5 Questions to Ask When Building Your Family Through Surrogacy

The decision to become a parent isn't one that's made lightly. If carrying a pregnancy to term is not an option, surrogacy, or using the help of a gestational carrier, becomes a viable alternative — another decision not lightly made. When making such a life-altering decision, a myriad of questions needs answering, but one sits atop the list: Is surrogacy right for me?

Read on for more information to help determine if using a gestational carrier makes sense for your family-building journey.

1. Is Surrogacy Right for Me?

A gestational carrier, commonly referred to as a surrogate, is someone who agrees to have the fertilized egg, or embryo, of another couple implanted into their uterus. The gestational carrier then carries the pregnancy for the other couple, doesn't provide any genetic material (the egg) for the baby, and has no biological (genetic or DNA) relation to the child.

Finding the right gestational carrier (surrogate) to kick-start your family can take months. Using the services of an agency shields you from many of the tedious screening procedures. California Fertility Partners works with the top surrogacy agencies in the country to match intended parents with a suitable gestational carrier (surrogate.)

2. Should I Use a Surrogacy Agency or Find a Gestational Carrier Myself?

It's your decision whether you would like to engage the services of a surrogacy agency or arrange the services of a donor and gestational carrier on your own. Reputable surrogacy agencies pre-screen their gestational carrier applicants, offer legal referrals, assist you with navigating the legal aspects of using a gestational carrier, and can provide administrative help should you need it.

Once you've decided to utilize the help of a gestational carrier for your path to parenthood, the next major hurdle is to find the gestational carrier (surrogate) that's right for your family.

Here are four methods intended parents can use to find the perfect gestational carrier (surrogate).

Enlist the Services of a Surrogacy Agency

These agencies help intended parents find a suitable gestational carrier (surrogate) and coordinate the surrogacy process once they've located a match. Agencies screen prospective surrogates, vetting them through their agency policies that usually include a review of medical records, background checks, psychological evaluations, and in-depth interviews. Some agencies also conduct home visits of potential candidates.

Surrogate Search Service

Finding a suitable gestational carrier (surrogate) can be time-consuming. One way to expedite the process is to engage a search service. These agencies will tackle the complex task of scouring multiple surrogacy agencies, usually close to one hundred or more, for the perfect match for potential parents. This service can be expensive, but a search agency will guarantee the suitability of a potential surrogate match. Surrogate agencies will frequently offer this service to their clients, either as part of the surrogate agreement or as an additional paid option.

Intended Parents Make an Independent Match with a Gestational Carrier

Intended parents usually hope to reduce the overall costs of the surrogacy process by independently finding a gestational carrier (surrogate). Prospective surrogates and hopeful parents can connect directly via various online groups and social media platforms.

Enlist a Family Member or Friend

There have been cases of family or friends offering to carry a pregnancy for another. If considering this option, the intended parents and the prospective surrogate will meet with a counselor specializing in surrogacy.

3. What Are the Legal Concerns with Gestational Carriers (Surrogates)?

Surrogacy laws vary from state to state, so the first thing you'll need to do is research the laws in the state where your surrogate lives and will give birth. You will eventually need to work with an attorney to navigate the legal considerations that accompany surrogacy. Regardless of the state, the legal surrogacy process has two main parts:

The Gestational Carrier (Surrogacy) Agreement

The gestational carrier and the intended parents, each working with their own independent attorney, must draft, negotiate and execute a written surrogacy agreement. This agreement will outline the rights, obligations, representations, and acknowledgments between the gestational carrier and the intended parents, including, among other things, the financial obligations of all parties.

The Parental Order

In all surrogacy matters, it is important to obtain a court order establishing the intended parents as the legal parents and establishing how the birth certificate should be filled out by the state's "vital records" office.

In many states, this court order can be obtained pre-birth (although a pre-birth order is not effective until birth.) In some states, the court order is obtained in two steps, a pre-birth order and a final post-birth order. In other states, the process is completed entirely post-birth. Finally, although this is rare, in some states, a non-biological parent must complete a post-birth adoption, either in the birth state or in the intended parent's home jurisdiction.

The complexity of this process underscores the importance of seeking legal counsel before the match is confirmed so that intended parents are fully informed about whether the match is legally suitable for them and so that they are fully informed about the procedures, timelines, and costs that will be involved in their legal process.

4. Do I need egg donation?

Individuals who, for whatever reason, cannot physically carry a pregnancy to term frequently turn to surrogacy. For many, another option to build a family is to use the help of an egg donor. Often, donor egg IVF cycles are accompanied by the use of a gestational carrier, specifically in treatment plans for same-sex male couples.

The egg donor provides half of the child's genetic material in this option. Intended parents can select candidates in good health with characteristics they consider important, such as ethnic background, educational achievements, physical features, and personality. These egg donors must meet strict criteria to qualify, such as passing a thorough physical exam, having a body mass index under thirty-five, testing negative for drug and nicotine screening, and living a healthy lifestyle.

5. What Is the Average Surrogacy Cost in the U.S.?

A surrogacy IVF cycle is a complex process with a cost that varies drastically from provider to provider, state to state. It is a medical procedure that insurance companies typically do not often cover, leaving the intended parents to bear the full out-of-pocket expenses for the gestational carrier's medical and other bills.

On average, in the U.S., the fee for a gestational carrier is about $60,000. Very few programs charge a flat rate. Many charge administrative fees, surrogate health insurance premiums, a maternity clothing stipend, and typically a price between $13,000 and $25,000 for the gestational carrier's services. Additional charges may accrue for multiple births or the need for a C-section.

In-vitro fertilization (IVF) screening and related procedures may add $10,000 to $15,000 to the intended parents' financial obligations. Legal fees can amount to $10,000 or more, and a negotiated stipend for the gestational carrier to cover maternity clothing, support group meetings, and other incidental expenses may range between $4,000 to $6,000.

Building Life Through Surrogacy

Learn more about growing your family through the help of surrogacy and IVF. California Fertility Partners is a medical practice staffed with expert doctors who aim to provide comprehensive, compassionate fertility care to future parents. If you'd like to learn more about surrogacy, connect with us at California Fertility Partners.

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