Perhaps you have heard the term surrogacy, surrogate, gestational carrier, or surrogate mother and thought to yourself, “I could do that!” But then you were left to wonder, “where do I begin?” In this blog, we will walk you through the steps and what to expect in the process of becoming a surrogate.
The beginning steps of becoming a surrogate might not be what you expect, so you will first want to do your research and become informed. Learn more about what surrogacy is and why it might be of interest to you. Think about what you are looking for in an agency and make sure you are qualified to be a surrogate. Research agencies with expertise in the process and don’t forget to read reviews on agencies. When you finally apply with an agency, they should educate you on what to expect and how their surrogacy process works.
- What is Surrogacy?
- Benefits of Being a Surrogate
- The Process: How Does Being a Surrogate Work?
- How to Become a Surrogate
- Qualifications: What Does It Take to Become a Surrogate
What Is Surrogacy?
Surrogacy is defined as an arrangement, often supported by a legal agreement, whereby a woman agrees to bear a child for another person or persons, who will become the child’s parent after birth. A surrogate (also known as a gestational carrier or surrogate mother) is the woman who will carry the child for another family who cannot carry it themselves.
Most “surrogates” and women who are “gestational carriers” prefer these terms over the term “surrogate mother” as they do not wish to be referred to as the mother in any way. This is considered an outdated term, so from here on out, we will refer to them simply as surrogate or gestational carriers.
There are two types of surrogacy: traditional and gestational.
A Traditional Surrogate is when the carrier is also the egg donor. Therefore the future child will be genetically related to the surrogate. The pregnancy can be achieved by artificial insemination, such as an intrauterine insemination procedure. This may be beneficial if the surrogate is a relative, and the goal of a child genetically related to both parents can be achieved.
For example, a male/female couple where the intended mother cannot produce eggs or carry pregnancy may ask the intended mother’s sister to carry instead. The sister acting as a Traditional Surrogate allows genetics from the intended mother’s family to be combined with her husband’s sperm for them to have a child genetically connected to both parents. Traditional surrogacy arrangements are very rare today as in vitro fertilization technologies have advanced over the past two decades.
A Gestational Surrogate is a woman who becomes pregnant with embryos created via in vitro fertilization (the embryo is created by combining the sperm and egg of the Intended Parents or donors in a lab, then transferred into the surrogate’s uterus).
The surrogate is solely the carrier and not related to the child. If you thought you would not want to “give up” a child sharing your genetics, then being a Gestational Carrier is the route to take. You will know from the get-go that this child is not biologically yours. Here at IARC, all of our matches are gestational carrier arrangements.
Benefits of Being a Surrogate
Every intended parent on an agency’s waiting list has likely dreamt for years about being a parent. Whether they have always known they would need help to achieve this or have struggled with infertility or another medical diagnosis and recently discovered they are unable to carry on their own, these parents have come to terms with needing someone’s help and are so grateful for this family-building option. Hopefully, that someone could be you!
As a two-time IARC surrogate said, “Becoming a surrogate is one of the most rewarding experiences I have had the pleasure to do. As you move through the journey, you may get to know your Intended Parents a little better, so when the moment comes for them to finally hold their baby in their arms, the feeling is indescribable. Yes, pregnancy can be hard and uncomfortable at times, but that very moment they lay eyes on their baby for the very first time makes every bit of it worth it.” ~C
Many surrogate candidates starting this process have similar reasons for their interest in becoming a surrogate, such as:
- They love pregnancy
- They unconditionally love their child/ren and can’t imagine life without them
- They want to give the gift of parenthood to others.
Surrogacy is a way to give others the most precious gift that they could not achieve on their own. In addition, candidates reap financial benefits that extend to their own family, which may include:
- Paying off debts
- Taking a family trip
- Contributing to a down payment on a house
The Process: How Does Being a Surrogate Work?
First, decide if surrogacy is right for you.
