Surrogacy can be a confusing and intimidating topic for many people. It’s natural to have questions and concerns about the process, especially if you’re considering it as an option for starting a family.
To help clear up some of the misinformation surrounding surrogacy, Gennifer Rose of Surrogacy Mama discusses her personal experience and surrogate story. Below she provides valuable background information that will address some of the most common myths and answer your questions. We hope this information will be helpful to you, whether you’re just curious or seriously considering surrogacy as a family-building option.
My Surrogate Story: Why I Decided to Become a Surrogate
When I started working in surrogacy, I had no prior professional experience in the fertility world. With that being said, I personally knew women who had suffered from infertility and really struggled with getting pregnant. I knew how much I cherished being a mother, and the idea of helping others really intrigued me.
Fast forward a couple years, the idea of becoming a surrogate myself started to grow on me. I had seen first-hand so many sweet connections between surrogates and the parents they helped. Many of them became lifelong friends, even considering them members of their family. Being a woman who is lucky enough to have high fertility and experienced healthy pregnancies, I was a great candidate to be a surrogate.
My surrogacy agency matched me with a single woman who could not get pregnant on her own. While I was open to helping anyone have a baby, I really liked the idea of one woman helping another woman become a mother. It’s a deep connection that really bonded us. Sienna* and I communicate almost daily and stay active in each other’s lives.
*The mother’s name has been changed for privacy reasons.
Requirements to Be a Surrogate
The medical and lifestyle requirements to be a surrogate are very strict, and sadly most women who apply will not be able to move forward with the surrogacy process. These standards are set very high to protect the health of the surrogate and the baby. Although surrogacy requirements can vary, I’ve listed below some of the basic qualifications that the fertility clinics require for surrogate applicants.
- Surrogates must be mothers who delivered their own baby. This requirement exists so that these women fully understand what it’s like to be pregnant and deliver a baby. You wouldn’t want any surprises in a surrogacy pregnancy.
- Their pregnancies must have been healthy with no medical complications. Ensuring the safety and well-being of both the surrogate and the intended parents is crucial, and having a healthy pregnancy history is one of the key factors in achieving this goal.
- Most clinics require surrogates to be between the ages 21 – 42. This age range is generally seen as the optimal time for women to carry a child to term, as it provides the best chance for a healthy pregnancy and delivery.
- Surrogates cannot be smokers or engage in any kind of drug-related activities. This is because these habits can have negative effects on the developing fetus and can also increase the risk of complications during pregnancy.
- Their BMI must be under 35. This one requirement is a huge hot topic, with many believing it is unfair and discriminatory. That being said, it is currently a hard requirement for the fertility clinics who work with surrogates. The reasoning states that women who are overweight are statistically more likely to have medical complications during pregnancy.
- Surrogates cannot be convicted of a felony, or live in a household with a convicted felon. These rules are put in place to ensure the safety and well-being of the child and all parties involved in the surrogacy process.
- Surrogates are IVF patients, which requires self-injecting medication before and during pregnancy. This can sometimes be a physical and mental hurdle for women who are not fond of needles, but most surrogates will tell you that you get used to it after a couple weeks.
- Surrogates must pass a psychological screening with a surrogacy-specific mental health professional to make sure she fully understands the full scope of her commitment to this process.
- Surrogates must also meet with an surrogacy-specific ART attorney (Assisted Reproductive Technology) to make sure she fully understands the legal guidelines and implications of being a surrogate.
Top Myths About Surrogacy Debunked
Having worked in the surrogacy industry for years, I’ve had so many people ask me questions about how it all works. And yes, sometimes I get some wild questions from rumors they’ve heard. I always enjoy taking the opportunity to inform and set the record straight on how a surrogacy journey really happens. Below I’ve outlined some of the most common myths and questions I see from folks new to the surrogacy world.
1. Do Surrogates Give Up Their Own Babies?
Back in the olden days when the science behind IVF medicine was not very sophisticated, the practice of traditional surrogacy was common. This is where the egg of the surrogate was used to make the embryo and the surrogate had a genetic connection to the baby.
