Are you feeling lost? Whether you are interested in creating your family via surrogacy or giving the gift of parenthood as a surrogate, starting a surrogacy journey can feel like starting a trip to a faraway place with no map or a compass and only a few clues on where to start searching.
Surrogacy is truthfully an amazing journey of highs and lows for both prospective surrogates and intended parents. The success of this journey and the joy and satisfaction felt along the way have a lot to do with understanding all the moving parts involved in this process.
Maybe you have already searched for tips and tricks that guarantee a successful journey, but you have to understand that no one tip applies to everyone. People are different. Each one of us has his or her own expectations and goals for this breathtaking journey. What can be a lifesaver for one could not work at all for someone else.
If you are in this situation and are looking for the best advice for your coming surrogacy journey, then look no further. We’ve got you covered! We have gathered 24 experts in the surrogacy field—everyone from specialized third-party lawyers, top surrogacy agencies, and recognized fertility counselors to infertility specialists, egg donor professionals, and former intended parents and surrogates—to answer two main questions:
- What is your number one tip for a successful surrogacy journey?
- What is the biggest mistake you often see intended parents or surrogates make?
We received a large variety of insights. Take what feels right for you.
Executive Director of Creating a Family
Make sure both sides have legal representation by an attorney who specializes in reproductive law. These experts will help you think through all the sticky issues in advance, then you can both relax and have a wonderful pregnancy. No matter how your child becomes yours, it’s a miracle.
Editor of Fertility Road, the world’s leading fertility magazine.
Managing Director of the International Fertility Company.
It is important to remember that your surrogate has chosen you as much as you have chosen her. A reciprocal relationship based on good communication will be far more beneficial than any based solely on the bottom line. Use available, appropriate and acceptable means of communication to show and share your excitement, understanding, and commitment to your surrogate – remember you are making this journey together!
Every surrogate-intended-parent relationship will be different, so it’s good to be flexible to address any practical or emotional challenges that may arise. As a surrogate you need to ensure and understand the intended parents’ motivation: your relationship with them might be the cultivation of many years of hope and desire to have a child. Do take time to understand their anxieties; a lack of communication can often increase stress and damage your relationship with intended parents. As a surrogate, you need to take an active part in creating a communications schedule however formal, help establish and maintain mutual trust and respect – if you do not you are in danger of creating an unhealthy relationship which will make the fertility journey very fraught.
Reproductive Lawyer. Founded Law Offices of Amy Demma in 2008. Providing services in Reproductive Law, offering legal counsel to parents, egg donors, embryo donors, parties engaged in compassionate/non-compensated surrogacy as well as clinical practitioners and agencies.
Take advantage of the mental health resources available to those engaged in third-party family building beyond just the initial meetings required by most clinics. Our mental health colleagues are an invaluable resource and should be a long-term part of the assisted family building team.
Amira is a Social Worker in Toronto, Ontario. She works with individuals and couples who are struggling with infertility. She is also a mother of three miracles.
Tip: Having flexibility and let go! Realize that this process requires you to relinquish control over what you thought was in your control. Surrogate-Intended Parent relationships can be impacted by anxious intended parents with porous boundaries. Practice compassion with acceptance. This is likely a life-long relationship.
Biggest Mistake: Not taking the time to understand the laws of surrogacy wherever you reside. There are some states where surrogacy is not legal. It is important to consult with a reproductive lawyer as well as meet with a counselor to discuss the implications.
Staci Swiderski, Co-founder and CEO of Family Source Consultants.
The world of third-party reproduction, and surrogacy especially, is not for the faint of heart- be prepared to defer “control” to numerous professionals and extrinsic factors, which at the end of the day, even with the best education and planning, will remain out of your control.
Partnering with the best for your fertility clinic, agency, and legal representation will help to eliminate MANY unknowns – but because the end result is dependent on the successful collision of science, medicine, and human emotion/characteristics, the path to reach that result is not always a straight line, nor is the same path ever repeated from one journey to the next.
Surround yourself with individuals and professionals best suited to help you navigate the options and paths presented to you, and start your journey with realistic expectations, including the acknowledgment that plan B or C may need to be employed.
Serena H Chen
Dr. Chen is the Director of Reproductive Medicine at IRMS at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, NJ and Clinical Associate Professor at Rutgers NJ Medical School and Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
Candace Wohl is a free-lance digital marketer, writer, infertility advocate, speaker, mother through surrogacy and co-author of the blog, Our Misconception. Candace and her husband were also featured on MTV’s True Life, “I’m Desperate to Have a Baby”.
