Whether related to heath conditions, lifestyle, infertility, or any other reason, discovering that pregnancy is not possible can be devastating news. Surrogacy provides an exciting way for these intended parents to have the family they desire. Becoming a surrogate mother offers a unique opportunity to give one of life’s most precious gifts.
Unfortunately the path to becoming a surrogate mother is not always easy or clear. In addition to choosing a surrogacy agency, forming a surrogacy plan, and navigating the application and matching processes, there are a range of other requirements that must also be met. Age, health, social, and legal requirements may also vary between states and even specific surrogacy agencies, adding further confusion to the already complicated process. While this can seem tedious, meeting these requirements ensures that surrogates are physically, emotionally, and socially prepared, allowing for a safer experience for all parties involved.
One of the requirements to becoming a surrogate mother is to fall within the desired age range which the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) defines as age 21 to 45. The age requirements may vary slightly with each specific state or agency, though this range is a good guideline to consider.
Meeting these age requirements is important for both legal and logistical reasons. A person must be a minimum of 18 years old in order to legally be considered an adult in the United States. With this in mind, it is important to note that virtually no surrogacy agency will allow for anyone under the age of 21 to become a surrogate mother. This is due to a variety of reasons.
Women under the age of 21 are often still maturing both emotionally and physically, meaning they will likely not pass other stages of the screening process. Adults of this age are usually going through a confusing and emotional time in their life as they transition from childhood to independence. Questions such as career options, goals to strive for, and how to live autonomously often weigh heavily on the minds of those in this age group. Becoming a surrogate mother during this time will likely far exceed the maturity and responsibility of these individuals. Physical changes that may compromise the safety of a pregnancy may also still be occurring, as hormone levels and menstruation may not fully stabilize until later on.
The experience of pregnancy, especially when done for someone else, can be extremely demanding on both the physical and emotional level. It is therefore imperative to thoroughly assess the preparedness of surrogate candidates in a variety of ways.
Before being approved, women applying to become surrogate mothers must pass physical evaluations to ensure that their body is capable of safely supporting a pregnancy. Perhaps the most effective way of determining this is to look at previous pregnancies. Anyone wishing to become a surrogate mother must have had at least one previous successful pregnancy to be considered a candidate.
Furthermore, women must not smoke, have a history of alcohol or drug abuse, and should maintain a reasonably healthy weight which is usually defined as a BMI of 30 or less, depending on the agency. Candidates must also be free of significant diseases like STDs and have no history of postpartum depression. Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications must be stopped without complications at least 1 year before surrogacy begins, and any other medications that are unsafe during pregnancy or lactation must also be discontinued.
Many surrogacy agencies require that candidates meet with a mental health professional to ensure that all psychological requirements and responsibilities that come from surrogacy are fully understood by the applicant. Discussions regarding personality, likes and dislikes, family/social history, mental health conditions, relationships, and motives can all help the evaluator to determine emotional health. Maturity is also an important point to consider, as surrogates hold an enormous amount of responsibility and must therefore have the maturity to treat the situation with the necessary amount of care and respect to maximize the chance of success.
As mentioned previously, women considering surrogacy must have a history of at least one successful pregnancy. The women must also currently be raising this child in her own home, unless unique circumstances exist that could act as an acceptable exception. Applicants will need to have a stable and safe lifestyle which lends itself to the demands of surrogacy, and an in-home assessment is one way that both the living situation and lifestyle can be approved. Stemming from this same topic, potential surrogates must be in decent financial shape and cannot be receiving government assistance for support. Lastly, candidates should ideally have a reliable support system in place to help them through surrogacy. While this level of support can be found in many places, family members or friends are often the most common and stable sources.
Anyone hoping to become a surrogate must first meet legal requirements. Background checks are an important for of the application process to ensure the safety of all parties involved. The applicant may not have a history of major felonies and must currently be in good standing with the law.
Because the United States has no federal laws regarding surrogacy, the legal requirements can vary between states and it is critical for applicants to become familiar with the laws surrounding surrogacy in the state(s) they wish to participate in.
After application approval and matching with intended parents, legal contracts must be drafted and signed by both parties before and further action can be taken. These contracts are written by an attorney and include details such as compensation, child relinquishment, rights, expectations, and so on. Once the contract has been finalized and signed, the surrogacy process can officially begin.
Becoming a surrogate mother can have a tremendous impact on the lives of others, providing a sense of fulfillment and joy to everyone involved. Read more on Reasons for Becoming a Surrogate Mother. While many women may be attracted to the idea of surrogacy, the process of approval can be overwhelming and intimidating. Fortunately, with the help of an agency and a little background knowledge, the road to becoming a surrogate can be simplified and easier to navigate.
How to Become a Surrogate. Surrogate.com. https://surrogate.com/surrogates/becoming-a-surrogate/how-can-i-become-a-surrogate-mother/. Accessed October 26, 2019.
Getting Started as a Surrogate: What You Need to Know. Allthingssurrogacy.org. http://allthingssurrogacy.org/getting-started-as-a-surrogate-what-you-need-to-know/. Accessed October 26, 2019.
Surrogacy by State. Surrogate.com. https://surrogate.com/surrogacy-by-state/. Accessed October 26, 2019.
Pfeifer S, et al. Recommendations for practices utilizing gestational carriers: an ASRM practice committee guideline. American Society for Reproductive Medicine. 2012; 97(6):1301-1308.