In modern times this rarely happens and how a surrogate mother gets pregnant now is through gestational surrogacy. Gestational surrogacy is when the embryo is made from the egg and sperm of either the parents or donors, and then the surrogate carries their baby after embryo transfer to her uterus. The surrogate has no biological connection to the baby, which really ensures that she is not the mother. A cute way of saying it is: “Their bun in my oven!”. I also love the quote: “I’m just extreme babysitting.”
2. Do Surrogates Get Paid for Being Pregnant?
The topic of compensation and surrogacy always piques people’s curiosity. Some find the concept of earning money to be pregnant everyday humorous or strange. The answer to the question is yes! Surrogates get paid in multiple ways to carry a baby for another family.
So how much does surrogacy pay exactly? The exact amount varies by agency and the budget the parents have to pay surrogacy costs. On average surrogates are currently earning between $50,000 – $60,000 in cash payments per pregnancy. This does not include the amounts paid for medical care, milestone cash payments, travel and more.
I want to mention that surrogacy is not meant to be a woman’s main source of income, and she should be financially stable before and during the surrogacy pregnancy with other sources of earnings. While this is a great source of cash flow for women, it should not be considered her “job” and she should never be dependent on her surrogacy compensation.
3. Can a Surrogate Have a Job While She’s Pregnant?
This question directly relates to my answers on surrogate compensation above. Yes, women who are surrogates are encouraged to continue to work their jobs. A woman should never have to put her own life on hold or sacrifice her career to be a surrogate. As long as her work environment is safe for a pregnant woman, there should be no issue.
If for some reason a surrogate has to take a medical leave from her job, the intended parents are contractually obligated to pay her lost wages for the time she was absent. While this is a rare scenario, it is a built-in safety net to protect surrogates financially.
4. Are There Restrictions for Surrogates While Pregnant?
The answer to this question is both yes and no. Basically any restrictions that could possibly be put into place during a surrogacy journey are discussed and agreed upon before the pregnancy begins. Below I will outline some common scenarios and concerns regarding surrogate restrictions.
- Travel restrictions for surrogates: If a surrogate wants or needs to travel for personal reasons, all of her travel plans should be planned and disclosed at the beginning of the journey before she gets pregnant. The parents want to make sure she is always close-by to medical care within their insurance network, in case something happens. Also, in some states surrogacy has legal restrictions which could cause issues if the baby is born preterm in one of those states. International travel is always prohibited for a pregnant surrogate. So save that Europe trip for after delivery!
- Diet restrictions for surrogates: Someone asked me once if surrogates have to record and report their eating habits to the parents of the baby. The answer is no, that would be ridiculously time consuming! If the parents want to require their surrogate to eat certain foods, they would have to ask her permission in advance and get her full approval. If the requests are excessive, the surrogacy agency will have a conversation with the parents and bring them back down to earth. If the parents want their surrogate to eat organic foods, then they will have to pay for all the extra grocery costs. Free food for the surrogate and her family!
- Lifestyle restrictions for surrogates: Surrogates are always expected to live a clean and healthy lifestyle. This includes not engaging in any harmful activities like smoking, drinking, drugs or physically risky activities. It is important that you are entrusted to care for someone’s baby, and you need to take that responsibility seriously.
I mentioned above that I’m passionate about helping families welcome babies, both in my personal and professional life. I know there are many women out there who have thought about possibly being a surrogate and helping a family, but maybe fear of the unknown was holding them back.
I hope that by addressing common misconceptions and providing accurate information, I have shed light on the true essence of surrogacy—a beautiful act of love, support, and hope.
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About the Author
Hello my name is Gennifer Rose and thank you for taking the time to read about my surrogacy story! I am a mother of two kiddos, have worked professionally in the surrogacy industry for years, and am the creator behind my Surrogacy Mama blog. I am very passionate about surrogacy and helping other families realize their dreams of becoming parents.