Independent surrogacy (also known as Indy surrogacy or private surrogacy) is completed without an agency and usually only with a family attorney and fertility clinic
The decision to find a surrogate without an agency often depends on the type of surrogate you are seeking and your time frame. There are many reasons to find an independent surrogate, not the least of which is financial savings. Surrogacy is never cheap, but using an agency can sometimes drive up the cost of the journey.
One of the first things intended parents do when pursuing an independent journey is decide what kind of surrogate they are seeking: traditional or gestational. The type of surrogate can affect the way intended parents locate their surrogate. Let’s explore these types and how they can affect the journey.
Looking for a Traditional Surrogate
Traditional surrogacy is when the chosen surrogate also provides the egg for the intended parents. This type of surrogacy is rarer than gestational surrogacy and can often involve a family member. For example, let’s say same-sex couple Jim and Pete want to have a baby. They decide that rather than adopt, they want to be at least partially connected to the baby. Jim’s sister Gina agrees to carry the baby and provide the egg. In this case, Jim cannot provide the sperm for fertilization. Pete, however, could provide the sperm.
Does a Traditional Surrogate Have to Be a Relative?
No, a traditional surrogate can be anyone. In the previous scenario, Jim and Pete could use a friend or someone unknown.
How Do Prospective Parents Find an Unknown Traditional Surrogate?
Many websites, social media platforms, and fertility clinics can help put intended parents in touch with surrogates.
Finding an unknown traditional surrogate can sometimes be complicated. The laws for handing over a child that is genetically connected to the surrogate can be confusing and benefit the carrier more than the intended parents. For this reason, if a couple is looking for a traditional, unknown surrogate, it is often advisable to use an agency or an attorney familiar with this process.
Looking for a Gestational Surrogate
The more popular method of surrogacy, especially in the US and Canada, is gestational surrogacy. With gestational surrogacy, the surrogate simply carries the embryo to term and delivers the baby. The embryo is created in a lab using eggs from someone other than the carrier. Most of the time, it is the intended mother’s eggs, but it could also be another donor’s eggs.
This type of surrogacy is preferred by many because it minimizes the loopholes that the carrier may use later to claim the child. Although custody battles rarely happen, gestational surrogacy is far less risky for both parties than traditional surrogacy.
Known Gestational Carriers
Like traditional surrogacy, a known gestational carrier could be a friend, family member, or acquaintance. Sometimes, the intended parents have a family member who is willing to help carry to term a baby if they cannot. In these cases, the egg and the sperm often belong to the parents. For example, Sam and Jen have been trying to have a baby for several years. They have suffered several miscarriages and learn that there is a problem with Jen’s uterus. They may ask Jen’s sister, Candace, to carry their child. Jen and Sam provide their genetic material, and Candace is simply a gestational carrier (gestational surrogate) for the embryo.
In some cases, however, the egg or sperm may be donated by another person.
Unknown Gestational Carriers
This situation is what many people think of when they think about surrogacy outside of family members. A childless couple or individual who wants a child finds a woman willing to carry that child to term.
Most of the time, people do not just walk up to a woman and ask her to carry a baby. Let’s take a look at how some intended parents connect with independent carriers.
- Surrogacy and infertility websites, forums, and online communities. These websites help prospective parents connect with surrogates and egg donors. The parties involved may be in different parts of the world, so it is important to make sure where your carrier lives. Surrogacy is not an inexpensive journey in any capacity. Traveling across international lines can get even more expensive and complicated because you’ll have to navigate multiple countries’ laws. Due to some foreign countries’ laws about the birth of children and their citizenship, many prospective parents will opt to use surrogates only in their home country.
- Social media. Social media can connect people in many ways. Surrogacy groups on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or other networks might be beneficial for matching independent gestational surrogates to intended parents. At the very least, they may be able to start conversations or help spread the word that someone is looking for a match.
- Blogs. You can create your own free blog with WordPress or Blogger to help you share your story.
- Fertility clinics and surrogacy lawyers. Sometimes, your fertility doctor or surrogacy lawyer has worked with a surrogate before and knows she is willing to be a carrier again. In this case, they may be able to set up a meeting or conversation between the interested parties.
- Word of mouth. If one person knows a surrogate, they may be able to pass her information along to the intended parents. Tell everyone you know that you are looking for a surrogate. Share your dream of becoming parents with family and friends. This method doesn’t always work, but you should try every possible avenue.
Whenever you ask a surrogate mother why she chose a particular family, she will tell you that her choice was informed by the feeling she had when reading and looking at the intended parents’ story.
Thinking about Going Independent? 11 Tips for Your Indy Surrogacy Search
We give you eleven ideas for finding an independent surrogate mother on your own.
If you need to find an independent egg donor you use an egg donor database.
Please, note that forums and online groups are a good opportunity to meet potential independent surrogate mothers for your Indy surrogacy journey. However, they are not regulated or monitored, so you need to use good judgment and do a rigorous screening.
Considerations When Looking for an Independent Surrogate Mother
There is no official regulation about who can and cannot become a surrogate mother, but there are common recommendations to consider:
- The private surrogate mother should be at least 21-year old
- She has given birth to a healthy child at least once (to ensure she understands the medical risks involved with pregnancy and childbirth)
- She must undergo a thorough medical exam to ensure she can carry a baby full-term. She must also get tested for various sexually transmitted diseases, including but not limited to HIV, hepatitis B and C, syphilis, chlamydia, and Gonorrhea
- A mental health professional will carry out a psychological screening to determine if there will or will not be problems giving up the baby after birth
- She understands the responsibilities (like prenatal care, giving the baby up after birth, etc.) and the need to sign a private surrogacy contract (also in independent surrogacy).
Questions to Ask When Finding an Independent Surrogate
When pursuing an Indy surrogacy, you will have to take care of the prescreening of your surrogate mother. Asking the right questions is vital to make the best decision. To make sure you don’t forget any important points, you need to prepare a list of questions to ask in advance.
The big four questions that you should always ask are:
- How many embryos are you willing to transfer?
- How do you feel about selective reduction and abortion?
- Where would you want to deliver the baby (hospital, home, midwifery)?
- What kind of relationship/communication should we maintain before, during and after birth?
You can find 25 more pre-screening questions in the video below.
Keep the list with these questions close to you, and ask them periodically in your first few conversations. Being able to chat casually makes it a lot easier for the surrogate mother to open up and not give generic/easy answers.
There are no hard and fast rules for finding an independent surrogate, but you will likely need to share your story to find an appropriate match. The important thing is to explore all your options and find the carrier who is best for your family. Your independent surrogacy journey will begin with the right carrier and will close with a wonderful addition to your family.
Good luck in pursuing your dreams of parenthood!