Surrogacy is a form of third party reproduction in which a woman carries a pregnancy for a couple or individual. In a traditional surrogacy arrangement, the surrogate also donates her eggs. A gestational carrier, on the other hand, is not genetically related to the baby. Instead, the embryo is created using an egg and sperm from the intended parents or donors. In recent years, the majority of surrogacy arrangements are with gestational carriers.
There are stringent requirements in place to ensure that one is physically and psychologically ready for a gestational pregnancy and that all parties involved experience a safe process that also meets all legal requirements.
Surrogate qualifications may vary from one agency to another but some are common to all. These are set by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) in its guidelines to reduce the potential for complications and to address medical and psychological issues in pregnancies via surrogacy. We cover all of these for you below!
Surrogacy is a long journey – it can take 15 to 19 months from first applying to the baby being born (provided the intended parent and carrier are matched quickly and the pregnancy is successful at first try). Surrogacy also requires a substantial amount of energy and commitment – being informed and emotionally ready for the process, with all of its potential ups and downs, is imperative.
If a potential gestational carrier is not sure about surrogacy or thinks she’ll find it difficult to pass along the child to his/her parents after delivery, surrogacy is not a good fit for her. Not everyone is meant to be a surrogate – and that’s more than OK.
According to the ASRM, prospective gestational carriers must be of legal age, preferably between 21 and 45, although many surrogacy agencies have a lower age cut-off. Specific cases may allow for a gestational carrier to be over 45 but all parties need to be informed of the associated risks.
Pregnancies in general may come with discomfort and risks. This applies to surrogate pregnancies just like any other. The health and medical qualifications set by the ASRM help reduce the risk potential for the surrogate and the baby.
Agencies require the following:
Prospective gestational carriers must also share a complete medical and sexual history to enable the agency to check for STDs and other communicable diseases, viruses, and infections that can affect the surrogate’s fertility or be transmitted to the baby. If applicable, the surrogate’s partner will be screened for STDs and drug use as well.
The surrogate will additionally have to undergo and pass a comprehensive medical exam to determine if she’s OK to receive fertility treatment as well as to carry a pregnancy to term.
Finally, gestational carriers should have had at least one full term pregnancy without complications, and should not have had more than five deliveries (or no more than three, if via c-section). One may also only be a gestational carrier once six months have passed from her more recent vaginal birth — or one year since her most recent c-section delivery. On a somewhat related note, some agencies also request that the surrogate is currently raising a child.
The gestational carrier (and her partner, if applicable) will be informed of the potential risks of carrying a surrogate pregnancy, both physically and mentally, as well as what will be required of her during the process. She will also be asked to undergo a psychosocial evaluation and counseling to determine if she’s prepared mentally and emotionally to pursue surrogacy. A counselor will also assess the following:
In addition to all of the above specifications, agencies also look for:
While it’s safe to assume that one may be a good candidate for surrogacy if they meet all of these criteria – if they do not check 100% of the boxes, they could still potentially be accepted. It depends on the agency and all factors involved, as each request is determined on a case-by-case basis.
As you’ve gathered from this article, the process to ensure one qualifies as a gestational carrier can be lengthy time-wise as well as includes a long list of requirements. This is of course intentional in order to help ensure everything goes as well as possible for all parties involved (especially given that unexpected things may still come up along the way regardless of all of these requirements being met).
Every test and check is more than worth it in the grand scheme of things. As Suzie White, a past gestational carrier and mother of four, shares in her Surrogacy 101 article, “When you see a brand new family that you helped to create, it’s an amazing feeling, and right then you can’t imagine not being part of such a beautiful moment”. This is what a gestational carrier gifts intended parents: a chance for them to achieve what they hope for most: parenthood.
As you get started with your search for a gestational carrier, we hope you’ll take advantage of our free platform where you can find, compare, and connect with top surrogacy agencies across the US, already researched and vetted for you with profiles including all of the important criteria (years in business, number of babies born, costs, ratings and reviews, team profiles, and much more) you need to make an informed decision. Find your ideal surrogacy agency, here.