Did I mention communication? Because it is kinda a big deal. It begins with the art of question asking, trust me there will be many hard topic items that will arise throughout the surrogacy that both parties would have wished to hash out prior to signing those life-changing (and life-bringing!) dotted lines. Not everyone will see eye to eye. When those moments do surface, communicate. That means listening patiently without judgment and then talking through ways to meet in the middle to work it out. It can be a long 9 months, its best set a precedence for a two-way-communication street.
Nina Barnsley – Donor Conception Network
Donor Conception Network – UK based charity supporting people considering donor conception (sperm, egg or embryo donation, with or without surrogacy) and families created or expanded this way.
Spend as much time as possible looking into all your options and considering the implications for everyone involved – intended parent, surrogate, donor (if relevant) and the future child. Don’t shy away from exploring difficult feelings. Preparation is the key.
Building legally strong families is the focus of Attorney Chrissy Hanisco’s law practice. She represents individuals and couples who are building their families through adoption and assisted reproductive technology. She is licensed in New Hampshire and Massachusetts.
The biggest mistake I see is around single (sET) versus double embryo (dET) transfers. IPs often believe that a double embryo transfer increases their odds of pregnancy and is a “two for one”. Similarly, I see surrogates thinking carrying twins is no big deal, and wanting to put the IPs’ preference over their health. While a double embryo transfer can result in twins and a healthy, uncomplicated pregnancy the reality is the risks and costs associated with a twin pregnancy and delivery are higher, and the risk to the surrogate’s health and the babies health is significant.
My number one tip for a successful surrogacy journey is to slow down and really think through what you want out of the relationship with your surrogate or intended parents; both during the cycle and pregnancy, as well as after. Knowing what that looks like will help you and your agency find you the best possible match.
Mark P. Trolice
Mark P. Trolice, M.D., FACOG, FACS, FACE is Director of Fertility CARE – The IVF Center and Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology (OB/GYN) at the University of Central Florida College of Medicine.
We advise intended parents (IPs) to have realistic expectations along with acceptance of the challenging and exciting journey. Once a client or couple enter the world of third-party reproduction, the information they receive is overwhelming. The path is a significant emotional and financial investment. So, to minimize stress and confusion, they should be confident when choosing the surrogacy agency and reproductive medicine center that provide individualized personal care, full disclosure of pregnancy success rates, and itemization of all costs. The IPs should be made to feel as a partner with the entire healthcare team, surrogacy center, and reproductive attorney. Ultimately, trust is a key factor throughout the process. The IPs and the gestational carrier must have mutual respect and a trusting relationship throughout the entire path to parenthood.
Richard and his partner Steven undertook surrogacy in the United States and learned everything about the process during the process. Since the twins were born, Richard has become an advocate helping prospective parents learn more about surrogacy.
My top tip for anyone starting an international surrogacy journey is to understand the legal implications of doing the process in the intended parents’ home country. This way, the intended parents know from the outset exactly what the process will entail once their child is born. This means that they will not have the panic of thinking about how they are all going to get home as that has all been sorted out before.
If that’s been looked at already then I suggest to intended parents that they think about choosing their IVF clinic. Money is always tight and never more so than with the (expensive) IVF and surrogacy process. For people looking at surrogacy, by freezing sperm first the intended parents are able to split the payments into bite-size chunks. The first payment is for the sperm freeze and FDA testing. The second is then for the egg donor (if needed) and the IVF and fertilization.
Now that the success rates between fresh and frozen are basically the same, once the embryos are made and frozen for future use, the intended parents can stop and take stock. Not only financially (as you don’t have to pay for the surrogacy agency part yet as that’s step 3) but also emotionally as intended parents are able to see what the lay of the land is. How many embryos you have, what their quality is and what your next steps are going to be etc. Then when they have financially recovered, the next steps within the surrogacy process can start.
Of course, I would love to say that the first step for anyone thinking about surrogacy is to read my book.
Sara practices exclusively in the area of fertility law in Canada. She works with intended parents, surrogates, donors, clinics, hospitals, and cryobanks. She is also an adjunct professor of law at Osgoode Hall Law School, a fellow of AAAA and on the executive of the ART committee.
My number one tip is to put yourself in the shoes of the other party. Surrogacy here in Canada (and probably in many other places) is all about respect and connection!
Dr. Deborah Simmons has provided specializing counseling for infertility-related trauma and pregnancy loss for more than 20 years.
