If you have been trying to get pregnant without success, are unable to carry a healthy pregnancy to term, or are in a gay male partnership, you may have considered surrogacy. A surrogate, or gestational carrier, is a woman that carries a pregnancy for another individual or couple. After the child is born, the surrogate gives the child to the parents, often without any further relationship.

Surrogacy Explained
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 you identify a woman who will become pregnant through artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization (IVF). She becomes pregnant when her own egg is fertilized by the parent’s sperm or sperm from a donor. In this situation, the child is genetically related to the carrier.
  • Gestational carrier arrangements are more common nowadays. 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.

Whichever procedure you choose, expect the process to take between 14 to 18 months before you are holding your new baby in your hands.

Choosing a Surrogate or Gestational Carrier
Have you picked out your surrogate already? If you are not planning on using a family member or friend to carry your baby, it’s time to look on the internet or seek help from a surrogacy agency. Start with these first steps:

  • Limit your candidates to those over age 21 and who have already given birth to a healthy baby.
  • Run background checks on your potential surrogates and request references.
  • Choose a surrogate that has similar values and opinions as you and your partner do.

It is crucial to have a good relationship with your carrier, as you will be connected for a lifetime. To get started, contact a surrogacy agency.  It typically takes between 14 and 18 months for the whole process to be complete.

Choose an Agency
When becoming a parent through a surrogate, you must choose if you would like to work with a surrogacy agency or arrange the surrogate on your own. The different routes to explore are as follows:

  • Large agencies offer all types of guidance (legal, financial, psychological, medical) and take you through the process step by step. Larges agencies can also screen potential surrogates who fit your criteria to find the right match.
  • Smaller agencies are a more cost-effective solution, can help direct you to fertility clinics, and help provide legal and financial guidance. A little more work is required on your end here to choose the right surrogate for your growing family.
  • Another option is to forgo the help of an agency and make the arrangement independently. This option works best for those who are looking to have a family member or friend as their surrogate. This is certainly the cheapest route, but the most work on your part to seek medical, financial and legal assistance throughout the process.

Choose a Counsel
A legal expert, especially one who is experienced in reproductive law, is crucial in the surrogacy process to prevent any tension or issues that arise between the parent and the surrogate.  The legal expert can draw up a contract that you, your partner and the surrogate can all agree on and be protected.

You may want to explore the idea of counseling with you, your partner and the surrogate as well. A counselor can help both parties create a healthy relationship with each other, while respecting personal boundaries.

Screening a Surrogate
When choosing a surrogate, your potential candidates should offer the following information:

  • Detailed medical and obestrics history
  • Lifestyle habits, sharing honest answers about any drug and alcohol use
  • A healthy medical report and permission from a physician that this surrogate can maintain a healthy pregnancy and carry a child
  • Blood test results and infectious disease screening results

You and your partner are also required to be tested for these diseases and medical test if either of you will be providing egg or sperm. These tests will help protect your baby and the carrier’s health.

Seek Guidance Along the Way
Seeking help from a legal expert, surrogacy agency, or counselor can all be helpful when going through the surrogacy process.  They can help you address some of these common topics:

  • Health insurance, costs and payments
  • Communication guidelines and visits with the carrier, including if you accompany to the doctor
  • Plans for any baby shower and the birth
  • How to handle any sensitive topics if they come about