It’s estimated that more than 8 million babies have been born via IVF since 1978. Statistics for surrogacy are harder to nail down, but between 1978 and 2008, approximately 28,000 babies were born to surrogate carriers. That’s roughly 1,000 babies per year, or fewer than a hundred babies per month (though that number seems to be increasing in recent years). If it seems like surrogacy information is hard to come by, it’s probably because it’s still relatively uncommon.
Here we’ve put together a helpful guide for finding a surrogate.
Gestational Surrogacy vs. Traditional Surrogacy
Traditional surrogacy is where a woman is artificially inseminated. In this case, she is the baby’s biological mother, making it a much more legally complex situation and a far less common arrangement.
More likely, you’re looking into gestational surrogacy, which is where you and your partner (perhaps with the help of an egg or sperm donor) biologically create an embryo that is implanted and the pregnancy carried by a surrogate. Your search for a surrogate may include a suitable egg/sperm donor and IVF center.
Where to Find a Surrogate
Recruiting a good surrogate can be a time-consuming process. It’s not uncommon for it to take 6-12 months. Depending on what you need and how much you’re looking to spend, you can work with an agency, or find a surrogate on your own. Your options fall roughly into three categories:
- Go through an agency. An agency will take you by the hand and walk you through the entire process, which involves lots of legal considerations, as well as assistance in finding a surrogate and coming to a contractual agreement.
- Choose a friend or family member. A willing friend or family member saves you a potentially lengthy search process, and gives you the added benefit of sharing the experience with the mother. Still, every state has different laws and it’s best to have an experience lawyer to help you draw up a contract–just in case things get complicated.
- Choose an egg donor and a surrogate. Many fertility centers and agencies will assist in finding both a good egg donor and a good surrogate. There are health requirements for potential surrogates to meet as well as a screening process for egg donors.
Regardless of your choice, state laws dictated parental rights–those of both the intended parents and biological parents–so it’s important to work with someone knowledgeable and trustworthy to help you navigate the process. This is especially true if the mother lives in a different state (and is therefore governed by different laws).
Health Requirements for Surrogacy
To become a surrogate, you have to pass a screening and meet a number of health qualifications. Of course, the requirements differ by clinic and by state, but in general surrogates are required to be within a certain age range; have previously given birth; have not had more than 3 C-sections; and be in generally good health. Because agencies screen donors and surrogacy candidates, this is particularly relevant to family/friends serving as a surrogate.
Questions to Ask your Prospective Surrogate
Once you’ve found some candidates, it’s important to interview each in face-to-face. This person will be an important part of your life and you should feel confident and happy in your decision.
Some questions to ask include:
- How were your previous pregnancies?
- How supportive is your partner/spouse/family?
- Are you able to travel to procedures and appointments?
- How do you feel about carrying multiples?
- How do you feel about termination? Selective reduction?
- What do you expect from us?
- How involved would you like us to be?
Ask anything that’s important to you, including diet and musical preferences. Ask about lifestyle and birth plan, and get clarity on your role in all this. Above all, be sure to ask hard questions. If this doesn’t work out, you want to find out in the interview.
Ultimately, this person will be responsible for bringing your baby into the world. How do you feel about that? If you have any other questions or hesitations, work them out before deciding.
Entering Into an Agreement
You may think that all you want is a healthy baby. However, your views of “healthy” may differ from those of your surrogate. Part of the reason a contract is so important, is that you lay out expectations and terms around the terms that matter most to you.
For instance, will you covering their health insurance and medical costs (probably)? What are your preferences of her diet and lifestyle choices? What about work status? Some couples feel strongly that they want their surrogate to be a stay at home mom. Others don’t care but they have preferences around diet, location, animals in the home, and more. And of course, the contract should stipulate surrogate’s compensation.
Another important aspect to consider is parental rights. A surrogate has rights to the child she is carrying until she surrenders those rights. It’s extremely rare for this to be an issue–most surrogates take this on to be surrogates, not lifelong mothers–but it has happened. Bring this up with your surrogate candidate and your lawyers so that everyone is on the same page.
Plan Plan Plan
Every single pregnancy is unique, and when you add in the dynamics of IVF plus a surrogate and intended parents, things can get messy.
That’s why one of the most important decisions is choosing a surrogate you can trust, and that you can make a good plan with. Consider the number of embryos she’ll carry. Consider genetic testing. What about her rights? What about birth or pregnancy complications? What if your surrogate works but the pregnancy is high-risk and she has to spend months on bed rest? What about her income?
Before you sign a contract, get a good lawyer, have frank discussions and make smart plans. You will all be happy you did.
Finding a surrogate isn’t difficult with a great team to support you. Include in your search a legal expert, a fertility clinic and a strong personal support network.