What is gestational surrogacy and how do I become a surrogate?
Let’s cut right to the chase – becoming a surrogate is a big deal. It’s a common phrase among adults, “…but first, do your research.” It’s true for most things in life and becoming a surrogate is no different. Not only are you signing up for what could potentially be a multi-year process, this is also a choice that comes with a lot of emotional ups and downs, and at least on some level, is quite expensive. In addition to that, while pregnancy is generally a safe thing, things can happen during pregnancy and childbirth that are not pretty. So, before you jump in with both feet and decide to become a surrogate, do your research. Here are a few things to consider before becoming a surrogate mother:
- Do you qualify? Only about 5% of women who apply to become surrogates will make it through the entire screening process. Things like age, health, past pregnancy and birth records, fiscal stability, and mental health will be considered. In general, surrogacy is open to women aged 21-40 years old who are raising at least one of their own children. You need to have had an uncomplicated pregnancy, and no more than two previous C-section deliveries. Additionally, you cannot be on any form of federal aid (food stamps, etc.). You will also be tested for nicotine and illegal drugs in your system.
- What are you willing to consent to? Part of your research should include considering what type of experience you’re hoping to have. Gestational surrogacy means that the child that you will carry will have no genetic connection to you or to your husband, so you will not need to worry about being asked to donate your own eggs. However, you will have a say on things like the number of embryos that you’re comfortable having transferred to your uterus, and the number of fetuses you’re willing to carry. You’ll also want to consider if you’d be willing to terminate a pregnancy, and if so, under what conditions.
- What is a realistic compensation expectation? A quick search through Craigslist or Google can have you thinking that surrogacy means a six-figure income in under a year flat. We want to be the first ones to tell you that this is a bold-faced lie. The first thing that you need to know is that surrogacy can be a long process. You don’t earn compensation until you’re pregnant with a confirmed heartbeat, which means it could take months before you ever earn any compensation. In addition, many places inflate compensation number to attract applicants. Before jumping at the highest compensation package that you find, consider your motives. If you’re in this simply for the compensation, you’re not likely to have an enjoyable experience at all. Finally, compare compensation packages from many agencies. The ones paying the highest amount of compensation may be lacking in areas of perks and support. You’ll want to be educated on the total picture of compensation before signing with a particular agency. Gestational surrogates with Family Inceptions make between $60,000-$75,000, with base compensation starting between $35,000-$45,000 for first time surrogates.
- What will be expected of you? You already know that you’ll be pregnant, but will you also be required to eat only organic whole foods? The answer to this is probably not, but it does highlight the importance of learning what is expected of your behavior during the course of your experience before moving forward. You may be placed on travel restrictions, which could impact family vacations. Additionally, you’ll be expected to make and keep medical appointments as well as communicate about how those visits go.
Once you’ve considered these things you will be in a much better place to decide if you’d like to move forward or not as a surrogate. If you’re still interested and feel as though you’re ready to make this bold choice, you can find out more on our website: How to Become a Surrogate
How long is the surrogacy process?
In general, the surrogacy process could take up to 15-18 months. Of course, this time frame can vary greatly depending on your circumstances. If you need to find an egg or sperm donor or create embryos, this may add an additional 3-4 months to the process. The bottom line is that surrogacy is not a quick process. But, up ‘til this point, has anything in your journey to parenthood been quick? So you know what it takes to be patient. The surrogacy process will be long, but well worth it in the end.
Click here to see the step-by-step process Family Inceptions Surrogacy Agency takes to ensure your surrogacy journey is smooth, as we walk beside you every step of the way: The Surrogacy Process
How much do surrogate mothers make?
Gestational surrogates can make up to $75,000 with Family Inceptions. This includes a $35,000-$45,000 base compensation, plus additional monthly stipends and allowances throughout your surrogacy journey.
Family Inceptions offers a generous compensation package to our surrogate mothers, and what you choose to do with the money you earn as a surrogate is completely up to you. Whether you choose to put a down payment on your home, save up to send your own children to college, or create a small business for yourself, there are many ways that this money can greatly benefit you and your family.
Of course, there is no way that the gift you bring to the future parents—and the rest of the world—could ever be quantified. It is a gift for which no one can ever repay you in full precisely because the life you will nurture, and all the hopes and dreams you carry, are priceless.
Get an estimate of your specific compensation as a surrogate using our free calculator tool: How Much Can I Make as a Surrogate?
Find out more about surrogate compensation and benefits: Benefits and Compensation for Surrogates
What are the requirements for becoming a gestational surrogate?
To become a Gestational Surrogate, we at Family Inceptions need to learn some information about your personal and medical history. Our knowledge of your health and medical history allows us to determine if you are compatible with the surrogacy process for Gestational Surrogacy so that it will not involve any increased risks for you. This will also help us to match you to an appropriate recipient.
