The Surrogacy Process for Gestational Surrogates

The journey of becoming a gestational surrogate can be an incredibly fulfilling experience. If you are interested in helping intended parents build their families, understanding the surrogacy process is a crucial first step. This guide will outline the six main stages involved, from initial inquiry to the postpartum period.

If you’re considering surrogacy, you’re already on a path to making an incredible difference in the lives of others. The first step? Completing the application and pre-screening process.

Stage 1: Application and Pre-Screening

The first step involves completing your application and undergoing medical and psychological evaluations. There are certain criteria you’ll need to meet, such as age range, legal residency, and past childbirth experience. You will also undergo a medical evaluation and a mental health assessment to ensure you are physically and emotionally healthy for pregnancy. Let’s review the qualifications you’ll need to meet to become a surrogate.

Requirements for becoming a surrogate:

  • It’s crucial that you have had overall healthy pregnancies and deliveries.
  • Surrogates should be between the ages of 21 to 42.
  • You must be a legal resident of the U.S., and not here on a visa.
  • You should be a mother yourself, actively raising your own children.
  • Your Body Mass Index (BMI) should be under 32.
  • Engaging in smoking, vaping, drug use, or excessive drinking is not permitted.
  • You can have up to five deliveries, with no more than two being C-sections.
  • You can’t currently be on antidepressants and must have discontinued use for at least 1 year before you apply.
  • If you’re on government assistance, you’ll need the ability to come off of it and to stay off it for the entire surrogacy journey.

Surrogate medical record review and psychological evaluations

Once you’re sure you meet all the qualifications to be a surrogate, next comes the pre-screening process. Our pre-screening process begins with completing an application, followed by a consultation with our admissions team. Pre-screening will also include getting your OB/GYN’s clearance to become a surrogate, an up-to-date pap smear, and a physical exam. We’ll also arrange a psychological evaluation for you (and your partner if you have one). Completing lab work is the final step in the pre-screening process.

How long does the application and screening process take?

How long the pre-screening process takes depends a lot on how motivated you are and how quickly we can obtain your medical records. Most surrogates find themselves viewing intended parent profiles within a couple of weeks, and the majority are matched within a month, especially if you have open matching preferences.

Stage 2: The matching process

After you’ve completed the pre-screening process, you’re ready for one of the most exciting parts of your surrogacy journey: creating your profile and matching with intended parents. The first step in the matching process is completing your surrogate profile which includes photos, a video introduction, and a letter to potential intended parents.

Once your profile is ready, we will share intended parent profiles with you. You’ll get to see their profiles, which include letters, videos, and information about their lives. You get to choose the parents you think you’d like to work with before we share your profile with them. We want to make sure you find a family you genuinely feel connected to and are excited about helping.

If you both decide to move forward, a match meeting will be set up to discuss the journey in more detail and see if you are a good fit for each other.

If everyone agrees to move forward – it’s a match!

How long does the matching process take?

We start sharing profiles as soon as you’re ready. Typically, surrogates can expect to find their match within two months, but this depends on how quickly you complete your profile.

Stage 3: Medical Screening

Once your match is confirmed, you’ll start the medical screening process. This screening includes various tests to assess your overall health and suitability for pregnancy. It typically involves a visit to the intended parents’ fertility clinic and blood work that takes some time to process. Tests typically include a uterine evaluation, blood and urine samples for you and blood samples for your partner as well.

The fertility clinic will be testing for sexually transmitted diseases, drugs, nicotine, and alcohol for the surrogate. They’re also going to test vitamin levels, hormone levels, and immunities, like chicken pox, measles, mumps, etc. We want to make sure that pregnancy is going to be safe for you as a surrogate as well as for the baby you’re carrying.

How long does the medical screening process take?

Once you’ve completed your medical screening appointments, the results typically take about two weeks to process. You may find out information about your uterine evaluation that same day, but the blood and urine tests usually take about two weeks to come back.

Stage 4: Legal Process

While you’re waiting for your medical clearance, it’s time for the legal process. This is the stage where you go over your contract for your surrogacy journey. Separate attorneys will represent you and the intended parents to make sure your agreement is fair and covers all the bases. Your surrogacy agreement will include things like:

  • Compensation: Financial arrangements for the surrogate.
  • Medical expenses: Coverage of healthcare costs related to the surrogacy.
  • Termination procedures: Policies and conditions under which a pregnancy may be terminated.
  • Decision-making rights: Guidelines on making decisions regarding the pregnancy, prenatal care, and the birthing plan.
  • Relationship and communication: Expectations for the nature and frequency of communication between the surrogate and the intended parents.
  • Parental rights: Establishment of the intended parents’ rights upon the child’s birth.
  • Confidentiality: Agreements regarding the privacy of all parties involved.
  • Post-birth contact: If and how the surrogate will have any role or contact with the child post-birth.

How long does the legal process take?

You should expect to spend about four to eight weeks in the contract phase. If everybody is in agreement on all terms, it may move forward more quickly, but remember — you want to be sure that you take the necessary time to process what you’re reading and agreeing to.

Stage 5: Embryo Transfer / Pregnancy

With your medical clearance on file and the surrogacy agreement signed, you can finally start preparing for the embryo transfer! Your intended parents’ fertility center will provide a detailed schedule of medications and appointments to prepare your body for pregnancy. The transfer itself is a painless procedure similar to a pap smear.

