You’ve probably heard the term surrogate mother before, but like many people, you may not know what a surrogate actually does.

We wanted to shed some light on surrogacy for you and give you a basic understanding of surrogate mothers and what they do. You’ll also learn how the surrogacy process works, why people choose surrogacy over adoption, the benefits and risks of surrogacy, and more.

What is surrogacy?

Let’s start with the basics. Surrogacy is a method of assisted reproduction in which a woman, called a surrogate mother,  carries and gives birth to a baby for another person or couple, called the “intended parent(s).” Surrogacy enables people who cannot successfully carry a pregnancy to have a baby.

What’s the difference between gestational surrogacy and traditional surrogacy?

There are two types of surrogacy: traditional surrogacy and gestational surrogacy.

Traditional surrogacy is where the surrogate is both the egg donor and the surrogate. Because she uses her own egg, she has a genetic relationship with the baby.

In traditional surrogacy, the surrogate is impregnated using a process called intrauterine insemination (IUI), where a doctor takes sperm from the intended father and transfers it into the uterus of the surrogate. Then, natural fertilization of the egg takes place.

As medical science continues to become more advanced, traditional surrogacy is becoming much less common than gestational surrogacy.

Gestational surrogacy is where the surrogate has an embryo implanted into her uterus—and therefore has no genetic relationship with the baby.

In this type of surrogacy, one or more eggs are retrieved from the biological mother or an egg donor, fertilized with sperm from the father or a sperm donor, and the embryo (or embryos) are implanted in the uterus of the surrogate mother (often called the gestational carrier), using in vitro fertilization (IVF). The surrogate then carries the baby on behalf of the intended parent(s).

Gestational surrogacy provides a way for heterosexual couples, single people, and members of the LGBTQ+ community to complete their families. The process is slightly different for LGBTQ+ intended parents, as they must decide which (if either) partner will be genetically related to the child, and whether they will use a known or anonymous egg or sperm donor.

What is the surrogacy process for the surrogate mother?

  1. The first and most essential step is making sure surrogacy is the right decision for you. Surrogacy is a major commitment for everyone involved, so it’s important to do your research, talk with your partner, and be honest with yourself.
  2. Next, choose a reputable surrogacy agency to guide you through your journey. Your surrogacy agency will help to answer all your questions as you make the decisions that are best for you and your family—and they’ll help you navigate the path forward, including preliminary meetings with doctors, mental health professionals, and other surrogacy experts.
  1. After contacting a surrogacy agency, you’ll apply and have several different types of screenings.
  2. It’s time to get matched with the intended parent(s)! At SPS, we have over 30 years of experience building our trusted reputation, and our success is directly tied to our commitment to high-quality matches.
  3. The next step is getting pregnant and navigating the pregnancy. Your experience with getting pregnant will depend on your unique circumstances—but, generally speaking, intended parents and surrogates will undergo a series of fertility treatments leading up to an embryo transfer. At SPS, your case manager will be at all milestone appointments leading up to and during your pregnancy (either in person, by phone, or virtually—in whatever way the provider allows).
  4. And lastly, the most joyful stage of the surrogacy process—the birth of the baby. After the baby is born, the surrogate mother and the new family all return to their homes—but you will forever know that the world is a better place because you gave this wonderful gift!

Why do people choose surrogacy to grow their family?

For intended parents, the decision to pursue surrogacy is incredibly personal. There are many factors that contribute to their decision. Here are just some of the general reasons intended parents may choose surrogacy to expand their family.

  • A Biological Connection: While a genetic connection is certainly not required to create strong familial bonds, many intended parents want to have a biological connection to their child. This continues to be the most common reason intended parents choose surrogacy over adoption.
  • A Transparent and Safe Pregnancy: With both surrogacy and adoption, the birth mother gives intended parents the most amazing gift possible. However, when weighing the options, many hopeful parents become concerned about the “unknowns” of an adopted baby’s health history. For example, many adoptive parents aren’t able to get a complete medical history of the baby’s father, and they don’t know whether the baby was exposed to toxins or malnourishment (etc.) in-utero.

While gestational surrogates always maintain control over their own bodies, they’ve agreed to a certain level of lifestyle standards (including not smoking or drinking alcohol) that are designed to protect the developing fetus.

  • An Incompatibility with the Adoption Process: Neither adoption nor surrogacy are an “easy” process, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution for starting a family. There are a vast number of reasons future parents may feel the adoption process isn’t right for their families, such as fearing discrimination (especially for those who identify as LGBTQ+), being ineligible due to age requirements, and/or not being prepared to navigate the unique challenges associated with raising an adopted child.

Also, some intended parents have tried to adopt – and had a devastating experience (like the birth mother changing her mind). With surrogacy, intended parents have their names on the birth certificate from the moment the child is born.

Is surrogacy legal in the U.S.? 

In the U.S., gestational surrogacy agreements aren’t legal in all 50 states. Each state determines the legality of surrogacy agreements, and laws vary considerably from one state to the next.

