Whether you already knew that you would need a surrogate in order to have children or were surprised at the news, taking the next steps can seem a little overwhelming. It’s normal to have a lot of questions about what to expect before you get started. Check out these surrogacy FAQ and answers for more information.
- How do I/we get started on the surrogacy process?
The first step is to find an experienced surrogacy agency that you feel comfortable working with. It can also be helpful to have a consultation with your fertility specialist to begin discussing the IVF process. Are egg and/or sperm donors needed? Do you have frozen embryos already created and ready to use? Do you, as intended parents, need any additional screening or testing before proceeding with an IVF cycle?
- Can I use a surrogate as a single person or same-sex couple?
Yes! Many single people and same-sex couples have used the surrogacy process as a way to build their families. It can be helpful to find an agency that is experienced in working with singles or same-sex couples to make the process even more seamless.
- Should I work with a surrogate agency?
Unequivocally, yes! Some people elect to go the independent route with someone they know. But this is strongly discouraged. You may save a little bit of money by going the independent route, but you risk your relationship with your surrogate and other family members. There’s also a greater financial risk to you if her insurance or legal contracts are done incorrectly.
- How can I find a surrogate?
The best way to find a surrogate is to work with an agency that is experienced in working with surrogates and intended parents. They can do the appropriate screening and background checks and often have a team of professionals to help facilitate your cycle.
- How are surrogates screened?
Surrogates go through a rigorous screening process. Initially, they will need to fill out an application that provides information about their pregnancy and medical history, personal situation, and why they want to be a surrogate. In order to be approved, she’ll need to meet some basic qualifications:
- Have a BMI below 30 (32 in some cases)
- Be between the ages of 21 and 39 and healthy with regular menstrual cycles. Repeat surrogates can be up to age 42.
- Avoid using alcohol, drugs, and tobacco
- Must be a parent herself, having had at least one successful pregnancy carried to term without complications
- Not receive any government assistance and be financially stable
- Be a US or Canadian citizen, or have valid US Permanent Residency status
- Surrogates and their spouses cannot have any prior felonies
- Cannot be on any medications for a mental illness, such as anxiety, depression, or eating disorders
- Without a history of mental health disorders, such as bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety, personality disorders
- Not currently using an IUD or birth control shots for contraception
If the application is approved, her profile will be available for review by potential intended parents.
Once she is selected, she’ll go through additional screening procedures, including a background and financial check, psychological appointment with a reproductive therapist, and a medical exam. This exam will include testing for infectious diseases and drug use, and an evaluation of the uterus. The testing performed will be at the discretion of the IVF doctor. In some cases, he or she will refer her for additional testing if needed.
- How long does it take for a surrogate to get pregnant?
There are several steps that a surrogate must go through from the time she applies until when she gets pregnant. She’ll initially submit a surrogacy application, which will consist of photos, and information about your medical and pregnancy history. A team member will contact her to complete a phone interview and answer any questions she may have. Next, she’ll have a formal surrogacy interview, which will last around 30-60 minutes.
If both she and the surrogacy team still think she’d be a good fit after this interview, her profile will be placed on the database for potential intended parents to review. When someone is interested in working with her, they’ll each have an opportunity to meet and see if it is a good fit. Once a match has occurred, she’ll undergo an evaluation and testing with the IVF doctor.
After she has been given medical clearance, you and she will go through the legal process of signing contracts. This could take 2-3 minimum weeks, depending on how quickly they are reviewed and signed.
Once the contracts have been signed, you are ready to start the IVF process! This process, from start to finish, could also take a few months, depending on what procedures need to be completed. Some surrogates do not get pregnant on the first cycle, which may mean going through another cycle of IVF.
- Do surrogate mothers share DNA?
There are two types of surrogacy. Gestational surrogacy occurs when the surrogate is only carrying the baby. There is no DNA shared between the surrogate and baby because the embryo was formed with the egg from the intended mother or an egg donor. This type of surrogacy is far more common.
The other type of surrogacy is traditional surrogacy, where the surrogate provides both the egg and also carries the baby, meaning that she is the biological mother and shares DNA. This type of surrogacy is rarely facilitated by surrogacy agencies.
- Does a surrogate mother have rights to the child?
This may vary depending on the state where the surrogacy cycle occurs. In surrogacy-friendly states, the surrogate and intended parents will sign a contract that relinquishes her rights once the baby is born.
However, in some states, there is no legal process that protects the rights of the intended parents. This is why it is always advised to consult with an experienced surrogacy agency or reproductive attorney before attempting a surrogacy cycle.
- What happens if a surrogate decides that she wants to keep the baby?
This is probably one of the most common concerns, but . Before proceeding with a surrogacy cycle, both the intended parents and surrogate will meet with their own attorney and sign a legal contract and other paperwork. These documents establish you as the parents through a pre-birth order, if possible, and relinquish the surrogate’s parental rights upon birth.
In addition, she’ll meet with a reproductive psychologist before beginning the cycle, to ensure that she understands the process and is mentally able to undergo a surrogacy cycle. The surrogacy agency should also provide access to counseling and support group service to be sure that the surrogate doesn’t become too attached to the baby.
- How much contact will we have with our surrogate?
That’s up to you and her! Some people want an ongoing relationship with their surrogate after delivery; others, though grateful for her help, prefer to limit their relationship beyond the surrogacy process. The key is to find a surrogate who wants the same type of relationship. It’s an important conversation to have before agreeing to a match.
If you have other questions, please check out our Surrogacy FAQ page for the answers to other common questions. If you are ready to get started, please contact one of our surrogacy case managers to schedule a consultation and fill out an application. We look forward to working with you on this journey towards parenthood.