Becoming a Surrogate Mother: A Comprehensive Guide

Becoming a surrogate mother is a unique, rewarding journey, where you play a vital role in turning the dreams of hopeful intended parents into reality.  While surrogacy may be one of the most selfless things you can do for someone, it can also be physically and emotionally demanding. Therefore, it is crucial to understand how surrogacy works.

In this guide, you will find answers to surrogates’ most common questions about being a surrogate when they begin their research. Let’s take a deep dive!

What Is a Surrogate?

A surrogate is a woman who carries a baby for a couple or an individual who cannot have a baby on their own.

The person trying to attain parenthood with the help of a surrogate is known as an intended parent. Intended parents are also known as prospective or commissioning parents.

There are two types of surrogates:

  • Gestational surrogates (also known as “gestational carriers” or “host surrogates” ): A gestational carrier does not have any genetic connection with the baby she carries.
  • Traditional surrogates (also called “straight surrogates” or “classic surrogates” ): A traditional surrogate provides her eggs to create the embryos. She is both a carrier and a genetic contributor.

Most surrogates in the US and Canada are gestational carriers, meaning the surrogate mother does not share genetics with the baby.

Surrogates are incredible, amazing, selfless women who help people experience the gift of creating life.

Why Become a Surrogate?

why consider surrogacy

Women feel called to be surrogates for various reasons.

Some women have a personal connection to infertility problems and believe it would be amazing to help people become parents. Other women want to experience the joy of pregnancy again but not necessarily add another child to their family. There are also women who simply want to give one of the greatest gifts anyone can ever give. They see surrogacy as an extraordinary teaching opportunity for their children.

Whatever your reason or motivation for becoming a surrogate mother, you must consider whether surrogacy is right for you.

Prepare for Surrogacy

Becoming a gestational surrogate is a life-changing decision that will affect you, your family, and the hopeful intended parents. Therefore, you need to be 100% committed to the process and consider all potential challenges you might face.

In this early stage of the surrogacy process, you need to consider if surrogacy is right for you because the journey can be very challenging. Therefore, you must educate yourself as much as you can. Here are some things you can do to prepare yourself:

  • Speak with an attorney specializing in third-party reproduction to learn about surrogacy laws in your state or province.
  • Contact a reputable agency that can guide you through the different steps of the process.
  • Use the Internet – there are many helpful resources available.
  • Talk to formers

Find out more about the surrogacy process in this infographic.

surrogacy timeline

Additionally, there are several questions you should consider before moving ahead with the process. This phase will help you better understand your motivations, goals, and expectations and help you create your surrogacy plan.

1. Your Health

  • Do you meet the surrogate mother requirements? Are you in good physical health?
  • Do you have any health problems that might hinder you from carrying a healthy baby to term?
  • Did you have any major complications with previous pregnancies and deliveries?
  • Is it easy for you to conceive? Have you ever received fertility treatment?
  • Do you smoke, use illegal drugs, or drink alcohol?
surrogate mother requirements

2. Your Support Network

  • Do you have a robust support system (husband, family, and friends)?
  • If you are married, does your husband support your decision to start this journey?
  • Who will support you during the surrogacy journey if you are not married?
  • Do your children (if they are old enough to understand surrogacy) support you?
  • How will you feel if people criticize you for choosing to pursue surrogacy?
  • Do you live in a surrogacy-friendly country, state, or province?

3. Your Feelings

  • Are you confident that you will be able to relinquish a child that you will bear for nine months?
  • If you pursue traditional surrogacy, you will be genetically linked to the baby. Knowing this, do you think you will be able to give up the baby?
  • Would your marriage or relationship be negatively affected?
  • Would your family and friends support your decision to pursue surrogacy?

4. Your Medical Concerns

  • Would you be ready for the medically-invasive techniques, injections, and repeated bloodwork?
  • Would you be willing to carry twins or triplets?
  • If your doctor recommended bed rest, would it interfere with your personal and/or professional life?

5. Your Ethical Concerns

  • If the baby you were carrying had a physical defect, how would you feel about terminating the pregnancy? Would you have an abortion if the intended parents requested one?
  • How would you feel about selective reduction if you become pregnant with multiples?
  • What if the intended parents get divorced during the process?

Pursuing surrogacy can sometimes be overwhelming. However, many women gladly accept the challenges that are part of the surrogate’s journey. They believe that the pros far outweigh the cons.

Starting Your Surrogacy Journey

Once you have done your homework and are ready to commit to surrogacy, it’s time to develop a surrogacy plan. Setting your goals and requirements for this journey is the key to success.

1. Draft Your Surrogacy Plan

At this point, you should start thinking about who you want to help, your feelings about carrying multiples, if you are open to travel, the type of surrogacy you want to do, if you will work with an agency, and so on.

 

2. Determine the Form of Surrogacy

As you already know, there are two types of surrogacy. The type of surrogacy you choose will reflect your personal situation and expectation for the journey.