California, where SPS is based, is often referred to as a “surrogacy friendly” state for both surrogate mothers and intended parents. The state has more statutory law and case law on surrogacy than almost any other state.

Intended parents are able to establish their legal parental rights before the birth of their child without having to complete adoption proceedings. Also, surrogacy is available to individuals regardless of their marital status, orientation, or gender identity.

Are surrogate mothers expensive?  

Many people wonder how much it costs to have a baby via surrogacy. The average cost of gestational surrogacy depends on each individual arrangement, but it usually ranges between $115,000 to $155,000.

This cost includes surrogate compensation, surrogacy agency fees, legal fees, IVF, and travel and other expenses.

How much do surrogate mothers get paid? 

Compensation for surrogate mothers depends on where the surrogate lives, whether she’s a first-time surrogate or repeat surrogate, and the specific details of her surrogacy journey. At SPS, our compensation packages start at $58,000.

How do you find a surrogate mother?

There are several ways to find a surrogate mother. The surrogate can be someone the intended parents know, such as a family member or friend. However, the most common way to find a surrogate is with a surrogacy agency, such as Surrogate Parenting Services.

Who can be a surrogate mother?  

When a woman applies to become a surrogate, the surrogacy agency ensures that she is physically healthy and capable of carrying a child without putting herself at risk. The requirements for surrogate mothers vary from agency to agency.

At SPS, surrogates must meet the following criteria (along with several other requirements):

  •       They are between 21 and 40 years old
  •       They have had at least one easy pregnancy and delivery
  •       They have at least one child of their own living with them
  •       They are non-smokers and don’t use drugs
  •       They can support themselves financially
  •       They have reliable transportation
  •       They must have a desire to help someone in a very special way
  •       They must love being pregnant!

How does it feel to be a surrogate mother? 

Each surrogate’s journey is unique and special. Here are some comments from our surrogate mothers describing their experience:

“In just seconds, you watch someone transform into a mom or dad when all they could do before was dream of being one. Nothing was more magical other than when I had my own children.” – Jaleesa

“Never in my life did I ever think I would be able to do something that would help someone in such a huge way. I will never forget the look on my IPs’ faces when they saw their daughter. I’m so happy to have helped them grow their family, and I am forever grateful to SPS for introducing us to the people we now call family.” – Mindy

“I’m surprised and so very grateful at how close I’ve been able to become with my intended dads and surrobabe!” – Heatherlyn

You can read more about our surrogates’ experiences—in their own words—on our blog!

How does surrogacy benefit surrogate mothers?

There are many advantages to being a surrogate mother. The greatest benefit is being able to make the world a little bit more joyful because you created a new life (and new parents)!

Also, surrogates help hopeful parents who have few other options (like those in the LGBTQ+ community); teach their children important lessons about generosity, helping others, and being inclusive; and in states where compensated surrogacy is legal, surrogates receive compensation to help them take a significant financial step like paying off debt, starting a college fund, buying a car, or putting a down payment on a home.

How does surrogacy benefit intended parents?

The greatest benefit is, of course, being able to bring home the child they’ve dreamed about for so long.

Other benefits include the fact that one or both of the intended parents can be biologically related to the child, the intended parents can be involved in the pregnancy process, and the intended parents and surrogate often form a special bond. Surrogacy also gives people in the LGBTQ+ community an alternative to adoption.

What are the risks of surrogacy?

While the vast majority of surrogacy experiences are positive, surrogacy does carry some medical and emotional risks for the surrogate. Be sure to talk to your doctor, fertility clinic, and your surrogacy agency to understand what your risks could be based on your specific situation.

On the medical side, surrogacy carries the same medical risks and challenges as any other pregnancy. These include weight gain, swelling, back pain, nausea from morning sickness, heartburn, and other side effects. More serious side effects can include gestational diabetes, infections, and hypertension. There are also some minor risks that come with IVF treatment.

In terms of emotional risks, surrogates may experience some feelings of loss and grief following the birth of the baby. It’s important to have a strong surrogate support system—a network of people who are ready to provide both emotional and practical support.

What are the best surrogacy agencies in the U.S.?

The “best” surrogacy agencies have a proven record of positive journeys and are committed to the highest standards. When searching for the right agency for you, it’s important to ask how long the company has been in business, how many families they have helped to create, and how their reputation has evolved (or remained consistent) over the years.

At SPS, we’re one of the oldest and most established surrogacy agencies in California. Since 1990, we’ve helped to bring more than 800 babies into the world, and we’re honored to have so many of our new parents, surrogates, and medical professional partners refer their friends, family, and patients to us.

Learn More About Becoming a Surrogate with Surrogate Parenting Services

Surrogate Parenting Services is proud to celebrate 30 Years of helping to bring dreams to life! Founded in 1990, Surrogate Parenting Services (SPS) is a full-service surrogacy program that offers both parties an exceptionally supportive environment throughout the surrogacy relationship. We’re passionate about creating ideal matches between surrogates and intended parents, so the journey is fulfilling for both sides and the future child is brought into this world in the best possible circumstances.

Learn more about our Surrogacy Program online or by calling (949) 363-9525.