The biggest mistake I see IPs making is cutting corners on psychological, medical, and legal preparations. The money you “save” by skipping required steps costs you dearly in the end. The psychological interview and tests you skipped may result in a GC who is completely inappropriate to carry your baby. The next biggest mistake is getting the legal contract done before psychological and medical clearance, followed by doing the legal contract yourself on the Internet. Oh, hell no. Finally, not being clear with the GC and yourself about how compensation will be paid out can result in resentment and upset. The surrogacy journey is not a done deal or a “thing” unless and until each step of the process is done completely and appropriately.
The biggest mistake I see GC’s making is not asking for compensation because they think that this will be a lifelong friendship where the love and appreciation will flow forever. Compensation allows all parties to be held accountable. One last thing: don’t stay at your IPs’ home. Boundaries are good!
Kristin is an owner and executive director of finance at Simple Surrogacy
Practice patience and trust your providers. The surrogacy journey is a long one and there are many moving pieces. It is crucial that people contemplating a surrogacy journey understand that nothing happens overnight and they should trust the guides they have chosen to make sure their journey is happening at the right speed to ensure that everything is done carefully, without rushing, so nothing is overlooked.
The biggest mistake that we see Intended Parents and Surrogates make is not talking to their coordinators to express their thoughts and feeling about the journey along the way. There are many emotions at many points in the surrogacy journey, and if things are spoken about with coordinators and there is open and honest communication, small differences and challenges do not become big differences and challenges.
Robert T. Terenzio
Robert Terenzio owns a law firm that exclusively practices in assisted reproductive technology law. Robert is a member of the American Bar Association, Assisted Reproduction Committee for which he advises on continuing legal education programs.
My number one tip for a successful surrogacy journey is to be mindful of the number of ways a journey can be derailed. Secure the medical aspect of your journey by looking to SART for information and then interview the Reproductive Endocrinologists. Secure the financial aspect of your journey by always placing funds into an independent, insured and bonded escrow company. Finally, secure the legal aspect of your journey by investigating the attorneys, ask about their professional history as it relates to ART and speak to more than one before deciding who will be hired.
The biggest mistake that IPs can make is to focus solely on the financial aspects of the journey. Yes, we all have a budget. However, there is an inverse relationship between a successful journey and financial contributions. As success includes a relative lack or a reduction in stress and conflict, cutting financial corners can increase the stress and/or conflict between the parties involved in the journey.
David and Josh
David and Josh have been together for more than twenty years. They are raising two sets of fraternal twins born through gestational surrogacy. AJ and JJ were born in California, and DJ and MJ were born six years later in India.
Communication is very important in the surrogacy process, especially at the beginning. The best surrogacy agencies are the ones that carefully match intended parents with surrogates that have similar expectations. If intended parents are seeking out surrogates independently, it is extremely important that all parties communicate and are “on the same page” on important issues like the possibility of multiples, selective reduction, possible termination of pregnancy if fetal abnormalities occur, diet during pregnancy, possibility of C-section, hospital vs. home birth, and ongoing relationship after baby or babies are born. Even if intended parents decide to work with a surrogate independently without an agency, they should still work with a lawyer and have these agreements listed in a contract before starting on their journey. The biggest mistake that we see intended parents make that can lead to disastrous situations is when they enter into informal agreements with surrogates that leave too much unsaid, skipping agencies and even lawyers in an effort to save money.
New Born Advantage
Mindy founded Newborn Advantage Surrogacy to support IPs not only grow their families but to give their babies an advantage in life through a highly selective genetic selection process and optimized birthing environment.
Our number one tip would be to find a quality surrogate that you match well with! We focus on optimizing a newborn’s birthing environment and one way we do that is by matching IPs with quality surrogates!
Sharon is also the Owner of LaMothe Services, LLC, an ART business solutions service started in 2008 and is the proud founder of LaMothe Surrogacy Consulting, founded in 2010, aimed at teaching IPs and Surrogates about surrogacy and their options, risks & rewards.
I feel that IPs underestimate the timeline as well as the cost. Depending on if they are working on an independent surrogacy journey or with an agency the timeline always seems to be off. If IPs are going independent then often times they underestimate what the budget should be for each step. They also make assumptions (in both cases) that the surrogate will become pregnant on the first round of IVF and will never need bed rest and everything associated with that. There are misconceptions on what a pregnant woman needs in order for her to carry for another couple. Oftentimes the rest of the surrogate’s family is in the background for the IP and they don’t realize how much support the husband gives and how children impact the entire journey.
