How Much do Surrogates Make?
The typical surrogate mother makes $50,000 to $70,000 for a surrogacy journey in the United States. The total surrogate’s pay is separated into “Base Salary” and “Benefits”. Benefits usually include a monthly living stipend, maternity clothes, and fees for invasive medical procedures.
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Also in The Cost Guide:
- Planning Your Total Surrogacy Budget
- Understanding the Costs of Surrogacy
- Buying Insurance for Your Surrogate
Surrogate’s Compensation Package
A typical surrogate mother in the United States makes from $30,000 to $40,000 in a “Base Salary”, which is often paid in monthly installments. She also gets paid another $5,000 to $10,000 USD in various benefits. Surrogates also be reimbursed for expenses like clothes, transportation, lost wages, household expenses, and more.
But aside from financial rewards, many women experience great satisfaction from helping childless couples. That makes being a surrogate mother a meaningful alternative to other forms of less-skilled or part-time work. While this article reviews your surrogate’s monetary expenses, it’s important to keep in mind the non-financial benefits that she provides and requires!
The Surrogate’s Paycheck in Detail
Your surrogacy agent may tell you that compensation is just $35,000 USD, but you also need to calculate the cost of benefits. Benefits are not optional — some are required by law, and others have become expected expenses. All are part of a comprehensive compensation package that each US surrogate will negotiate with the Intended parents or her agency.
What benefits does a Surrogate receive?
The list below is a common benefits package offered to a surrogate mother. These benefits are not optional in a competitive contract, but the amounts may be negotiated.
- In addition to her total compensation, surrogates are given money each month to cover the expenses of “being pregnant”. An average monthly allowance is $200 to $300 in the US.
- Maternity clothes: This is a one-time fee once the surrogate begins “to show” the pregnancy. It’s usually from $500 to $750 in the United States.
- Start Medication fee: Every time a surrogate start taking medication, she’s entitled to a small fee of about $500 USD. This is justified because she may be asked to start some meds, but then the cycle may be cancelled — and she would have gone through the difficulty of taking the injections and not receive any compensation.
- Embryo Transfer Fee: Similar to the Start Meds fee (above), the surrogate is also entitled to a small fee every time she undergoes an embryo transfer procedure. This can be $1,000 to $2,000 USD.
- Travel Expenses: If your surrogate needs to travel more than 50 miles for a clinic appointment, she is entitled to travel expenses. If she needs to stay overnight, expect these expenses to include child care for her children, as well as housekeeping if she’s gone for a few days. This amount will vary depending on your surrogate and where she lives relative to the clinic.
- Insurance Premiums: It’s unlikely that your surrogate will have insurance that will cover your surrogacy pregnancy. So plan to include about $8,000 to $10,000 in your budget for insurance premiums.
- NOTE: Even if your surrogate has insurance, most insurance policies will include some co-payment or deductible. The amount you will have to pay depends on the policy. Some policies ask you to pay a co-payment of $25 to $50 for each prenatal visit to your obstetrician. Others have a deductible and won’t pay anything until you have paid at least $5000 out of your own pocket first.To understand your own costs, check out this article about Medical Insurance for your Surrogate in the Surrogacy Cost Guide.
- Bonuses/Gifts: While not mandatory, many parents like to offer a ‘signing bonus’ of $1,500 USD to entice their surrogate to come work with them. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a cash payment — bonuses can take the form of gifts, wellness packages, monthly spa treatments, and other types of gifts that make being pregnant a little easier to endure.
Be a Surrogate for a Friend: Hidden Costs
Being a surrogate mother for a friend or family member is a special act of generosity, but that gift comes with a price tag. There are costs of being pregnanct and of being a surrogate specifically — and these you may often pay from your own pocket. Be certain to address all these costs and ask the parents to reimburse you for all of these expenses.
The total cost of being a surrogate depends on your personal situation. Here’s a summary:
Does your current medical insurance cover a surrogate pregnancy?
Not all insurance policies cover maternity care, and those that do, often exclude surrogacy pregnancies. If your insurance will cover a surrogate pregnancy, then that’s a good start. But it’s more complicated.
The typical insurance will cover all of the prenatal care, including office visits, ultrasound exams, and (eventually) the delivery. Complications and non-standard treatments may be extra, usually with a hefty deductible or co-payment.