First, you should know what the requirements are for becoming a surrogate. You must fulfill the following criteria:
- Must be between the ages of 21-40.
- Delivered at least one healthy child that you yourself has raised or is raising.
- No prior pregnancy complications – No deliveries before 35 weeks-unless delivered twins or more.
- No more than 2 c-sections
- No more than 5 deliveries
- Provide proof of support person.
- A willingness to be completely committed to the Intended Parents.
- Adherence to our strict screening and counseling protocol.
- Have a stable financial base – Not receiving any form of government assistance (State funded insurance, Food stamps, WIC, Housing, AFDC)
- Clear a criminal background checks
- Non-Smoker and non-drug user
- Reliable form of transportation.
- U.S. citizenship or permanent residency status.
- Meet height and weight guidelines for your body mass index (BMI).
- Able to provide medical records to clinic.
- Must be willing to undergo a psychological evaluation
- Medical testing will be required of both you and your husband/partner.
- Absence of any active sexually transmitted diseases, cancer, substance abuse, significant medication use, and prior chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
- Willing to do a home assessment.
Read more about the requirements to become a surrogate: Do I Qualify to be a Surrogate?
What are the benefits of using a surrogacy agency vs. independent surrogacy?
When it comes to matters of fertility and family building, the DIY route may result in undue amounts of stress and frustration. Going through a reputable agency will ensure that all parties involved are protected from scams (which unfortunately, does happen) or from being matched with an unreliable donor or surrogate. Here are some pros and cons to consider about going through a surrogacy agency or going the independent route:
You should match through a surrogacy agency if:
- You’re a first-time surrogate: You are unsure about how to start or find intended parents for your journey
- Support & Guidance: You would like help, guidance, counseling and support, readily available and throughout the entire process including the pregnancy and delivery
- Matching: You are insecure about interviewing and negotiating compensation directly with the intended parents
- Advocate: You like that there is someone else ensuring your best interest is paramount.
- Legal: You’re not sure about what all should be included in your contract with your intended parents
- Security peace of mind: you want to make sure your intended parents can afford the journey and that they will be there to get the baby
- Professional referrals: You want to make sure all the professionals that will assist you in your journey are experienced and understand the process
You should match independently if:
- You’re an experienced surrogate: You’ve already done a successful journey and know the time and commitment it takes to complete a successful journey
- No middleman: you like the idea of organizing every aspect of the surrogacy journey on your own including interviewing the intended parents, matching, medical, and compensation negotiation
- Saving money: You want to help the intended parents save money
- Complications/Disagreements: You are confidant you can handle any issues that arises between you and your intended parents
- Compensation: Just because you decide to go independently, does not mean you are going to get a higher compensation
Read more about using a surrogacy agency vs. doing independent surrogacy on our blog:
How do I apply to be a surrogate?
Just because you want to be a surrogate doesn’t mean everyone qualifies to be one. There are a lot of factors that are taken into consideration. Candidates are evaluated on their age, medical history, financial independence, location, their thoughts on termination and even their desire for contact and communication.
I referenced ASRM previously which is the governing body professionals seek to help develop the standard they use in their practices.
According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, or ASRM, (the governing body professionals seek to help develop the standard they use in their practice), to be a surrogate or a gestational carrier, a woman…
- Must be at least 21 years old
- Have carried and successfully delivered a full-term baby
In addition to that, clinics as well as agencies will have their own specific requirements that must be considered. Here are the specific requirements we at Family Inceptions require for our select group of surrogate mothers: Do I Qualify to be a Surrogate?
Assuming you meet all the qualifications, the next step would be to fill out an application with Family Inceptions Surrogacy Agency. You can find the application here: Apply to be a Surrogate
Do I have to pay taxes on my surrogacy compensation?
When tax season rolls around, it’s normal for surrogates to wonder whether their surrogate compensation is taxable — and whether they have to report their pay as a surrogate to the Internal Revenue Service.
Eloise Drane, Family Inceptions CEO and host of the wildly popular podcast Fertility Cafe, recently interviewed CPA Sonia Stewart on the topic of third-party reproduction finances, including taxes and escrow. Listen to the podcast here: Episode 06. Family Building Financials: Talking Escrow + Taxes with Sonia Stewart
The best way to determine whether you must pay taxes is whether or not you received a 1099-MISC form from your intended parents, your surrogacy agency, or your escrow service. If you receive a 1099-MISC for your compensation, you must definitely claim income on your taxes.
What if your surrogacy agency or intended parents don’t issue a 1099? Is surrogate compensation taxed in this situation?
Often, the question of whether a surrogate mother will pay taxes first arises during the drafting of the Gestational Surrogacy Agreement. Your lawyer may include a clause that holds intended parents accountable for any taxes that a gestational carrier may or may not be expected to pay on her compensation. As soon as you have a surrogacy attorney, talk with them in depth about this process to make sure you understand what taxes (if any) you might expect to pay after your surrogacy journey. You and your intended parents should always be on the same page about this topic before your surrogacy contract is finalized and signed.
