When it comes to determining what options are available to them, many people who are hoping to expand their family rule out surrogacy simply because they assume it is too expensive. Still, by understanding what’s involved in a surrogacy experience, as well as the attached expenses, many families choose this route.
Here’s what you should know about surrogacy before making a hard-and-fast decision.
What is Surrogacy?
Surrogacy isn’t a fertility treatment, but it is a form of assisted reproduction. Intended parents — the common term for people who seek out an individual to help them have a baby — work with a gestational surrogate, who becomes pregnant with their baby.
The surrogate then carries the intended parents’ baby and births the child, though even though they are pregnant doesn’t mean that the baby is genetically theirs. In fact, many surrogates are not biologically related to their intended parents’ child despite carrying and giving birth to them.
Surrogacy is an option for potential parents who struggle with infertility, but it’s also commonly sought out by LGBTQ+ parents who are looking to start a family. Many people also seek out surrogacy when they want to have another child who is biologically their own, but they are unable to become pregnant or carry a pregnancy to term because of health issues.
The Surrogacy Process
While many people think that surrogacy simply means carrying and giving birth to someone else’s baby, there’s much more involved. Here’s what you should know about the surrogacy process.
How does surrogacy work?
Surrogacy works by first locating a surrogate. Many intended parents choose to work with an agency that has vetted, experienced surrogates who meet particular agency requirements.
Still, other intended parents look to having private surrogacy relationships where they seek out a potential surrogate through ads, or by asking a friend or family member to carry their child.
After a surrogate is selected, the intended parents and surrogate (and surrogate agency, if applicable), create a contract detailing the ins and outs of the surrogacy experience. This includes rules about prenatal care and testing, how you’ll communicate and interact, responses to potential problems with a pregnancy, and more.
From there, depending on whether you choose to use a traditional or gestational surrogate, your surrogate will become pregnant. During the course of the pregnancy, intended parents provide coverage for the surrogate’s medical expenses, legal expenses, and pregnancy-related needs.
After a healthy pregnancy and successful delivery, your surrogate’s job is complete, and your family will welcome home a new baby.
Gestational Surrogacy vs. Traditional Surrogacy
There are two kinds of surrogacy, and in the most basic sense, they differ based on the genetic material that is used to create the pregnancy. Gestational surrogacy and traditional surrogacy are two different paths intended parents can take when considering the option of surrogacy.
This form of surrogacy occurs when the surrogate mother uses her own eggs to become pregnant. Her eggs are artificially inseminated with an intended father’s sperm, meaning that she is the child’s biological mother.
Despite being genetically linked to the baby, a surrogate understands that the child is not her own, and she carries the child with the agreement that she will give birth as well as custody of the child.
Traditional surrogacy is often considered for gay couples who do not have eggs to use for the conception of a child. It is often also used by intended parents who have known genetic conditions they do not want to pass along to their child, or in situations where the intended mother is infertile and cannot use her own eggs.
Modern technology has made it so much easier for intended parents who want a child who is biologically theirs, but can’t become pregnant on their own. Gestational surrogacy utilizes in vitro fertilization (IVF) to implant fertilized embryos into a surrogate’s uterus.
Eggs can be collected from an intended mother and fertilized with the intended father’s sperm, meaning that in gestational surrogacy, the child and surrogate are not biologically related.
Gestational surrogacy is often sought out for families where health conditions such as cancer treatment or high-risk pregnancy complications have made it difficult for intended parents to become pregnant on their own, despite having the available eggs and sperm. It’s also an option for LGBTQ+ couples who want to use a donor egg instead of the surrogacy’s eggs.
What Is The Average Cost of Surrogacy?
The costs of surrogacy can quickly add up — and for many families, the expense can be off-putting. On average, the cost of a surrogate in the United States is $100,000.
While this number can vary by region, surrogacy agency, and other factors, it’s not common for intended parents to pay between $75,000 and $130,000 or more to have a child through surrogacy.