  • Traditional surrogacy involves your own egg being fertilized using IUI. This type of surrogacy can be tricky from a legal perspective because you are genetically linked to the baby.
  • Gestational surrogacy involves having an embryo transferred to your uterus through IVF. The embryo will be created using an egg and sperm belonging to intended parents and/or donors, so you will not be genetically linked to the baby.

From a legal standpoint, gestational surrogacy is less complex due to the absence of a genetic connection between the baby and the surrogate. For this reason, gestational surrogacy has become the most common form of surrogacy.

IVF vs IUI

4. Are You Going to Work with an Agency?

The next step is to decide if you will look for prospective parents on your own or if you will have a surrogacy agency assist you.

Unless you have a specific person or couple in mind, you will likely work with an agency to find suitable intended parents. However, you can do this independently by looking through Facebook groups, online communities, and surrogate classifieds.

If you choose to work with a surrogacy professional, they will manage all aspects of the process: matching, medical and psychological screening, legal paperwork, appointments, and reimbursements.

5. The Match

After finding potential intended parents, you must interview each other to see if you are a good match. Both you and the intended parents must agree on the main considerations of surrogacy. Also, the intended parents’ values and expectations should align with yours.

Before you make the final decision, you should meet the intended parents (and their family) in person. If you choose to move forward and become a gestational carrier for international intended parents, you should try to meet them through Skype, Google Meet, etc.

The first meeting should be about getting to know each other and setting expectations. If you need more clarification about what questions to ask, here are nine questions to get you started.

  • Why did you choose surrogacy?
  • What is your family like?
  • What is important to you?
  • What are you looking for in a surrogate?
  • How do you plan to be involved?
  • Would you like to be present for the birth?
  • How many embryos do you expect to transfer?
  • Would you like to maintain contact after the baby is born?
  • Would you like to maintain contact after the baby is born?

Getting to know the intended parents is an essential part of the process. You will likely be very nervous initially, but asking questions is the best way to ensure you choose the right match. As you read on, you will find more questions to ask. Remember, there are no silly questions.

What to Expect After the Match?

While every surrogacy experience is different, there are certain things you can expect after being matched with prospective parents.

Before the Pregnancy

Physical Examination and Mental Health Evaluation

You will need a complete medical checkup to confirm your health to carry a baby to full term. Also, you must undergo an evaluation with a mental health care professional to ensure you are emotionally ready for the journey ahead.

The medical exams vary from clinic to clinic; however, most checkups include the following tests:

  • Vaginal ultrasound
  • Physical and pap smear
  • Hysteroscopy
  • Blood test and medical instructions regarding IVF or IUI procedures
  • Medications
  • Embryo transfer

The Legal Agreement

You and the intended parents will normally sign the contract after you pass the medical screening. The legal agreement should include:

  • The agreed-upon process
  • Rights and responsibilities pertaining to both parties
  • A clear outline of expenses (who will pay for what, when, and how)
  • Considerations relating to sensitive scenarios such as selective reduction and termination
  • Actions to be taken in response to unforeseen complications
  • Resolution of parental rights
  • And more

Once you pass your medical screening and psychological assessment and the contract is signed, the next step is to begin the medical procedures.

No matter what type of surrogacy you pursue, you will become pregnant through artificial reproductive technologies (ART). This means that either IUI (in traditional surrogacy) or IVF (in gestational surrogacy) will be used as a means of impregnation.

During the Pregnancy

You will receive prenatal care during the pregnancy just as any other pregnant woman would. Also, you need to know that a surrogacy pregnancy can be more emotionally challenging than other pregnancies for you and the intended parents. That said, there are two things you can do to make the pregnancy easier for everyone involved.

Normalize your pregnancy condition.

There will probably be some awkward situations when people ask about your pregnancy or offer congratulations. You might be unsure what to say, so you must prepare for these comments and learn to be comfortable talking about your surrogacy journey.

Remember that most people have a positive attitude toward surrogacy. However, you may encounter people who will not understand why you chose to become a surrogate. Also, remember that surrogacy is still stigmatized in some places. The best way to deal with it is to act naturally because there’s really no need to make a fuss.

Understand that it is normal to have conflicting feelings.

No matter how comfortable you are with this incredible journey, you may sometimes have confusing feelings about your pregnancy. These feelings are due to hormones, so you can’t control them. However, if your emotions have a negative impact on your thoughts, behavior, etc., it is vital that you share them with your husband, partner, family, or friends. You can also reach out to online surrogacy support groups or read surrogates blogs like:

These websites are just a few of the hundreds available. Each author has their own story to tell, so you should try to visit several websites.

After the Pregnancy

Most surrogates are glad for the intended parents when the baby is born. However, every journey is different. Some women may struggle emotionally—in large part due to hormones. You should be prepared for this time of transition and be able to adjust with little difficulty. However, there is no shame in reaching out for help if you think you need it.

gestational carrier

Things to consider while becoming Surrogate: Pros and Cons

Most prospective surrogates weigh the benefits and drawbacks of surrogacy before embarking on the journey.

Some pros of becoming a surrogate include the fulfilling experience of helping someone add to their family when they otherwise couldn’t, the financial benefit (which could help you and your family achieve some goals), and health insurance coverage.