What medications will I have to take as a surrogate?

Medication plays a crucial role in preparing and supporting your body through the pregnancy. Medications might include estrogen, progesterone, and prenatal vitamins, to ensure both your well-being and that of the baby. The methods of administering these medications vary, so you should be prepared to do injections, patches, vaginal suppositories, and/or oral medications. The specific combination and types of medication are determined by the fertility center and will be tailored to your body’s needs.

How long does the process take from the start of medications until I am pregnant?

The process from the start of medications to confirmation of pregnancy in a surrogacy journey typically spans several weeks. You’ll usually be on fertility medications for about three weeks before you’re ready for your embryo transfer. During this time, you’ll have several monitoring appointments to be sure your body is responding properly to the medication. Following a successful transfer, a period of waiting—commonly referred to as the “two-week wait“—takes place before pregnancy can be confirmed through a blood test. At around 9 weeks, you’ll have an ultrasound to confirm that a heartbeat is pregnant. Then, you will be released to your own prenatal provider for care throughout the pregnancy.

Stage 6: Birth and Postpartum

Finally, the big day arrives! You’ll deliver the baby at your preferred location, following a birth plan established with your intended parents beforehand. Your birth plan will cover things like where you’ll deliver, who holds the baby first, and postpartum plans for all involved.

Surrogates can choose where they’re most comfortable giving birth, like a familiar hospital or a birth center. Hospitals are common, but birth centers are also supported for their intimate setting. At Fairfax Surrogacy, we even support planned home births with a licensed midwife in attendance.

Additional considerations for surrogates

Some things you’ll need to consider for the birth and postpartum phase are who you want to support you during the labor and delivery, and whether you plan to pump breast milk after the delivery.

Your support person could be a partner, family member, or friend, or professional support in the form of a doula, which would be paid for by the intended parents.

Many surrogates choose to pump and donate their breast milk to the newborn, but this depends on your personal comfort level. A breast pump, milk storage equipment, and shipping are typically covered by the intended parents.

These considerations require thoughtful discussion and planning during the contract phase to make sure everyone understands and is in agreement on what is expected.

Ready to take the first step toward becoming a surrogate?

Becoming a gestational surrogate is a beautiful and rewarding experience. By understanding the steps involved, you can make an informed decision about beginning this journey to help intended parents achieve their dream of parenthood.

Do you feel a calling to play a monumental role in a family’s story by becoming a surrogate? If your heart says yes, it’s time to take the first step and see if you qualify.

Fairfax Surrogacy is here to guide you through every step, ensuring you have the support, information, and care you need. We believe in creating connections that blossom into lifelong relationships, making every surrogacy journey as unique and special as the individuals we serve.

Contact Fairfax Surrogacy today to find out if you qualify or apply today to start your journey toward becoming a surrogate.

Frequently Asked Questions

The Steps of the Surrogacy Process

  • Will I have to travel to be a surrogate?
    As a surrogate, travel is typically part of the process, primarily due to the necessity of visiting the intended parents' fertility clinic for key steps like medical screening and embryo transfer. These visits are crucial for ensuring the best possible outcomes and require you to be on-site for assessments or procedures. For medical screenings, surrogates often travel the day before and return home the same day post-screening. For embryo transfers, travel usually occurs the day before the procedure, with a return trip the following day. This travel ensures you are in the optimal location for these important milestones in the surrogacy journey, with arrangements usually facilitated to make the process as smooth as possible for you.
  • Do I have to pay for my attorney?
    No. As a surrogate, you do not have to pay for the cost of hiring an attorney to handle the legal aspects of the surrogacy process. The fees for legal representation are typically covered by the intended parents or the surrogacy agency. Your main responsibility is to sign the engagement letter with the attorney and ensure that you are comfortable with the legal representation provided to you. This legal support is essential for understanding the complex legalities of surrogacy agreements, ensuring your rights and interests are fully protected throughout the journey.
  • Do I really have to take shots?
    Yes, most surrogates will need to take injectable medications to prepare for the embryo transfer. The specific type of medication and method of administration will depend on the fertility center's protocols and the results of your medical screenings. Injectable medications are commonly used to prepare your body for pregnancy, optimizing the conditions for a successful embryo implantation. While the thought of injections might make you nervous, these medications play a vital role in the surrogacy process.
  • Does the embryo transfer hurt?
    The embryo transfer procedure is generally not painful and is similar to undergoing a pap smear. Some surrogates might experience cramping during or after the procedure, which can be a positive sign of embryo implantation, but it's not always present in successful transfers. The process is designed to be as comfortable and stress-free as possible, with medical professionals on hand to ensure your well-being throughout the procedure. Understanding that minor discomfort or cramping could occur helps prepare surrogates emotionally and physically for this step.
  • What if the transfer fails?
    It's important for surrogates to be prepared for the possibility that an embryo transfer might not result in pregnancy on the first attempt. Despite surrogacy having one of the highest success rates among fertility treatments, there are no guarantees, and multiple attempts may be necessary. This can be an emotionally challenging aspect of the surrogacy journey, both for the surrogate and the intended parents. Being prepared for this possibility and understanding the emotional support available can help manage expectations and provide resilience through the ups and downs of the process. The goal is always success, but flexibility and emotional readiness are key components of navigating the journey with strength and optimism.