Calculating Surrogacy Costs
Many people falsely believe that the entire amount paid for a surrogate goes straight to the surrogate mother as payment. In reality, much of the costs of surrogacy account for agency services and fees, medical costs, and more. Here’s a surrogacy cost breakdown:
Surrogate compensation and reimbursement
If you’re wondering “how much does a surrogate mother make,” you should know that compensation for a surrogate heavily depends on where you live, regional demand, and her prior experience as a surrogate. First-time surrogates make less than more experienced surrogates, but compensation generally ranges between $30,000 and $60,000.
The costs of agency fees
Agency fees cover the cost of working with an agency to find a surrogate and completing the surrogacy journey. This cost often ranges between $5,000 and $30,000, and varies heavily based on the surrogacy agency you select.
The costs of advertising services
How intended parents choose to seek out a surrogate can impact what they’ll pay in advertising fees. If you choose to hunt for a surrogate without the help of an agency, you may pay less for advertising services (sometimes less than $100 for online directory posts).
Still, advertising costs can reach as high as $1,000 depending on where you advertise, how you advertise, and if an agency helps.
The costs of matching services
Matching services are often included in surrogacy agency fees, so prices can vary. These fees cover the process of matching and screening potential surrogates, and can range up to $5,000.
The costs of counseling and support
Surrogacy costs with an agency include counseling and support sessions for both the surrogate and the intended parents, simply because it’s an emotionally involved process. This can cost anywhere from $1,500 to $3,000.
The costs of additional agency services
Sometimes, surrogacy pregnancies require additional support, such as in situations of twin births or pregnancy complications. Some services even provide stipends for maternity clothing, bed rest compensation (where the surrogate can no longer work at her personal job), groceries, and more.
You should speak with your agency to determine what additional services they build into the cost of surrogacy and know these could total an additional $2,000 to $10,000.
The costs of legal services
Legal services are one area that should not be skimped on to reduce the cost of surrogacy; some agencies build this expense into their agency fees, while others do not. These legal services are important at ensuring a binding contract is set between you and your surrogate; you should budget for anywhere between $2,000 and $10,000.
The costs of medical expenses
Medical expenses are one of the largest expenses of surrogacy; they often range between $10,000 and $25,000 depending on what kind of supplemental insurance is used and what kinds of medical care is required. You can expect to pay more in medical expenses for twin births, as well as in the event of a C-section during delivery.
Low-Cost Surrogacy Options in the U.S.
Because surrogacy can be, many intended parents find ways to minimize the cost of having a child this way. Many individuals and couples who decide on surrogacy have found some ways to reduce the cost, including:
- Asking a friend to be a surrogate: This route is often taken if a friend volunteers and is a benefit because it allows intended parents to seek someone they truly know and feel comfortable with. Surrogacy cost with a friend can range from $15,000 to $30,000 thanks to medical fees and legal fees. Still, this can reduce the cost of surrogacy drastically. The cost of surrogacy without an agency can make this journey much more affordable.
- Having a family member be a surrogate: For some intended parents, a willing family member may offer to birth their child. The cost of surrogacy with family members often drops, costing anywhere between $15,000 and $30,000, accounting for medical and legal fees. The reduced cost of having a family member being surrogate can make surrogacy a reality for families with a smaller budget.
- Seeking a twin pregnancy: Intended parents who either want twins or are looking to have only one surrogacy experience but multiple children may consider twin pregnancies. While the surrogate mother cost for twins does increase due to the higher risk associated with a twin pregnancy, some families consider this cheaper than pursuing two separate surrogate pregnancies. On average, a surrogate agency may charge an additional “twins” fee of $5,000 or more.
- Searching for volunteer surrogates: Because many surrogates find the experience to be rewarding, there are some who volunteer their services. For families looking to pursue surrogacy without the cost of an agency, searching for free surrogate mothers online may help them find a goodwill surrogate.
- Hiring surrogates outside of an agency: It’s not required for intended parents to utilize a surrogacy agency. In fact, independent surrogacy cost can cost almost half of surrogacy with an agency, ranging anywhere from $30,000 to $75,000. The cost of surrogacy without agency is low enough to make surrogacy a reality, though it is recommended that intended parents work closely with an attorney to cover all legal bases.
