary based on your state laws, surrogacy professional and individual circumstances, the following step-by-step guide will help you prepare for what’s to come throughout your surrogacy journey.
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.
There are many reasons to consider growing your family through surrogacy, whether you are a couple who has struggled with infertility, a member of the LGBT community or are looking to expand your family as a single parent.
Before you begin the surrogacy process, it is important to educate yourself about the risks and benefits of surrogacy and ensure that you are ready to fully commit to the process. Hopeful parents considering surrogacy should be aware of the financial and emotional investment required and should ensure that they have the resources to commit to surrogacy and parenthood.
If you or your spouse are struggling with the decision to become parents through surrogacy, or if you need additional information before making your decision, consider reaching out to a counselor or surrogacy specialist before proceeding with the surrogacy process.
Once an 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.
There are two types of surrogacy to consider, to read more check out our “What is surrogacy?”
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 will need to consider these and other factors as they plan and prepare for surrogacy.
At this stage in the process, you will begin creating your surrogacy plan, which is an outline of your goals and preferences for your surrogacy process. You will create your surrogacy plan by considering:
- The type of surrogacy you’d like to pursue (gestational or traditional)
- Whether you need donor sperm or eggs
- Whether you know a surrogate or will need matching services
- Whether you will work with an agency throughout the surrogacy process, and if so, which surrogacy agency you will use
- Your goals for surrogacy
Once you have determined the type of surrogacy you’d like to pursue and have selected either a surrogacy agency or attorney, you will then begin to complete the screening process to meet your agency’s qualifications for intended parents, which may include a home assessment, criminal and child abuse records checks and more.
After you have been screened and approved by your surrogacy agency, you will be ready to begin the journey of finding a surrogate mother, if necessary.
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.
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 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.
At some point in your journey, your surrogacy professional will likely ask you to create a surrogacy plan, which outlines your goals and preferences for the surrogacy process. This plan will be used to help create a match between you and a prospective surrogate.
In addition, you may create a profile that includes photographs and information about you and your family that will help potential surrogates get to know you better. You may have the opportunity to browse similar profiles for prospective surrogates. Once you’ve identified a surrogate you’d like to match with (or when a surrogate has identified you), your surrogacy professional will coordinate a meeting or phone call that will allow you to get to know each other better.
Once you’ve determined that the surrogate you’ve matched with is right for you, you are ready to move on to the next step of the surrogacy process.
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 one-on-one to discuss your legal rights, possible risks arnd the compensation you and your surrogate agreed to. Once the contracts are signed, it will be time to move into the next phase — fertilization and pregnancy.
After the first trimester, your attorney will work with you to establish you as the legal parents of your child, which will allow you to make medical decisions for the baby and include your names on the birth certificate. This is called a pre-birth order, which is an important step in declaring the child as legally yours.
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 monthly allowance. She will also begin receiving prenatal care, which will continue throughout the pregnancy.
The medical procedures required for surrogacy will depend on your circumstances and whether you are using an egg donor. If you or your partner’s eggs will be used in the surrogacy, you will be administered medications to stimulate egg production. When the time is right, you will undergo a relatively minor egg retrieval procedure.
Once the eggs have been harvested — either from the intended mother or an egg donor — they will be fertilized using sperm from the intended father or a donor. The embryos are incubated and assessed for development prior to being transferred to the surrogate mother.
After the embryo transfer, the pregnancy will be confirmed. Once a healthy heartbeat is heard a couple of months later, the surrogate will begin receiving payments. You should continue to provide emotional support to your surrogate throughout her pregnancy and share in the process with her.
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 following 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.