Gestational Surrogate 101: for IPs and Surrogates
What is a gestational surrogate?
A gestational surrogate (aka gestational carrier) is a woman who carries and delivers a child for another person(s) and is not the biological mother of the child they carry.
A gestational surrogate is one of the two main types of surrogates and in contrast to a traditional surrogate, who is the biological mother of the child they carry.
Who’s eggs does a gestational carrier use?
By definition, a gestational carrier may NOT use their own eggs in the creation of the embryo used to establish the pregnancy. So, whose eggs are or can be used?
A pregnancy using a gestational surrogate is established with an embryo created in IVF using either the intended mother’s or donor’s eggs.
Due to the desire of most people to have a biological connection to their children, most intended parents choose to use the intended mother’s eggs if that is a possibility. Of course, many pursue surrogacy because there is no biologically female parent or because the intended mother has egg quality or other medical issues that prevent them from establishing a pregnancy using their own eggs.
How to find a gestational surrogate?
Intended parents hoping to work with a gestational surrogate to grow their family have a few options for finding a carrier.
The most common route to finding a surrogate is to work with a reputable surrogate agency like Surrogate Steps.
Working with a surrogate agency to find a surrogate has a number of key advantages, including:
- Surrogacy agencies are professionals highly skilled in recruiting and screening qualified surrogates. In other words, agencies know what makes a good surrogate and usually have strict protocols in place to ensure only the best potential candidates make it into their program.
- Some surrogate agencies, like Surrogate Steps, are directed by reproductive attorneys who have a deep understanding of surrogate law and can ensure you are always able to keep your baby and experience as many legal hiccups as possible when securing your parental rights.
- Surrogacy is a complex (legally and medically) and emotional process. Having professionals with thousands of hours of surrogacy experience can save you heartache, headaches, and money.
Intended parents may also find surrogates through family, friends, online groups, and classified ads.
How to become a gestational carrier?
The first step to becoming a surrogate is researching exactly what it entails and seeing if you meet all the surrogate requirements.
With so much at stake, there are many potential disqualifications.
In general, a woman must meet the following criteria to be an eligible surrogate candidate:
- Be between the age of 23 and 43
- Have given birth to at least one child AND have no history of significant pregnancy or delivery complications
- Be in good health
- Live in a surrogate friendly state
- Have a strong support network
- No, drugs, alcohol, or smoking
- No criminal record
- Not receive section 8 housing
If a woman meets all the key requirements, their next step is to apply to a gestational surrogate program.
After applying, interviewing, and passing all of the screening, the gestational surrogate will be matched with an intended parent(s), and go through the medical processes necessary to establish the pregnancy.
Once the pregnancy is established, the woman is officially a surrogate, though the surrogate mother process continues through birth.
What are the advantages of working with a gestational surrogate?
From an intended parent’s perspective, there are a few clear advantages of working with a gestational surrogate over a traditional surrogate.
The advantages of working with a gestational surrogate include:
- Easier to establish legal parentage
- Have the option to use the intended mother’s eggs
- Easier to find a surrogate and thus MUCH FASTER matching time
- Legal in more states
- Easier emotionally knowing that the surrogate is not the biological mother of the child
Given these strong advantages of working with a gestational surrogate, over 90% of surrogacy cases in the US today utilize gestational surrogates.
What are the advantages of being a gestational carrier?
From a surrogate’s standpoint, there are numerous advantages to acting as a gestational surrogate compared to a traditional surrogate.
These advantages include:
- Emotionally easier due to not being the biological mother of the child
- Easier process to relinquish parental rights, often done before birth
- Can work with agencies that act as guides and offer important protections for the surrogate
- Surrogate pay is generally better for gestational surrogates
- Legal in more states
The advantages of being a gestational surrogate are so pronounced that they represent more than 90% of surrogates in the US today.
Gestational Surrogate Process
The process for working with a gestational surrogate is as follows:
- Explore agencies
- Set up an agency consultation
- Sign agency agreement
- Match meeting(s)
- Clinic and medical screening of matched surrogate
- Final agency screening of surrogate (ie. home study)
- Negotiate and sign gestational carrier agreement
- Escrow formation
- Establishing pregnancy with the gestational carrier at the IP’s fertility clinic
- The pregnancy and recognizing IPs as legal parents
- The delivery and welcoming your baby home
The process for being a gestational surrogate is as follows:
- Ensure you meet all the requirements to be a surrogate
- Research what it is like to be a surrogate to ensure it is indeed something you would like to do
- Apply to be a surrogate
- Go through and pass surrogate screening
- Match with intended parent
- Pass testing at the intended parent’s fertility clinic
- Pass-home study
- Negotiate and sign the gestational carrier agreement
- Take medications to optimally prepare uterine lining and have embryo transfer
Gestational Carrier Cost/Pay
The cost of a gestational surrogate is made up of dozens of line items falling into a few major categories:
- Administrative fees: usually totaling around $30,000 and include things like the agency fee, escrow management, background checks, home studies, and more.
- Surrogate Pay: the largest cost, usually totaling around $45,000, including bonuses, with a majority paid throughout the nine months of pregnancy.
- Surrogate Reimbursements: paid to reimburse necessary expenses for the surrogate, like travel, hotel stays, and lost wages.
- Surrogate Benefits: for example, life insurance for the surrogate
- Legal fees: paid to both the IP and surrogate’s representatives as well as court fees
In total, most IPs spend between $75,000 and $120,000, with a median of around $80,000 for their surrogate and accompanying costs.
Most first-time surrogates make around $45,000, with an additional $5,000 per successful surrogacy.
The Bottom Line
As discussed, a gestational surrogate, also known as a gestational carrier, is a woman who carries and delivers a child for another person(s) and is not the biological mother of the child they carry.
A gestational surrogate is the most common type of surrogate today due to the significant advantages they offer over traditional surrogates for both the surrogate and intended parents.
If you’re interested in helping a family in a truly remarkable way by becoming a gestational surrogate, we encourage you to apply today.
Similarly, if you’re hoping to grow your family with a gestational surrogate and need the help of a reputable surrogate agency finding one and supporting/facilitating your journey, feel free to request more information and a free consultation.