11: How to find a surrogate mother
To find a surrogate mother is perhaps the biggest challenge for couples considering surrogacy as a fertility treatment. Being a surrogate is a difficult job, and local laws often make it even more unappealing by limiting compensation and professional representation. But for those who are determined to start their own family, resources are available to help you get started.
Depending on the country where you live, you may need to work with your agency to find a surrogate mother who is qualified and reliable. In Europe and North America, you would generally meet and interview her, and convince her to carry your child. In other countries (including Ukraine and Cambodia) your clinic or agency will have a list of available surrogates ready to start, with no interview required.
In countries like Canada, where commercial surrogacy is illegal, agencies cannot find a surrogate mother through advertising, and they cannot offer compelling compensation. As a result there is typically a long, drawn out process by which your agent will search for surrogates by word-of-mouth and introduce candidates to you. According to the restrictions of Altruistic Surrogacy, the surrogate must offer her services to you, through the agent, essentially unsolicited. The job of your agent will be to introduce women who have chosen to become surrogates to Intended Parents who need surrogates. But because there are far more parents than there are surrogates, the wait can be long, and the surrogate has the freedom to choose among many parents vying for her service.
In the United Kingdom, local law prohibits any business that profits from surrogacy services, so there are no agencies available to connect would-be parents and surrogates. Surrogacy UK and Childlessness Overcome Through Surrogacy (COTS) are non-profit online platforms to help couples find a surrogate mother. Couples post their desire for a surrogate, and interested women can peruse the listings for couples they would like to assist. The platform helps facilitate a meeting, and also offers advice on how to move forward on a surrogacy arrangement.
Also, UK law does not recognize surrogacy agreements as binding, so the surrogate mother and her husband (or legal partner) automatically will be the legal parents of the new-born. This can make intended parents nervous, and compounds the need to find a surrogate mother who is reliable and will not hesitate to hand the baby to its genetic parents.
In the United States (depending on the individual state laws), the clinic or special surrogate agency will recruit surrogates for the surrogacy procedures. U.S. agencies act as go-between, helping would-be parents find a surrogate mother, making the legal arrangements, and collecting any fees passed between parents and the surrogate, such as reimbursement for her medical expenses. Surrogates in the United States are paid extremely well, and the Intended Parents must pay many additional financial perks, including lost wages if she (or her husband) decide not to work during the pregnancy, new clothes, personal items to make the pregnancy more comfortable, etc.
To find a surrogate mother overseas is much simpler than locating and interviewing surrogates in the West. Legitimate surrogacy agencies are able to recruit surrogates, offering considerable incentives. Compensation that would be considered exploitative in the UK is often a substantial, life-changing amount in many Asian countries. As a result there is no shortage of available candidates. All you will need to do is approve the recommended surrogate and the clinic will prepare her, arrange for her treatments and prenatal care (often including housing for her and her family) and make all payments. Expenses such as reimbursement for lost income or clothing allowances are not required (even special gifts to the surrogate mother are discouraged).
Your search for a surrogate mother should start with a a reputable surrogacy agency. Most agencies work within a single overseas country (and with a single clinic). But you should look for an agent who works with multiple destinations and can advise which makes the most sense given your personal situation.
It’s typical that parents do not “choose” their surrogate. Where commercial surrogacy is legal, the surrogacy agency or clinic typically finds the surrogate and selects her on your behalf based strictly on medical criteria. Parents may have an option to approve the surrogate, but not select her from a list. Under Altruistic Surrogacy laws, it is generally the surrogate who chooses the parents, although parents may have the ability to interview and accept/reject a woman based on either medical or emotional criteria.
In any case, you will want to ensure your surrogacy agency or clinic finds a surrogate with the best chance of pregnancy and successful delivery. The criteria you should request include non-smoker, a healthy low-stress lifestyle, previous successful pregnancies, and good medical evaluation (including blood hormone levels and endometrial scan). In addition, although there is debate on the benefits, some agents also will prefer younger surrogates (in their 20s) or women who have had a recent pregnancy (in the past 3 to 4 years).
Once you find a surrogate mother, you will draw up and sign your surrogacy contract. Once signed, funds are generally provided to the surrogate for her expenses and fees, sometimes through a trust account. Most surrogacy agencies will be able to assist you with the legal contracts and payments.
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