Step-by-Step Guide to the Surrogacy Process
Step 1: Choose your surrogacy arrangement
If you have been trying to get pregnant without success, or are unable to carry a healthy pregnancy to term, you may have considered surrogacy. There are two types of surrogacy: traditional surrogacy and using a gestational carrier. Here is how the two situations differ:
- In a traditional surrogacy arrangement a woman becomes pregnant through artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization (IVF). She becomes pregnant when her own egg is fertilized by sperm from the intended father or sperm from a donor. In this situation, the child is genetically related to the carrier.
- Gestational carrier arrangements are more common than traditional surrogacy. In this arrangement, the egg from the intended mother or an egg donor is fertilized by sperm from the intended father or a sperm donor. This is done through IVF. The carrier will not be the genetic parent of the baby.
Whether you choose traditional or gestational surrogacy, expect the process to take between 14 to 18 months before you are holding your baby in your hands.
Step 2: Choose an agency
If you choose surrogacy, you will need to decide whether to use an agency or do much of the work yourself. Working independently might save you money but agencies can help save your sanity. Here is a quick guide to help you choose:
- Large agencies walk you through the process, offering legal, medical, insurance, and financial guidance. They also help you screen potential surrogates. Basically, a large agency "holds your hands" throughout the entire process, including assisting you when the baby is born. Expect to pay around $120,000 for a large agency, which includes insurance coverage for the surrogate.
- Smaller agencies can also help you through the process yet will charge less than a large agency. Small agencies assist you in finding a surrogate, refer you to fertility clinics, and provide answers to your legal and financial questions. However, you will have to do some of the work on your own. Small agencies are on the rise as surrogacy is becoming more common.
- You may decide to bypass an agency and manage the surrogacy arrangement independently. If you have asked a friend or family member to be your surrogate, or have already found one yourself, this option may be more appealing. Working independently means that you will need to do all the research and homework on financial, legal, and medical processes yourself. You will save money, but it could be emotionally and physically exhausting. Cost? Around $50,000.
Step 3: Choose your counsel
What if disagreements or tensions arise between you and a surrogate during the process? Legal guidance is essential to help you avoid complications along the way. A legal expert, especially one versed in reproductive law, will draw up contracts for you and the carrier, protecting each party.
Psychologically speaking, have at least one meeting with your partner, the surrogate and her partner, and a therapist. These counseling sessions can help you all maintain your boundaries and emotional health during this process.
Step 4: Choose your medical care providers
During the screening process, potential surrogates undergo thorough medical and psychological screenings to make sure they are good candidates for this process. If you and your partner will be the biological parents to the intended child, providing egg and sperm, you will need to be screened as well. Expect screenings for infectious diseases, sexually transmitted diseases, and other medical exams and blood work. When you factor in the cost for the medical workup, legal fees, and fertility treatments, surrogacy can get pretty expensive. Look into health insurance options for your surrogate to help you with the cost. (Some policies exclude surrogates from coverage). You will also want to make sure you work with a fertility clinic you trust. Research clinic IVF success rates to help you decide.
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