Once you decide to grow your family through surrogacy, the key to a successful surrogacy journey is to do your research, and get all of your questions answered.
That's why Gays with Kids reached out to you – their community – and asked you what questions you'd like answered about surrogacy. They turned to Circle Surrogacy, leaders in helping others build families through surrogacy and egg donation, for answers to your most burning questions.
1. Why is surrogacy so expensive?
We hear this question often. Surrogacy can be a complicated process which requires specialists in the legal, medical, social work and insurance fields. The cost of those services, combined with the fees paid to a surrogate and egg donor, make surrogacy a very safe and secure – but also expensive – option to grow your family. Circle offers a Fixed Fee Program, which fixes certain costs for Intended Parents throughout their journey to reduce financial uncertainty and stress.
2. How does one manage paying for surrogacy? Any type of financial tips or aid?
For Intended Parents who need financial support for a surrogacy journey, there are a few options available:
- Family and friends. Some Intended Parents look to family and friends to help them fund their journeys. Some start crowdsourcing or fundraising pages online for donations.
- Home Equity. Intended Parents may have the option to refinance their home or take out a home equity line of credit.
- Loans. Some IPs have the option to take out a loan against their 401k retirement accounts, or take personal loans. Circle offers IPs living in the United States financing options through Prosper HealthCare Lending.
- Organizations and grants. There are some support groups or organizations that offer discounts or grants, which typically only cover a small percentage of the overall costs.
3. What is the total cost of surrogacy?
The total costs of surrogacy are different for everyone because they depend on a few factors: where you live, where your surrogate lives, whether or not you have created embryos or need IVF, to name a few.
In order to get the most accurate understanding of how much a surrogacy journey will cost, it's best to look at the individual pieces of the total journey so that you can identify what your expenses will be.
Each agency is different, and the costs and fees (and coverage) varies. Imagine your expenses and costs being broken up into 4 categories: Professional Fees (Agency), Carrier/Egg Donor Fees, Insurance Costs and IVF Costs.
Here are estimated costs for each of the four expense categories list above:
Professional Fees (Agency): $36,500-$46,000
Carrier/Egg Donor Fees: $61,500-$75,000
Insurance Costs: $15,000-$26,000
IVF Costs: $20,000-$45,000
You can get detailed cost information in this post about surrogacy costs.
4. Do surrogates pump breast milk for the baby?
The pumping of breast milk by a surrogate for her intended parents is something that is discussed – and decided upon – by both parties. Many surrogates do go on to pump breast milk for the babies and ship it to the parents – even internationally – for a duration of time that works for both the surrogate and the parents. Surrogates are paid for pumping their breast milk, as well as for the supplies necessary to ship it safely and securely. It is not, however, mandatory that surrogates pump breast milk for her parents.
5. How do you handle the emotional issues the surrogate might have postpartum?
The post partum surrogacy experience after a surrogate delivers can be quite varied in terms of how a surrogate might feel and respond to the situation. In almost all circumstances, the delivery itself is usually a joyous occasion for all parties involved and a time of pure happiness as the surrogate fulfills the mission that she set out to do from the beginning of her journey, and the intended parents achieve their dream of parenthood. Once everyone returns home, the surrogate has to adjust to life "post surrogacy."
For many, this is an easy transition, as surrogates usually have a lot going on in their personal lives being mothers themselves, returning back to work, or finding other activities to pursue. Some women may have more complicated feelings in terms of wondering "what's next?", but both are appropriate responses. A key component of a surrogate's adjustment post partum is also figuring out the new dynamic with her intended parents and establishing what the relationship will be like now that the baby is born. At Circle, women are assigned a social worker that continues to provide support to women for two months after they have delivered to address such issues, and help women navigate the post partum period in whatever way is helpful. We also stay in touch with women longer if they feel they need it. We also have a private Facebook page for surrogates in our program and women utilize this for support as well once they have delivered. You can read more about Surrogate post partum from an experienced carrier in this blog post.
6. Do you allow for bonding between the surrogate and the baby?
Surrogates care for their intended parents' baby during the pregnancy, and it's only normal to wonder about the bonding that happens after the baby is born.