In the debate about whether income from being a surrogate is taxable or not, the answer often comes down to the language used in the surrogacy contract and the tax laws of the state where a surrogate resides. In your research, you may find a few phrases thrown about:
- “Gift”: Some accountants can avoid certain taxes on surrogate compensation by claiming a percentage of the compensation as a “gift” from the intended parents. However, compensation usually is higher than the annual exemption for gift tax, so surrogates may need to pay taxes on a portion of their compensation payments.
- “Pain and suffering”: Some accountants and surrogacy professionals will avoid taxation by claiming that surrogate compensation is payment for pain and suffering. How well this holds up in court is debatable; after all, a gestational carrier is voluntarily entering into this process of “pain and suffering,” which may negate that tax-exemption status.
- “Pre-birth child support”: Child support is tax-exempt, so some attorneys word compensation as pre-birth child support in order to protect carriers from taxes. But, there is no legal standard for “pre-birth” child support, so enforcement and legal interpretation may vary.
As mentioned, because there are no court cases setting a precedent for this topic, the effectiveness of this language is up for debate. When it comes to taxes on surrogacy compensation, it’s a good idea not to assume anything without the assistance of a professional.
Read more about whether or not you need to pay taxes on surrogacy compensation on our blog: Do I Pay Taxes on My Surrogacy Compensation?
Will I need to have insurance as a surrogate?
Medical insurance in surrogacy is so important. Not only is surrogacy a major financial undertaking for the intended parents, but the idea of unchecked medical costs could also be downright terrifying. This is why, for the protection of both our surrogates and our intended parents, we require every match that we facilitate carry insurance.
While most people in the US do have health insurance, surrogacy is a tricky thing. Many insurance plans will have exclusions for surrogacy pregnancy. This is particularly true for women serving in or covered by a spouse who serves, in the armed forces.
If a surrogate does not have a personal insurance plan that covers surrogacy, an intended parent is required to purchase and carry a medical insurance plan that will cover your related medical expenses during the course of your pregnancy.
Perhaps one of the best ways to get affordable health care coverage is with the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This plan is open to anyone and does cover surrogate pregnancies (in most states), but you can only be enrolled in the plan over one period of six weeks every year. This period is known as open enrollment.
Read more about surrogacy and insurance on our blog: Insurance Enrollment for Surrogates: Will Insurance Cover My Surrogacy?
Is there a podcast that discusses surrogacy?
Yes! We highly recommend listening to the Fertility Café podcast, now streaming on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, Google, and more. Here’s a little bit about the show:
Who ever thought making a baby could be so hard? Luckily, the fertility journey isn’t meant to be traveled alone. So grab a seat and let’s talk fertility and alternative family building with leading industry expert, Eloise Drane. FERTILITY CAFÉ is a weekly podcast focusing on all aspects of the fertility journey – from finding the right clinic and best reproductive endocrinologists, to navigating the egg and embryo donation process, to the ins-and-out of surrogacy including medical, legal, and financial aspects. Eloise has helped hundreds of people build (and grow) their families over the last 15 years, and speaks candidly on the processes involved in making the dream of a baby a reality NOW. Whether you’re an intended parent, a woman considering egg donation, thinking of becoming a surrogate yourself, or a friend or family member of someone dealing with infertility, this podcast will give you the insider information you’ve been seeking.
Listen to the Fertility Café podcast now: https://thefertilitycafe.com/
Is surrogacy legal?
The laws around surrogacy are constantly changing and may vary from state-to-state (sometimes varied by county). Based on our experience, written law and practiced law in a number of states can differ widely. Thus, it is very important that you not only get yourself familiar with the law of your state, but also seek legal representation to assist and guide you in your unique circumstances.
- Research the surrogacy laws in your state: US Surrogacy Law by State
How do I find surrogacy agencies near me?
Family Inceptions is a surrogacy and egg donation agency, first established in 2008, and has been helping local families and surrogates looking to complete the journey of surrogacy across the US. We help families all along the east coast, from northeast states including New Jersey and Connecticut, to southeast states like North Carolina, South Carolina on down to Georgia, Alabama, and Florida. We also serve the northwest United States, including Washington and Oregon, as well as the mid-western and southwestern US.
We are a full-service Surrogacy and Egg Donation agency, providing both surrogates and egg donors for intended parents across the state. While we have general guidelines, we make sure to individualize plans intended for specific timelines, preferences, and locations. This individualization is what makes Family Inceptions one of the best surrogacy agencies in the United States.
Read more about finding a surrogacy agency near you: Locations for Intended Parents, Surrogates, and Egg Donors