On the flip side, surrogacy is a roller coaster full of emotions. Carrying a baby for someone else is a big responsibility in itself. When you add your hormones to the mix, you can expect to feel things to a heightened degree.

Surrogacy can be a lengthy process, so you need to be able to commit for more than one year. This means that you will be taking considerable energy and time away from your family and yourself.

Then there are the usual things that every pregnant woman goes through. For example, there are always risks involved in carrying a child.

Remember, things won’t always go as planned – a reality that any prospective surrogate should consider.

FAQ – Common Questions from Surrogates

How long does the surrogate process take?

In general, a surrogacy journey can take anywhere from 13-20 months. However, several variables can affect the length of the surrogacy process, such as the length of time it takes to find intended parents or how you respond to IVF medications.

How long does it take for a surrogate to find a match?

This depends on the route you take: going independent or working with an agency. Typically, agencies will find you a match a month or two after registering. In contrast, finding a match via an independent search can take much longer.

What does the surrogacy process look like?

Here’s a six-step guide to the surrogacy process:

  1. Educate yourself.
  2. Find your Intended Parents.
  3. Medical and Psychological Screening.
  4. Legal Agreement.
  5. Cycling Medications and first embryo transfer.
  6. Pregnancy.

How much do you get paid to be a surrogate mother?

While surrogate compensation varies depending on your insurance, state of residence, your experience with surrogacy, or if you have multiples, a gestational carrier can get paid about $20,000 to $50,000

What expenses are typically covered during surrogacy?

While base compensation is agreed upon before signing the surrogacy contract, there are additional expenses that can be covered. They can include medical bills, travel expenses, multiples fee, invasive procedures fee, embryo transfer fee, and allowances for maternity clothes.

Can I become a surrogate without a previous pregnancy?

No. This a rule established by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM). It aims to increase the chances of a successful outcome, and to prove that a surrogate can safely deliver a healthy baby to term.

What do I need to be a surrogate?

Surrogate requirements may vary. The most common ones are:

  • Be within a certain age range.
  • Have had at least one previous healthy pregnancy with no complications.
  • No smoking or drug use.
  • Have a healthy BMI.
  • Be financially stable.
  • Live in a surrogacy-friendly state.

What can make me ineligible to pursue surrogacy?

Several conditions and pregnancy-related complications can make someone ineligible for surrogacy.

  • No history of pregnancy.
  • Outside of age range.
  • Unhealthy BMI.
  • Uncontrolled serious health conditions.
  • Smoking and drug use.
  • Having an STD.

Does a surrogate mother use her own eggs?

Gestational surrogates do not use their own eggs, but traditional surrogates do.

Will I be related to the baby?

As noted above, a gestational surrogate does not use her own eggs, therefore, there will be no genetical link between the surrogate and the baby.

Can a surrogate breastfeed the baby?

No, but a surrogate can pump breast milk for intended parents. Per The American Society of Reproductive Medicine guidelines, it is advised that a surrogate not breastfeed the baby due to considerations of attachment.

Can I be a surrogate more than once?

Yes, you can be a surrogate mother more than once.

How many times can a woman be a surrogate?

It depends on the fertility clinic requirements, but typically the surrogate to be is required to have less than 5 full term pregnancies to be a surrogate.

Assuming that you had just one child of your own, you could be a gestational carrier up to four times.

Can I become a surrogate for my friend?

Yes, it’s usually possible for you to pursue gestational surrogacy for a family member or for a friend.

Is it illegal to get paid for being a surrogate?

The laws surrounding surrogacy vary between different countries; for example, Canada only allows altruistic surrogacy. This means that only pregnancy-related expenses can be reimbursed. In the US, commercial surrogacy is the norm. This means that surrogates can be compensated for more than just pregnancy-related expenses, however, the degree of compensation can vary and is determined by state laws.

How many embryos will be transferred?

For most surrogacy processes, one embryo is transferred per transfer. Typically, no more than two.

The number of embryos to be transferred will be determined by you and the intended parents during the matching process and will be outlined in your surrogacy contract.

Wrapping Up

 

In this post, we tried to answer questions about why and how to become a surrogate and reviewed the things you should consider before moving forward. However, every surrogacy will differ for each woman based on her personal experience with pregnancy, her connection with the prospective parents, and the degree of preparedness she approaches the journey.

If being a surrogate mother interests you, don’t hesitate to learn more about how the process works. One way to do this is to contact a surrogacy specialist. The specialist can provide information on various topics, including the requirements and legalities.

These things aside, remember that being a gestational surrogate will change your life and the intended parents’ lives forever.
Take your time and follow your heart!

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Written by David
I work daily to make surrogacy available to as many intended parents, surrogate mothers and egg donors around the world as possible.
3 Comments
  1. How long after giving birth can a woman become a gestational surrogate?

    • It depends on the fertility clinic but about 3 months for vaginal delivery and 6 months if a C-section was needed.
      Please get in contact with your IVF clinic to know more about the waiting time for becoming a surrogate after a birth.

  2. Thanks for writing this post about how to become a surrogate. This process is not easy when going Indy and this blog is very helpful.

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