Everything You Need To Know About Surrogacy

Your baby and someone else's womb?

Originally Published: 
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Having a kid despite infertility is fraught with barriers that typical parents don’t have to face. This is never more true than when a couple chooses to ask another woman to be involved through surrogacy. Even if you are able to overcome the barriers connected with surrogacy, you’ll probably still have to fight the urge to joke about your partner letting you get another lady knocked up. Dig deep.

If you and your partner are struggling with how to overcome infertility and add a member to your family, surrogacy may be right for you despite the hoops through which you’ll have to jump. Here’s everything you need to know about surrogacy to help you make your decision.

Surrogacy Basics

The surrogacy process at its most basic is 4 steps: Finding a surrogate mother, fertilization and/or embryo implantation; pregnancy; delivery and return home

In the United States, surrogacy has been around in the legal sense since only 1976. That was the year Dearborn, Michigan lawyer Noel Keane drew up the country’s first official surrogate agreement. Keane’s contract dealt with a couple who would go on to use artificial insemination to impregnate a carrier who agreed to give up her child upon birth.

Since that time, the generally accepted estimate is that 9 babies in each state are born every year to surrogate mothers. And this number has continued to grow thanks to modern medical advances.

Initially the only option open to parents who wished to go into an agreement with a surrogate was artificial insemination. But after the first birth of a baby conceived through In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) in 1978, options in the field of Assisted Reproductive Therapies (ART) have exploded, providing couples and surrogates with far more options. Which generally means that no, you aren’t going to get a free pass to have sex with another lady. So, just put that one out of your mind.

Methods of Surrogacy

There are now 2 basic methods now for surrogacy. Both have their pros and cons depending on what outcome the prospective parents are hoping to see (you know, besides a healthy baby).


Traditional surrogacy basically means that the surrogate mother’s own egg is fertilized with the intended father’s sperm. That means the intended mother has no genetic link to her baby. Because of this, traditional surrogacy isn’t crazy popular. But it could be a good option if the intended mother is a carrier of a genetic disorder that could be transferred to a biological child.


Gestational surrogacy relies on ART. The process implants a fertilized embryo in the surrogate’s womb, which she then carries to term. That means the baby is genetically related to both the mother and the father and not the surrogate. Although donor sperm can be used in cases where the father may not want to pass along a genetic disorder.

Gestational surrogacy is on the rise. It accounts for most surrogate births in the United States. The process resulted in more than 13,000 deliveries and 18,000 babies between 1999 and 2013. That means gestational surrogates are very likely to have multiples. So, hope you wanted a couple of kids.

Types Of Surrogacy Agreements

Along with surrogacy methods, there are 2 types of surrogacy agreements. They offer distinct surrogacy pathways.


The surrogate here isn’t entering the agreement under representation of a surrogacy agency or receiving additional money beyond necessary medical and living costs. She is most often a friend or family member who has agreed to become a surrogate out of the kindness of her heart.


In commercial surrogacy, the surrogate is found through an agency. The agency assists with details including vetting, legal contracts, various testing, and payment. Of course, even though she’s represented by an agency, it still takes a kind heart to carry another couple’s kid.

Surrogacy Costs

Of all the ways a couple can have a kid despite infertility, surrogacy is the most expensive, even when compared to adoption. That’s because those pursuing surrogacy (especially through an agency) have a raft of issues with which they need to deal. These include:

  • Legal Fees
  • ART costs
  • Pregnancy costs not covered by insurance
  • Surrogates lost wages
  • Travel
  • Agency fees

All told, prospective parents working with a surrogacy agency may be forking out up to $120,000. The surrogate will receive a large portion of the money via an escrow account.

The Legal And Ethical Issues Of Surrogacy

It’s important to note that surrogacy remains fairly controversial in the United States. While it has been a pretty dormant topic of conversation in the light of more recent pressing bioethical issues involving genetics, it remains a hot button issue.

The patchwork of state laws determining how people access surrogacy in the United States reflect surrogacy’s ethical concerns. For instance, some states are lenient, even allowing “pre-birth orders” that ensure the birth certificate will carry the name of the intended parents. Other states are more restrictive, requiring the intended mother to undergo a step-parent adoption process to gain legal guardianship of the baby. Still other states do not allow gay and lesbian couples to enter into surrogacy agreements.

It’s incredibly important to know your state law if surrogacy is something you wish to pursue. But most often the decision will come down to how you feel personally about surrogacy and your ability to pay and possibly care for more than a single kid. Not to mention your ability to not joke about the other lady having your baby. You can do this!

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