Finding a Surrogate: 10 tips to get started

You might be surprising yourself that you’re here, researching about finding a surrogate. Or, maybe you’ve known for a while. Regardless, you’re not going through this alone and however you’re doing this, please know that what you’re feeling has been and will be felt by many, many others. You might be grieving how you thought you’d bring a child Earth-side and letting go of how you wished it was easier like others around you. All emotions are OK.

Your surrogacy research is part of your journey and part of the process and a way to dip your toes in.

Or, you might be here supporting someone you know who is searching for a surrogate. Thank you, if you are. I’ve been in your shoes.

To avoid an extra-long preamble, here are 10 considerations about surrogacy exploration.

1. Surrogacy is less common these days, gestational carriers are more common. The difference is surrogates use their own egg and then use donor or your own sperm, whereas a gestational carrier (GC) or a gestational surrogate does an egg retrieval with another person’s egg, plus the donor or intended parent’s (IP) sperm in in vitro fertilization (IVF). Or, called a gestational surrogate. GSs make it more legally smooth and can be emotionally less challenging when there’s not the genetic link between the carrier and the baby, but it’s the decision that’s right for you. It will also have legal implications which vary by country and region. Some people use the term gestational surrogate too. This all means that you might be searching for a GC and someone to donate their eggs or embryo(s) as well, making it a search for more people to bring in to your fertility journey – that comes with more kindness and generosity, more money, and more and more steps. This is a journey.

2. There’s a difference between a ‘known’ versus ‘unknown’ surrogate/GC. On your search, you might consider a known surrogate/GC, who is someone you know and have some kind of relationship with whether it’s a sister, cousin, friend, community member etc. An unknown GC is a person found through a consultancy or agency or other institution and means that you didn’t previously know the them (OK, this is probably obvious in the name). A known donor has the potential for closeness and trust, but also necessarily have the distance that others prefer with unknown GC. Whether they can or you all choose to remain available to the potential future child is part of the decision making and might be impacted by whether they’re known to you or not, like a sister. More are open these days than closed.

3. Choosing a surrogate is a lot about fit and it’s a three-way street. There are different considerations for you in choosing them and for them in choosing their intended parents (IP). You’d work out the agreed detailed legally in a contract eventually, but it starts with the initial contact. For you, the criteria to choose might include: trust, physical and mental health background, physical features, race, religious or cultural background, if it’s their first or 7th time doing this or in-between, personality, communication style, their age, location, a gut feeling or any other criteria. It might just feel right when you see their profile and meet in-person or by Zoom. How they communicate and what they experience in the past with being a surrogate – the good and the bad – will inform how or whether they want to proceed with you. Be yourself, be open and be as authentic and vulnerable as you can be so that all your cards are on the table.

4. Get to know the laws in your area. The laws are different in each province, state and country for you as IPs and for the surrogate/GC. There are restrictions in some, less in others. For example, there are fewer barriers in Ontario and British Columbia than other provinces or territories and there’s more ease in Illinois versus Alabama. There are criteria that a surrogate/GC must meet. The main difference by country is altruistic surrogacy versus commercial.

  • Canada, Denmark, New Zealand, Brazil, Australia and the UK allow some forms of altruistic surrogacy, meaning that the surrogate can’t do it for financial gain and can only be compensated for expenses incurred in the surrogacy process. Commercial surrogacy is banned.
  • Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Taiwan and Spain have banned all forms of surrogacy.
  • In certain states in the US, Mexico, Columbia, Cyprus and Georgia there is commercial surrogacy where they can. There are ways to find a surrogate internationally in these countries with some restrictions.
  • For example, Georgia allows commercial surrogacy but not for many LGBQT+ or single people (only to seemingly heterosexual couples) whereas Cyprus and Mexico and many US states are inclusive to LGBQT+ and single hopeful parents.

5. Talk to a lawyer who specializes in fertility. You’ll need a lawyer one day if you go down this surrogacy path. They can share the ins and outs of the law and any recent changes, both where you’re located and where the potential surrogate or GC may be. They often provide a short call for free, or it’s for a fee and then you make the decision about which lawyer to choose. Ask them about their experience with cases like yours. See if you feel comfortable talking to them. There is more than one option. I have ones I know so feel free to contact me if you want support with this.

6. Consider from the perspective of your potential future child. Thinking through your next steps with the perspective of your potential, future child who’s conceived through your GC or surrogate can help round out your decisions and how the future might look. This is a way to think through all your choices so you walk forward with fewer regrets.

7. Counselling or therapy appointment(s) are needed. You’ll probably want this for yourself and to be prepared and to understand more fully the emotional side of this process that might unfold. This is laden with emotions, it just is. You may also be grieving the fertility journey you thought you’d have while remaking a whole new map. That means letting go of plans and expectations. It’s easier with the right supports. Just like finding a lawyer, it’s important to try different reproductive or family therapists or psychologists before you find the right fit, if you have a choice. Some clinics or consultancies choose a therapist for you or have limited choice. You can always find someone else in addition to the counsellor who is mandated in this process.

8. Connect with your current or a well-reviewed fertility clinic about their options or research a new clinic. This is part of the step for insemination like IUI (surrogate) or IVF (gestational carrier). This is a whole other part of the process that you may have already been on or just starting out. Regardless, you might need to talk to your fertility clinic about their experience with surrogacy or gestational carriers and their policies and procedures. Once you have the clinic picked out, the first step might be to get referral from your primary care provider. Or, choose your agency or consultancy first and find out which clinics they work with. Don’t forget you can change your mind if you want to change clinics or agency at any time.

9. Check on your options for IVF and surrogacy/GC funding coverage. I’m sure I don’t need to remind you of this but just in case. You might have insurance cover some or all of one or both sides. Or you might have government funding if you meet criteria, depending on where you live. This is an expensive journey and having this information might be one of the biggest factors in whether to even proceed. It’s not a fair process, and I hope you have more opportunities than fewer so that you can make the decisions that are right for you and your partner. Be prepared to get creative about this funding too. Know your options. If you’re in Canada, as of 2022 there are more medical expenses that can be claimed when you’re filing your taxes for a surrogate or donor eggs or sperm that weren’t before. Talk to your accountant about your situation.

10. Talk to someone who’s been through it or another expert. There are many support groups including on Facebook or through your clinic or agency, fertility coach, podcasts like The Baby Project, and others who share their experience publicly who you might want to connect with to hear challenges, lessons learned and go through this with that unique connection. There’s no need to remake the wheel.

It could be overwhelming to look at this list. Remember to approach this how you need to, whether it’s both feet fully in or dip your toes and do it slowly. Figure out how you’re keeping track of the information and then when you’re ready, get on the same page with your partner and have a plan for how you’re communicating. Setting up a weekly family meeting is one way; yes, a family can be 2 people.

Even if you say yes to the process, it doesn’t mean you’ll feel 100% comfortable with the decision every step of the way. You’ll let go of what you thought this journey would look like and in doing that, you could open you up even more possibilities for what could be.

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