Surrogacy Procedures Covered Under Health Insurance
Whether or not your insurance provider will cover the care of your surrogate is hard to determine, simply because there’s no universal rule regarding surrogate care. While almost all surrogacy agencies will require health insurance coverage for surrogates (and the unborn baby), it can be tough to figure out how to obtain health insurance.
So, does insurance cover surrogacy, and who’s insurance helps with the cost of care?
Since the popularity of surrogacy has increased, many insurance providers have provided stipulations that only non-surrogate, “in-family” pregnancies are covered. This makes it difficult for a surrogate to use her own health care for prenatal care and hospital delivery.
And for many intended parents, it’s a toss-up regarding if their insurance provider will cover the surrogate’s care, and if so, to what extent.
For that reason, it’s important to contact your insurance company to determine what level of coverage it offers for surrogate situations. If you find that your insurance provider doesn’t offer surrogate coverage, there are still other options.
Some insurance companies provide supplemental surrogacy policies that are specifically used to help cover the medical expenses associated with surrogacy.
Since many surrogacy agencies require some kind of insurance to be provided by the intended parents for the surrogate, it’s important to understand the potential costs of surrogacy insurance. If an agency doesn’t require insurance, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll still be required to cover all medical fees, though you’ll likely be paying out of pocket with no insurance help.
The Costs of Surrogacy vs. Adoption
Unfortunately, surrogacy and adoption can both carry hefty costs. Still, you can expect surrogacy to cost more than adoption due to a variety of costs you must cover, including medical bills, prenatal care, and legal expenses.
In the United States, the adoption costs vary because there are several avenues to adopting a child. For example:
- Adopting a child that you foster costs, on average, $2,500 or less. However, some families who adopt foster children do so at minor or no cost thanks to government assistance.
- The average cost of adopting a child through a private adoption agency is between $5,000 and $60,000, depending on the child’s age and other factors. In 2017, the average adoption through an agency cost more than $43,000.
- Families who choose to adopt independently with the help of an attorney (also known as a private adoption) but without the help of an adoption agency see the largest range of prices, from $8,000 to $60,000. However, according to 2017 adoption research, families seeking private adoptions paid an average of $38,000.
- Families who adopt children from other countries may also see a large variance in price, though many people consider adopting a foreign child because of lower costs.
In comparison, surrogacy can be double or triple the cost of adoption. This often pushes many prospective parents towards adoption over surrogacy.
Is Surrogacy Right for Me?
Just like there’s no one type of fertility treatment that works for everyone, surrogacy isn’t the best option or top pick for every expecting family. If you’re wondering if surrogacy is the right choice for you, consider asking yourself these questions:
How do I feel about the surrogate and intended parent relationship?
The surrogate experience, for many people, is very personal. While the surrogate and intended parent relationship is focused on the conception and birth of a healthy baby, there’s more involved — such as the emotional bond you may end up having with a potential surrogate.
For people who are interested in creating some kind of bond or relationship with the person who helped them expand their family, surrogacy can be a wonderful option. Still, there are many intended parents who do not want a deep level of connection with their surrogate, and that’s perfectly fine.
Before starting the search for a surrogate or entering into a surrogacy agreement, it’s important to understand your own feelings about the process.
Do I fully understand the cost of surrogacy, and can I afford it?
Because surrogacy comes with a large price tag — much of it upfront — it’s important that you fully understand all of the costs involved, including in situations where the surrogacy agreement may not work out. And, because surrogacy generally isn’t covered by insurance, you’ll need to be sure that you have researched ways to reduce the cost of using a surrogate without the help of your insurance provider (as opposed to fertility treatments, which are sometimes covered by private insurance and Medicare).
Have I considered other options and weighed the pros and cons?
Because surrogacy comes with a large price tag, it’s important to explore all the available options. Many families who consider surrogacy but can’t afford the price weigh the choices of adoption or fertility treatments, and those who have exhausted those options may consider surrogacy to be their best bet.
Researching the pros and cons of surrogacy, and understanding your personal feelings, can help you best determine if surrogacy is the right choice for you and your family.