Most insurance policies will include some co-payment or deductible. The amount you (or your friend) will have to pay depends on the policy. Some policies ask you to pay a co-payment of $25 to $50 for each prenatal visit to your obstetrician. Others have a deductible and won’t pay anything until you have paid at least $5000 out of your own pocket. To understand the total costs, you should talk with the insurance provider.
Obviously the Intended Parents should pay any deductible or co-payment. In the commercial surrogacy world, it’s common for the Intended Parents to pay for the surrogate’s health insurance premiums while she is pregnant (since they are the ones taking advantage of that service). The Intended Parents should offer to pay the full insurance premiums, but if your insurance also covers your entire family (and a lot of non-pregnancy treatments) then you may agree to pay a portion of the costs. Even if you would pay for the insurance premium anyway, the parents should still chip in given the effort your are making for them — perhaps to pay just half the insurance premiums.
You also need to find an obstetrician to care you during the pregnancy. Maybe your current OBGYN can manage this, or she may refer you to a good obstetrician if she can’t. The chosen obstetrician should have treatment privileges at a local hospital –and that is probably where you will deliver the baby. Check with both the doctor and the hospital if they will accept the health insurance. If not, you may need to find another doctor or hospital. There’s a full discussion about the surrogate’s compensation and benefits in the Surrogacy Guide.
What other surrogacy costs will your encounter?
Other than the prenatal care and delivery, there are some additional expenses you should be aware of. Most official surrogacy contracts will include these fees as “out of pocket” expenses. They include:
- Maternity clothes. Yep, none of your clothes are going to fit after the first trimester of pregnancy. Plan on a whole new wardrobe of comfortable and practical clothes. This is usually about $500 in a typical contract.
- Medications. This can be $2,000 to $4,000 in injections to prepare your uterus for the embryo transfer. After the transfer, there are vitamins and hormone supplements, which can cost $500 or more.
- If you get sick during the pregnancy, the doctor may recommend bed rest. That means you may be out several days of salary from your job — which can be a big blow to the family budget. That’s why most surrogacy contracts include payments for Loss of Work. This benefit can cost thousands of dollars depending on your current wages and how long you are under bed rest.
- If you are married and your husband needs to stay home and look after you, then his lost wages are an additional expense as well. Most surrogacy contracts limit Loss of Wages to just a few weeks of lost work, or alternatively a simple maximum amount to be paid (about $5,000 is a typical number).
- Alternatively, if the doctor recommends bed rest, the Intended Parents can chip in for a weekly housekeeper to do the household chores you now can’t. Consider a few hundred dollars for that. (And be sure to add daycare or babysitting charges as well).
- Bed rest can also be prescribed after the delivery as well (especially if the baby arrives via a C-section). You may be unable to work for 2 to 3 weeks if the pregnancy is difficult.
- Depending on where the obstetrician is, you may have significant travel expenses. (The Intended Parents should reimburse for travel expenses for gas and mileage.)
Negotiated fees in the surrogacy agreement
If you’re lucky enough to be friends with the Intended Parents, you can discuss these possible costs in a friendly conversation. But the final recommendation is the most important… It’s critical that all these agreements are written down so that there is no confusion or misunderstanding during the pregnancy.
Regardless of the personal relationship between the Surrogate Mother and the Intended Parents, every journey should start with a legal, signed Surrogacy Agreement.
The Surrogacy Agreement should make clear what will be your future relationship to the child. You won’t be the legal mother, but will the baby know the role you played in its birth? Will you be the “Cool Aunt” or just a friend of the family? Will you get to visit the child regularly? What are the limits? What if the family moves away, can you still come visit?
The Surrogacy Agreement will also manage expectations about the pregnancy itself. Will the Intended Parents insist that you changes your diet (no more tuna sandwiches or packaged lunch meats!)? Will they object if you travel on an airplane during the final trimester? What if you want to vacation in Mexico or the Florida Keys where Zika mosquitoes still persist? Will you be comfortable with both parents in the delivery room… with a camera? Will your friends want you to breastfeed (which can be very problematic, by the way).
A Surrogacy Agreement is a bit like a prenuptial agreement — nobody thinks it will be necessary, and in most cases it may not be. But if it becomes necessary, it is REALLY necessary! The Agreement forces everyone to put all of their expectations out on the table. It protects against misunderstandings that can devastate a friendship. There are many examples of entire families torn apart over the very emotional topic of a baby. It would be a shame to see such an act of love and generosity have such a painful final result.
It’s always better to be safe than sorry