Using a Surrogate Mother: What You Need to Know

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Families form in many ways. For some parents-to-be, including some same-sex couples or people struggling with infertility, a surrogate mother or gestational carrier is the best way to have a baby. Here’s what you need to know about this option.

Can the Surrogate Keep the Baby?
Legal claims to parenthood can feel murky when another woman is carrying your child.
In a traditional surrogacy, the surrogate mother uses her egg. In a gestational surrogacy, doctors gather eggs and sperm from the couple and implant a fertilized embryo into the surrogate, so she doesn’t have any genetic tie to the baby.
The idea in most surrogate pregnancies is that the surrogate offers the service of carrying a pregnancy. You’re not “buying a baby” or adopting another person’s child.
Ultimately, though, there aren’t clear federal laws in place to determine parental rights. Your best course of action is to work with an attorney who specializes in reproductive law, and have everyone sign a contract that clarifies the agreement.

How Much Does Surrogacy Cost?
You’re expected to cover many essential costs for a surrogate pregnancy, which means the ultimate budget can be extensive, often in the range of $90,000-130,000. Expect to pay:

  • Surrogate’s healthcare insurance
  • Surrogate’s fee, and agency fees if you find her through an agency
  • Legal fees
  • Surrogate’s nonmedical pregnancy expenses (anything from a stipend for maternity clothing to covering lost wages if she must go on physician-ordered bed rest)
  • Psychological support and screening

How Involved Are Intended Parents?
Finding the right surrogate is about personality fit as much as meeting health requirements. This is a deeply personal situation. You may want to invite your surrogate into an honorary place in your family or maintain a little more professional distance.

When you’re interviewing potential surrogates, ask:

  • Can we come to prenatal visits with you, take you shopping for maternity clothing, or touch your belly to feel our baby kick?
    Can we be present for the birth?
    If you need a C-section (which often restricts the number of support people allowed), who do you prefer to have with you?
  • How much contact do you have with other families whose babies you’ve carried?

Talk to your partner about your desires, too:

  • Do you want to invite your surrogate to your baby shower, or is it too painful to not carry your own pregnancy
  • How often would you like to be in touch during the pregnancy?
  • How will you celebrate pregnancy milestones as a couple, as well as connecting with the surrogate?
  • What’s your desired level of relationship? Do you want to invite your surrogate to birthday parties, or the occasional family dinner?
  • Do you prefer to communicate mainly through photos?

Because bringing a baby into the world is so emotional, it’s common for surrogates to become close friends or near-family, rather than keeping a strictly professional relationship. In some cases, a family member or friend may even act as your surrogate. For the health of all of your relationships, it’s wise to have a clear idea of your relationship hopes and expectations from the beginning.

There are many reasons why a couple may not be able to have a pregnancy alone. Finding a surrogate to carry your baby can be a way to keep a genetic tie to your baby and have a meaningful connection throughout the pregnancy. Ask your doctor and prospective surrogate everything you’d like to know so you can have the best experience of growing your family this way.

Jessica Sillers
Jessica Sillers is a parenting and finance writer whose work has been featured in Pregnancy & Newborn, Headspace, and more. As a new mom herself, she’s passionate about helping other parents find the community and support they need. When she’s not writing, she loves spending time with her family, reading, and hiking.

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