Before you apply to become a surrogate, you need to consider some important factors:
- Time commitment
- Required legal steps and obligations
- Fertility world and the use of fertility (and injection) medications,
- Travel requirements for screening and embryo transfer
- Abstinence requirement before and after transfer
- Who you might match with and what you are looking for in your match
- Your comfort level with this being their baby and pregnancy (even if you are carrying it)
- Your openness to letting them make decisions regarding the child during gestation
We strongly encourage that you do research! Google your questions, join a Surrogacy Facebook group, read, and learn more about what to expect. You can also start by looking at our commonly asked surrogate questions for the things we hear most often asked by new potential surrogates.
Next, pick your agency and know what is most important to you in that decision.
The most important thing to keep in mind as you begin your research is Why do you want to become a surrogate? All agencies will have different advertising strategies, and they will be trying to grab your attention: compensation, agency’s location, types of parent matches, how quickly you can match, experience, etc. You can inquire with more than one, and perhaps from the start, you will get a feel for how the agency will treat you and what your experience will be like.
Some agencies will require you to sign an agreement to exclusively work with them, restricting your options and autonomy. Some agencies will require you do most of the leg work, and they will only check in here and there. Some agencies will treat you like family from the start until birth and beyond. Just remember your “Why” as you look into agencies and be sure your agency is the right fit for you.
Next, you will inquire or submit a Questionnaire or an Application for the agency(ies) that interest you. Once submitted, the agency will review it to determine your eligibility. Assuming all looks good, you may receive an email outlining your next step, or you may be asked to schedule a call to learn more about their process. This is not uncommon. A call might seem like a scary commitment, but usually, they just want to chat about what to expect or answer your questions.
Beware of Exclusivity Agreements.
Many agencies that require you to sign an exclusivity agreement when you start your journey are reputable agencies that should be able to facilitate a positive journey for you. However, make sure you are 100% confident about this before signing such an agreement. Ask about the agency’s matching process and what parent matches will be available to you, and be sure you have had enough interaction with the agency for you to know that you want them to be your guide in this process.
Keep in mind that not every agency will require this. IARC does not require an exclusivity agreement. If you ever change your mind about the pre-screening process, we feel strongly that you have full self-determination and autonomy to make that choice. We also want you to work with us because you feel connected with us, know we have your best interests at heart, and because you feel confident that we have the expertise to make this a wonderful, secure journey for you and your family.
Lastly, complete pre-screening BEFORE matching.
Ensuring your agency pre-screens you before matching is important for both you and your intended parents. The heartbreak of making a connection with parents only to then find out you may not qualify is avoidable and should be avoided by you being pre-screened before matching.
As for the specifics of pre-screening, this will vary from agency to agency. Some will require you to obtain copies of your medical history yourself. Others (like IARC) will help you with that part. Once obtained, the fertility clinic will complete a detailed review of your medical history to pre-approve you. You will also submit different forms and documents that the agency uses to put together a profile for you. This includes:
- Your insurance policy booklet
- Personal identification documents
- Your preferences about the journey
Your profile will be presented to potential parents for the Matching step of your journey.
How to Become a Surrogate
When you consider surrogacy more seriously, you’ve looked into it, and you know you want to pursue it, talk to your support system. Tell them why you are interested and what you are looking for in your journey.
It’s essential that you have support behind you. As you know, having already gone through at least one pregnancy, you need your people! By this point, you have already done some research, or maybe you’ve even made some decisions, like which agency you’d like to work with.
1. Determine Your Eligibility
Whether you have come to surrogacy after seeing a friend who experienced infertility, or loved pregnancy but don’t want any more children of your own, your ability to move forward with this process depends on meeting medical and psychological requirements that are in place to protect both the surrogate and future child. When looking at the basic requirements of becoming a surrogate, keep in mind clinics, psychologists, and agencies enforce these to minimize risk for all involved.
There are a few items on the list that will really be determined case by case, depending on the agency you work with, including:
- Prenatal and delivery history
- Mild history of anxiety or depression
- Being a little above or below the BMI limitation
- Having something in your criminal background from years ago
You can read through the requirements to become a surrogate and have a general idea if you qualify, but if there is something in your history that you aren’t sure about, don’t hesitate to ask. All of our Surrogate Coordinators have been in your shoes and will quickly respond to your questions.