As for women wanting to become surrogate, they often think that because they became pregnant so easily and had no real complications that the expectation is that the next pregnancy would be the same, smooth sailing, which is often not the case. Another mistake I see from surrogates that any complication they had with their own pregnancy would not be of interest or affect the outcome of a surrogacy pregnancy. They are often willing to overlook what “could happen” and wear rose-colored glasses so that if/when something unexpected turns up they are in complete shock. You’d think that this mindset would be caught during the mental health evaluation but sometimes it’s not.
Shirley Eve Levitan
Shirley is licensed to practice law in Ontario. Adjunct Professor, Queens University Law School. Elected Fellow of the Academy of Adoption and Assisted Reproductive Technology Lawyers, and Chair of the Law and Ethics Special Interest Group, Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society
I have had the good fortune to be practicing in the area of fertility law since 1996! Based in Toronto, I assist people from all over the world. Needless to say, I have seen many, many changes. There are few ‘golden rules’ that don’t change and apply equally to intended parents and potential surrogates. I can sum a few of them up as follows:
1. Don’t use an agreement off the internet, or a precedent from someone’s else journey, or even from your own previous journey, for that matter! The legal landscape in Canada regarding surrogacy, and in Ontario regarding parentage, changes on what seems to be, an ongoing basis! Even protocols, policies and industry standards change. It is best to consult with a lawyer experienced in this area to ensure your rights are covered, your responsibilities are clear, and that your arrangement complies with the relevant laws.
2. ‘Trust your gut’ when it comes to choosing who to work with! Whether you are an intended parent or a potential surrogate, you cannot always tell from reading a profile or having a phone call or two, if there will be a good connection. If at all possible, meet in person first. If that is not realistic, then have a number of skype/facetime meetings that will ideally include both intended parents (if there are two), and the surrogate’s spouse and children.
3. Cover all your bases in terms of information gathering. Whether it is from the perspective of counseling, medical information or legal information, make sure you are well informed about the process you are considering entering into!
Reproductive endocrinologist and Director of the Center for Recurrent Pregnancy Loss at Pacific NW Fertility and Clinical Faculty at the University of Washington in Seattle.
Intended parents and surrogates should avoid rushing into an agreement and surrogacy treatment. It’s understandable that patients are anxious to start their family but important to take the time for legal contracts, thorough evaluation, and counseling.
In clinical practice in Los Angeles with California Fertility Partners for over 25 years. Dr. Ringler was awarded a Family Building award from the American Fertility Association for his work, and he has been named a Super Doctor by Los Angeles Magazine.
It’s very important that agencies match intended parents with surrogates that share their expectations for the journey. How closely will you stay in touch during the pregnancy? How connected do you want to be after your baby’s birth? In this way, all individuals will feel supported and gratified by this unique and wonderful experience.
Lisa is an award winning author of several medical publications and Director of the Center for Family Building. She has helped hundreds of people have successful journeys.
One of the biggest mistakes intended parents can make is to let the relationship grow “organically”. The relationship is much like an arranged marriage. There may be a honeymoon period but to ensure that you have a close relationship, a good story to tell your future child and a closeness that will weather any potential difficulties, its important to put consistent energy into the relationship from the beginning and get to know each other as people, and not let conversations only focus on the pregnancy.
Leia is a mother to five and twice a gestational surrogate. She began Canadian Fertility Consulting in 2007 after her second surrogacy, with the intention of creating happier and more rewarding experiences for both intended parents and surrogates.
The biggest mistake we see intended parents make is that they don’t communicate what they need, and the surrogate doesn’t communicate what she needs. Frequently people are so grateful and excited to be involved in the process that they move forward too quickly or not quickly enough and let communication break down. Our number one tip for a successful surrogacy journey would be: have patience, honesty, and understanding. This is the most important relationship you will have for the next year to two years, and possibly forever. Cherish it and value it, honor this process and be patient with yourself, your partner and your surrogate. This is a marathon, not a sprint.
Emilee has represented intended parents and gestational surrogates in her role as an attorney for years. She was inspired to co-found Dakota Surrogacy, LLC to serve clients by matching and facilitating the process, bringing her experience in the law to benefit clients.
My number one tip for a successful journey is for the intended parents and surrogate to discuss the ‘what ifs’ before they enter into a contract. Talking about expectations thoroughly will help ensure a good match! Our agency screens and facilitates the match and works with the parties throughout the whole process. Our goal is for each participant to feel they had a satisfying and fulfilling experience.
“Parents move mountains to bring children into their families. It is so rewarding for me to be a part of reaching their goals.”
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A big thanks to all the experts who contributed to this awesome surrogacy roundup! You are the true authors of this post.
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