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What is a Surrogate?

last year7 min read
Last updated: Jan 20 2023

A surrogate is someone who carries a baby on behalf of other people. Let’s look at why people use surrogates and how to become one.

what-is-a-surrogate

There are many different ways to have a baby, and having one by surrogate is an option that’s becoming more popular.

Surrogacy can be especially valuable if you’re having reproductive struggles, or if you can’t or don’t want to carry a baby for other medical or personal reasons.

We’ll say it again: there are many ways to have a baby, and the route you pick is entirely up to you. 💕











Surrogacy can be complicated legally, especially since surrogacy laws vary from state to state and country to country.

The main thing you need to do is find out as much as you can about your state’s laws before setting out on this journey.

This US surrogacy map can help you.

Let’s start by offering a surrogate definition, and then answering all of your questions about how this arrangement works.

In this article: 📝

  • What is a surrogate?
  • Why do people use a surrogate?
  • How does a surrogate get pregnant?
  • Will the baby look like the surrogate mother?
  • How much does a surrogate cost?
  • Do you need a surrogacy agency?
  • Do you need to have legal documents in place?
  • How to become a surrogate: the steps involved

What is a surrogate?

A surrogate mother is someone who carries and delivers a baby on behalf of another person or people.

Once the baby is born, these people become the baby’s parents.

In surrogacy speak, they’re called the “intended parents.”

There are two types of surrogates: traditional and gestational.

A traditional surrogate

Traditional surrogates are women who are artificially inseminated with either the intended father’s sperm or a donor’s sperm.

In this case, the surrogate is the baby’s biological mother because her egg is fertilized.

It’s this that can make this arrangement much trickier from a legal perspective.

Because the surrogate has genetic ties to the baby, some states say that she has stronger legal ties, too.

A gestational surrogate

This arrangement is slightly different.

Gestational surrogacy is done through in vitro fertilization (IVF), which involves fertilizing an egg from the intended mother (or an egg donor) with sperm from the intended father (or a sperm donor).

The embryo is then placed inside the surrogate’s uterus.

Most US states consider this approach less legally complicated since the surrogate isn’t related to the baby genetically.

Gestational surrogates are often called birth mothers rather than biological mothers.

Why do people use a surrogate?

There are many reasons why you might want to use a surrogate.

You may:

  • Have had medical problems with your uterus or other reproductive organs.
  • Have had a hysterectomy, meaning your uterus was removed.
  • Experience health conditions that make pregnancy risky for you.
  • Have no desire to carry a child yourself.
  • Have a partner who is experiencing fertility challenges
  • Be in an LGBTQIA+ relationship

How does a surrogate get pregnant?

Surrogates either get pregnant through artificial insemination or IVF.

Doctors manage this process, and there’s a fair amount of prep and planning that needs to take place.

Hang tight, we’ll get into the steps involved in becoming a surrogate in a moment.

Will the baby look like the surrogate mother?

This depends on which kind of surrogacy you choose.

If you go for the traditional option — using the surrogate’s own eggs — then yes, it’s possible that your baby will look like their biological mother.

If you go with the gestational option, then no, your baby will look like the people whose egg and sperm were used, which might be you and your partner, egg or sperm donors, or a combination of all of the two.

How much does a surrogate cost?

Having a baby is expensive, there’s no arguing with that.

And when you have a baby through surrogacy, the costs can be particularly high.

So, how much does it cost to have a surrogate?

Between one-third and one-half of the total cost is the surrogate’s fee.

Most surrogates will charge between $50,000 and $70,000 for their services.

This fee can include things like a monthly allowance, maternity clothes, insurance, a fee every time she takes a new medication, and any travel expenses.

On top of your surrogate’s fees are the costs you’ll be charged by your fertility clinic, your donor clinic (if you use donor eggs or sperm), your surrogacy agency (if you choose to hire one), and your lawyers.

In total, you’re likely going to spend between $100,000 and $200,000.

This figure might even be a little higher if you live in a state like California, where surrogates are in high demand.

Do you need a surrogacy agency?

This is a tricky question.

It’s cheaper to do it without an agency, but foregoing an agency could delay or even thwart the entire process if important medical and legal issues aren’t dealt with properly.

If this is your first time, either as a parent or a surrogate, it’s probably worth getting someone who knows the process to help you.

Do you need to have legal documents in place?

The short answer is yes.

And make sure you involve a qualified lawyer when drawing up your documents.

Surrogacy laws are so tricky, and every state has a different approach.

And in many states, surrogacy contracts are not actually legally enforceable, meaning the surrogate can back out at any time — which might leave you wondering, why do them at all?

Even if the contract is not legally enforceable, it’s still very important to have a clear set of agreements between you and your surrogate that comply with all the existing laws in your state.

What happens if your surrogate experiences pregnancy loss?

Or if she gets pregnant with twins or triplets?

What if either you or your surrogate start to have second thoughts?

These are all questions you want to iron out with your surrogate before beginning the surrogacy process.

How to become a surrogate: the steps involved

Becoming a surrogate is an incredible gift to hopeful parents who can’t carry their own children.

It’s beautiful and rewarding.

But it’s also a really big decision.

If you choose to become a surrogate, you’ll need to meet certain physical, psychological, and screening requirements.

Physically, you’ll likely have to:

  • Be between 21 and 40 years old.
  • Have a healthy BMI.
  • Have carried at least one pregnancy successfully to term with no major complications.
  • Be raising a child of your own in your own home.
  • Take certain medications as part of the insemination or IVF process.

Psychologically, there’s quite a bit to prepare for, too.

Being a surrogate is a full-time commitment and could affect your day-to-day life, your work, your relationship, and your family.

It’s worth adding that it’s uncommon for surrogates to become attached to the babies they carry.

But it helps to be mentally prepared for this.

It’s also a good idea to chat through some other points with the parents, such as how much contact you’ll have before, during, and after the pregnancy.

This is a special relationship, as this research shows, and it’s worth being cognisant about how everyone is likely to feel.

The screening process involves working with an agency who will go through their own checks to make sure that you’re surrogate-ready.

Curious to find out more?

Take a look at this first-hand account of what it’s like to be a surrogate.

Surrogacy can be quite a journey — but the same can be said of any of the ways in which people become parents.

Best of luck!

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