Circle is a relationship-based agency, which means we fully support – and promote – a strong, healthy bond between intended parents and surrogates. Surrogates often describe seeing the baby and feeling happy as if their friend had just had a baby. They report feeling very connected to the IPs and baby as a whole family unit rather than to the baby itself. They often use the phrase "belly buds" to describe their relationship to the baby.
Because of this, Circle encourages the IPs and surrogate to spend time together after the birth of the baby, to visit each other in the hospital if the medical circumstances allow, and to include the IPs' and surrogate's families in the celebration (to the extent that everyone feels comfortable). We encourage the IPs to provide an opportunity for the surrogate to hold the baby and to make sure that they have a formal goodbye with each other before they return home. We also encourage having the surrogate's children have a chance to spend a little time with baby and say goodbye, as they have been part of the journey as well.
7. What are the legal elements involved in surrogacy?
There are three legal elements involved in each surrogacy: contracts, establishing parental rights and insurance. The contractual aspects of a surrogacy journey include the contracts between Intended Parents and their surrogate, donor, agency and IVF clinic. The second element is the legal work necessary to establish the parental rights of the Intended Parents and terminate the legal obligations of the surrogate and egg donor. Third, establishing insurance for the surrogate often requires some legal oversight to review the coverages a surrogate may have, and potentially help address issues with using coverage. Circle is a full-service agency, meaning they have a team of lawyers on staff, one of which is dedicated member of intended parents' support team; intended parents do not need to take it upon themselves to seek legal counsel for their journey.
8. Is it possible to do surrogacy in the United States if I live internationally?
100% YES! Many international Intended Parents turn to agencies in the US to help grow their families. Working with an agency that is experienced with international intended parents means you can confident that you will receive the best support and guidance on your journey. At Circle, all of our surrogates are from the United States, so our international intended parents are matched with carriers who lives stateside. We make the process as smooth as possible for you. Read more about surrogacy as international intended parents here.
9. What is the difference between gestational and traditional surrogacy and what do most clinics recommend for gay IPs?
There are two types of surrogacy: traditional surrogacy and gestational surrogacy.
In a traditional surrogacy, the woman who carries a pregnancy for intended parents also shares a genetic connection to the child or children she carries. Because only the intended father (or a sperm donor) contributes genetic material, the pregnancy can be achieved through artificial insemination (a procedure that allows sperm to be inserted directly into the fallopian tubes, cervix, or the uterus of the woman who will carry the child).
The second type of surrogacy is gestational surrogacy. Since the 1990s, gestational surrogacy has grown to become the more popular type of surrogacy and it is now almost the only type of surrogacy arranged by surrogacy agencies. Gestational surrogacy is when a woman becomes pregnant through IVF (in vitro fertilization) and embryo transfer, and does NOT share a genetic connection to the child she carriers.
You should choose the form of surrogacy with which you're most comfortable, understanding that some agencies, such as Circle Surrogacy, will only practice gestational surrogacy.
10. How are surrogates screened?
When screening a surrogate candidate, we want to ensure that the candidate has the necessary stability in her life and support in order to have a successful journey. The screening is also a great opportunity to provide psychoeducation to women about the responsibilities entailed of a journey to ensure that they feel confident in making such a large commitment. At Circle, we screen candidates in a multi-tiered approach in which we compile data and information from multiple sources (application materials, medical records, background checks) to confirm a candidate's financial, social, emotional and psychological stability. As a culmination of our screening process every candidate in our program, along with their primary support person, is screened by a licensed clinical social worker and completes psychometric screening that is interpreted by a licensed psychologist.
11. How are egg donors screened?
Screening donors before they are matched with parents is vital to ensuring that they receive psychoeducation and are prepared for the donation process and so parents are reviewing and matching with donors who have been pre-screened. Egg donors complete a thorough application as part of the intake process. These applications are reviewed by our intake donor team who works in conjunction with a Reproductive Endocrinologist to review the donor and her family's medical and mental health history. If the donor has completed past donations, those donation records are obtained, reviewed, and approved by an RE as well. Our team completes criminal background checks, social work evaluations, and psychological testing on egg donors as well.
Answered by the following team members at Circle Surrogacy:
Scott Buckley, Attorney and Director of Operations
Solveig Gramann, LICSW, Surrogate Screening and Support Manager
Amanda Caroca, LCSW, Senior Program Manager
Dory Ziperstein, LCSW, MPH, Egg Donation Manager