Surrogate Requirements: What Qualification do you need to be a Surrogate Mother

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Being a surrogate (or gestational carrier) is a selfless and rewarding process in which you carry a child into the world for a couple struggling to have a child on their own.

As a surrogate, you play a very important role in one of the most important times in someone’s life. 

To ensure the best possible outcome for every intended parent, agencies have strict requirements for the gestational carriers they accept into their program.

If you’re thinking about becoming a surrogate it’s important to know the requirements before applying.

Of course, family members may perform “altruistic” surrogacies in which the surrogate is mostly uncompensated with more leniency on other aspects that are “required.” Still, most surrogacy cases in the US are handled by surrogacy agencies that place requirements on their surrogates.

In the remainder of this blog post, we will discuss the various requirements that gestational carriers must meet, including the physical and mental health criteria, age restrictions, lifestyle and relationship factors, legal and residency considerations, and more.

Surrogate Requirement Overview

In general, surrogates must:

  • Be between the age of 23-41.
  • Live in a surrogate-friendly state (may not reside in Nebraska, Louisiana, or Michigan).
  • Have given birth to one child without pregnancy or birth complications.
  • Be in good physical and mental health and be able to obtain clearance for pregnancy from their OBGYN and pass a reproductive health exam by a fertility specialist.
  • Have no history of drug or alcohol abuse and be free of tobacco, marijuana, or other smoking products.
  • Have a strong support network.
  • Be willing and able to travel (and be away from their children) for multiple days.
  • Not be on section 8 housing.
  • Have no criminal record
  • Have a valid form of government identification.

Let’s explore each of these requirements in more detail.

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Reside in a Surrogate Friendly State

Due to various state laws, the surrogate must reside in a state friendly to surrogacy and the prospect of the intended parent’s securing proper parentage rights.

Most states allow compensated surrogacy in some form, though states differ in the difficulty of establishing parentage.

As a surrogate, however, it’s only essential that you do NOT live in Louisiana, Nebraska, or Michigan.

While uncompensated or “altruistic” surrogacy may be possible in these states, compensated surrogacy arrangements/agreements are generally void and unenforceable. Additionally, those entering a paid surrogacy arrangement are subject to criminal penalties.

Age 23-41

While any adult physically capable of carrying a pregnancy can technically be a surrogate, most surrogacy agencies have some age policy. For example, at Surrogate Steps, surrogate mothers must be between 23 and 41.

The primary reason for these age restrictions is the high level of maturity required to be a surrogate and the potential decline in uterine quality at more advanced ages.

A Proven (recent) Birth Record

With so much on the line, it’s essential to know that a surrogate is, at the very least, capable of carrying a pregnancy. Giving birth to at least one child in a complication-free pregnancy and delivery is a simple and baseline measure of one being able to successfully carry a pregnancy in the future.

Pregnancy complications, including pregnancy loss (miscarriage), pre-term labor, blood loss requiring blood transfusion during delivery, and postpartum depression, will disqualify you from becoming a surrogate.

Because pregnancy and birth records will need to be obtained, it is generally best if the most recent pregnancy occurred within the last seven years.

Good Health

A woman must be in good health to qualify as a gestational surrogate. To qualify, surrogates must:

  • Obtain a clearance note from their OBGYN stating they are healthy and fit for pregnancy.
  • Pass a medical records inspection from a health care specialist.
  • Pass a reproductive health exam and testing by a fertility specialist.
  • Pass a home study screening and various subjective social and mental health measures.

For example, things like high blood pressure, heart issues, gestational diabetes, cholelithiasis, unfavorable cervix, and more could disqualify you from becoming a surrogate. 