2. Choose a Type of Surrogacy
Although traditional surrogacy is practiced in limited circumstances today, IARC facilitates only gestational surrogacy arrangements in which the surrogate is not genetically related to the child she carries for the intended parent(s). The child will either be related to both intended parents, or the parents will create embryos with egg and/or sperm donors chosen by the intended parents if they cannot use their genetics.
3. Choose a Professional Agency
It is imperative to remember that surrogacy agencies are not regulated. You must be very careful in choosing your agency and ensure they are reputable and have adequate experience to minimize any risks to you in this process.
There are many resources where you can find out more about different agencies. The most common will be reviews from other surrogates, which are very easy to find online. Reading about other people’s experiences is a wonderful way to find out about various agencies’ processes and values so you can determine if it aligns with your individual needs.
You might read something that strikes a chord with you, maybe you relate, or perhaps you could learn from a negative experience someone had. If you have the opportunity to talk to experienced surrogates firsthand, that’s probably your best resource.
You can also look at the agency’s website, the resources they offer, their “About Us” page, and their mission and values.
Lastly, you will want to look at the agency’s level of expertise. Many agencies work from the heart, and many are experts – having both expertise and heart is rare, and it is something that IARC uniquely offers. The details of a company, what its process looks like, how its compensation package breaks down, its communication, and client reviews are all essential to look at before choosing an agency.
Overall, do you want your relationship with your agency to be strictly professional and brief? Personal but not expertly guided? Or do you want expertise and also to be part of the family?
4. Develop Your Personal Plan
As you begin to research “what is a surrogate,” “how to become a surrogate,” “what are the qualifications to become a surrogate,” “process to becoming a surrogate,” etc., remember to ask yourself why is surrogacy for you?
This is just as much a journey for you as it is for parents, so your vision is critically important. Sure, there are many factors at play, some out of your control, but assuming you meet the qualifications, you will want your process to be smooth and informed. Follow your “why,” find your agency, start your process, find your match, and give the gift of a lifetime.
Qualifications: What Does It Take to Become a Surrogate?
All surrogacy agencies should follow the surrogate requirements and guidelines set forth by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine for your safety and the safety of the pregnancy. Every prospective carrier must meet these qualifications in order to be approved by the fertility clinic and psychologist to begin a surrogate program.
The standard qualifications for a prospective surrogate include:
- You live in a state with surrogate-friendly laws (most states qualify)
- You’re between the age of 21-41
- You have had no more than three c-sections
- Your Body Mass Index (height to weight proportion) is between 18-32
- You’ve had a previous healthy pregnancy and delivery
- You do not smoke tobacco, use drugs, or abuse alcohol
- You have no significant history of depression or mental health illness
- You’re willing to travel for pre-transfer medical screening and embryo transfer procedure
- You have an adequate support system
- Your criminal record is clean
- You’re financially stable and independent
There are some deviations from these guidelines or exceptions to some of the main requirements depending on the clinic and doctor. Still, these are the general requirements across the board for most fertility clinics. To see more details and in-depth information for each thing, check out our surrogacy requirements.
Get Started: Be a Surrogate With IARC Surrogacy
At IARC Surrogacy, we take all things into consideration, including your “Why.” We will educate you on the process and what to expect, and we have over three decades of experience. We are full-service, which means we are there with you every single step of the way. We can promise you will be well-informed from initial inquiry to birth and beyond. Above all, we genuinely care.
At IARC, every member of our staff is passionate about surrogacy and making dreams come true. A handful of our staff has even completed the journey as surrogates, and some more than once. We know the ins and outs of this process, and we are just as excited as you are for your first steps in this amazing journey.
We have a dedicated team and a fantastic community of surrogates, both past, and present, that will be rooting for you throughout your entire journey; from day one to delivery and sending that baby home to his or her parents who have waited so long to achieve their dream of having a family.
Expert Surrogacy from the Heart, click here to get started.