The decision to be a surrogate is huge and wonderful. Gestational surrogates forever change the lives of the families they help and will always have a special place in their hearts. It truly takes a very special kind of woman to choose to be a surrogate, as the kindness, generosity, and compassion these women have is remarkable. The truth is, very few women are willing to give in this way, and of those who are, even fewer actually qualify. Arguably, one of the biggest challenges women who want to be surrogates face is BMI. If you’ve done research, you’ll see that it’s a recurring theme, but what exactly is it and why does it matter so much?
What is BMI?
BMI is short for body-mass index. It’s a measurement of a person’s body fat, calculated using their height and weight. If you don’t already know your BMI, you can check it on the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services National Institutes of Health website.
If Your BMI Is…
- Less than 18.5, you’re underweight
- 18.5–24.9, you’re of normal weight
- 25–29.9, you’re considered overweight
- 30+, you’re considered medically obese
What BMI is Ok and Who Decides?
Most intended parents are already working with a fertility specialist, and the same physician will be the one who performs all of the initial treatments, including IVF and the embryo transfer. It’s this doctor who will set his own guidelines for health and weight requirements. Most doctors prefer to work with women who have a BMI of 33 or lower (some say 31-32), though others will provide treatment for people with a BMI of up to 35. Considering the average American woman is 5 feet 4 inches, she’d have to weigh 192 pounds to qualify, having a BMI of 33.
Why Does BMI Matter?
BMI is a very reliable indicator of potential complications and risks a woman might face throughout the surrogacy process, and given the very delicate nature of surrogacy, it’s important to minimize these risks as much as possible.
If Your BMI is Too High…
It takes longer to become pregnant. Generally speaking, it takes women with a BMI of 35 or more twice as long to become pregnant. Equally, it takes underweight women four times as long.
You’re more prone to gestational diabetes. Even though any woman may have gestational diabetes, women with a BMI over 30 are three-times more likely to have it.
You’re more likely to have high blood pressure. Women with a BMI over 30 are more likely to have issues controlling their blood pressure throughout a pregnancy.
The risk of preeclampsia increases. Women with a BMI of 35 have double the risk of developing preeclampsia, compared to those with a BMI of 25.
The baby has a higher risk of numerous complications. High birth weight, miscarriage, stillbirth, and birth defect rates all climb with the gestational carrier’s BMI.
Labor can be more difficult. Overweight surrogates tend to labor longer. Due to the larger size of the baby, there’s an increased risk for C-section, and there’s a higher chance there will be anesthesia complications or that the surrogate will hemorrhage.
BMI Matters When You’re Going to Be a Surrogate
Unfortunately, the risks associated with having a high BMI are very real and affect you, the baby, and the intended parents. As tough as it may be, it’s better if you increase your activity or focus on a nutritious diet beforehand if your BMI is not within a healthy range. In fact, maintaining a healthy BMI should be something we all aspire to, whether or not we become surrogates. With that said, if you’re generally healthy and have a healthy BMI (or even sit on the border) you may qualify to be a surrogate. Please take a moment to check out our other guidelines and let us know if you have questions or are ready to begin the process.