According to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine , the surrogate should undergo the following testing at the fertility clinic:

  • Uterine Cavity Evaluation: HSG, SHG
  • Preconception Bloodwork
  • Physical examination for Infectious disease:
    • Physical evidence for the risk of sexually transmitted disease, such as genital ulcerative lesions, herpes simplex, chancroid, and urethral discharge;
    • Physical evidence of risk for syphilis or evidence of syphilis;
    • Physical evidence of nonmedical percutaneous drug use, such as needle tracks; the examination should include the examination of tattoos,  which might obscure needle tracks;
    • Physical evidence of recent tattooing, ear piercing, or body piercing  (within the past 12 months) where sterile technique was not used.
    • Disseminated lymphadenopathy;
    • Unexplained oral thrush;
    • Blue or purple spots consistent with Kaposi sarcoma;
    • Unexplained jaundice, hepatomegaly, or icterus;
    • Large scab consistent with recent history of smallpox immunization;
    • Eczema vaccinatum, generalized vesicular rash, severely necrotic lesion (consistent with vaccinia necrosum), or corneal scarring (consistent  with vaccinial keratitis).
  • Lab testing for Infectious disease:
    • HIV-1 antibody;
    • HIV-2 antibody;
    • HIV group O antibody;
    • HTLV-1 and HTLV-2 (male partner of GC only);
    • Hepatitis C antibody;
    • Hepatitis B surface antigen;
    • Hepatitis B core antibody (IgG and IgM);
    • HIV, HBV, and HCV nucleic acid test;
    • Serologic test for syphilis;
    • CMV (IgG and IgM) (Male partner of GC only);
    • N. gonorrhoeae and C. trachomatis testing using the nucleic acid test  on urine or a cervical or urethral swab using an FDA-licensed, -approved, or -cleared test labeled for the detection of these organisms  in an asymptomatic, low-prevalence population.

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No Drugs, Alcohol, or Smoking

For the health of the fetus and all involved parties, surrogate mothers must have a history free of drug and alcohol abuse. To qualify, surrogates also must be smoke-free for a minimum of 6 months before joining a compensated surrogacy program. This includes tobacco, marijuana, vape products, or other smoking products.

Have a strong support network

While indeed a subjective qualification, intake coordinators will screen for and require that any surrogate mother has a solid support network.

Surrogacy is physically, mentally, and socially demanding, so a carrier must have unwavering support from those closest to them. If they have a partner or spouse, the surrogate must have the support of their significant other to qualify. If they are single, surrogates must demonstrate the support of other close family and friends.


While surrogates are occasionally matched with intended parent(s) that live nearby, more often than not, surrogates must occasionally travel out of their local area or state. Unfortunately, kids are usually not allowed to accompany the surrogate on these trips.

Surrogates are usually required to travel to the intended parent’s fertility clinic for a reproductive health evaluation as well as for any embryo transfer.

Having someone you can depend on for childcare during overnight travel is one of the main reasons you must have a strong support network to qualify as a surrogate.

Government Assistance

While it may sound counterintuitive, it is important the surrogates do not receive certain types of government assistance like section 8 housing. That’s because government assistance programs like section 8 housing have strict income requirements to qualify and continue to receive such assistance.

Because Surrogates are usually compensated between 45,000-75,000 for each pregnancy, they become ineligible for section 8 housing.

While some may interpret this as a good thing, perhaps equating it to being lifted out of poverty, through decades of experience, surrogacy agencies realized that coming off government housing was detrimental to many people’s lives in the long run.

Because of this, you may not be on Section 8 Housing to qualify as a gestational carrier at Surrogate Steps.

It’s important to note that not all government assistance programs have such strict income requirements and therefore do not disqualify you. For example, receiving Food Stamps is okay


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No Criminal Record

As a judgment of character and for the safety and well-being of all involved parties, surrogates may not have a criminal record.

Every surrogate applicant and their partner must undergo and pass a criminal background check to qualify as a surrogate.

Valid Government Identification

While a seemingly trivial detail, having a valid government ID is an overlooked but vital qualification for a surrogate.

Several legal proceedings must take place to recognize the intended parents as the child’s legal parents, and having verifiable legal status within the US is an essential requirement for smooth proceedings.

Recap of Gestational Carrier Requirements

As discussed above, several essential qualifications are required to become a surrogate mother. While not an exhaustive list that covers every minute detail that could potentially disqualify someone from being a surrogate, most compensated surrogates are required to live in a surrogate-friendly state, have a proven birth record, be of an age that demonstrates maturity, be physically and mentally fit to carry a pregnancy and more.

Sounds like you? If so, and you’re still interested in helping a loving family have the child of their dreams (and getting compensated generously), fill out our surrogate application today!

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