What is Independent / Private Surrogacy?
Independent Surrogacy (a.k.a Private Surrogacy) is when an Intended Parent enters into a surrogacy agreement without the aid of an “Agent”. Independent Surrogacy is much less expensive than an Agency Program because the parents perform all the tasks themselves. “Indy” surrogacy can be a challenge, but there are low-cost alternatives that have the benefits of both.
Inside this Article:
In The Surrogacy Guide:
- The complete surrogacy process
- What is surrogacy: A glossary
- Surrogacy options worldwide
- Surrogacy for LGBT families
An Independent Surrogacy program is an option for Intended Parents who are comfortable managing complex projects or (in many cases) have gone through previous fertility cycles and so are familiar with the requirements. But the option has significant challenges.
Indy Surrogacy Challenges
Finding and building a relationship with a qualified surrogate mother is the biggest challenge to Independent Surrogacy. This is often a tremendous problem for many Intended Parents. Parents often find surrogates through online communities. But be careful — there are legal and medical qualifications for surrogates, and many candidates online may not qualify. Many may be looking for an Independent journey because they were rejected by an agency, IVF clinic or surrogacy lawyer. Finding a qualified surrogate can take months or years.
Most US states have surrogacy laws that govern how a surrogate can work and be paid. Intended Parents should carefully research their local laws to ensure they stay within the restrictions. There is significant risk if the legal conditions are not well defined, or if the Surrogate lives in a state where the surrogacy contract is unenforceable (or possibly even illegal).
That said many couples successfully choose the Independent Surrogacy route every year. You can read their stories in several online communities.
Why choose Independent Surrogacy?
Most surrogacy programs are managed by professional “Surrogacy Agents” who charge from $15,000 to $30,000 USD. But an agent is not a requirement for a surrogacy program – and in many cases, can be an expensive luxury.
Independent Surrogacy (a.k.a. Private Surrogacy) programs do not use an agent. Instead the Intended Parents perform the agent’s duties, including vetting their surrogate mother, locating a clinic, working directly with their own lawyer for the Surrogacy Contract, and helping the surrogate throughout the course of pregnancy.
Independent Surrogacy is most often used when a couple already have a friend or family member who will carry their pregnancy. One of the most time-consuming tasks of a surrogacy agent is to find a qualified surrogate mother. If the parents already know a surrogate, or have a reliable source to find a qualified surrogate, they may choose to work with her directly, arrange her pay, and oversee her pregnancy themselves.
In other cases, Intended Parents may choose to find their own surrogate through various online communities to save money. The process of locating a qualified surrogate on one’s own can take months or years, usually through online communities and conversations with dozens of surrogate candidates. Professional recruiters have the benefit of established networks, marketing and word-of-mouth referrals to find surrogate mothers faster.
If the Intended Parents decide to find their own surrogate online, they should be prepared for a vetting process that will include a full medical evaluation of the surrogate, a review of her lifestyle and living situation, legal background checks, psychiatric evaluation, and other qualifications. For a list of criteria for a qualified surrogate mother, check this article.
That said, even if you personally know your surrogate candidate, you still need to complete the task list below. Tasks including contract negotiations are critical to avoid misunderstandings and conflicts that can devastate even family relationships.
Independent Surrogacy: Parents’ Task List
During a Independent Surrogacy Program, the Intended Parents will have to perform these basic tasks, which are normally performed by an agent. Some tasks are quite straightforward. Other tasks require detailed medical or legal knowledge. (To avoid expensive complications, a good consultant can educate Intended Parents on the legal and medical requirements.)
Task 1. Finding, vetting, and managing the surrogate mother
Surrogacy agencies usually have a professional surrogate recruiter with access to a network of surrogate candidates. Agencies also have a rigorous screening process to ensure all candidates meet legal and medical guidelines. In many cases, agencies also have their own criteria for surrogate that are far more restrictive than official government guidelines.
In addition to finding a surrogate online, Intended Parents must do the following:
- Shepherd the surrogate candidate through medical, psychological and legal clearance.
- Negotiate the terms of the Surrogacy Contract, including pay and benefits.
- Vet the surrogate’s personal situation, including family life and home suitability.
- Locate a lawyer licensed in the surrogate’s home state with expertise on surrogacy contract law.
Task 2. Managing clinic procedures and getting the surrogate pregnant
Once your surrogate has signed your surrogacy contract, she can begin the medical process to become pregnant. Assuming the parents already completed their IVF cycle and have healthy embryos ready, the surrogate must go through her own fertility treatments and endometrial stimulation to prepare for an embryo transfer. That requires detailed coordination with the clinic and pharmacy.
- Finding an appropriate fertility clinic to handle all the surrogate’s fertility treatments
- Managing all clinical appointments for the donors and surrogate mother
- Arranging for delivery of medications, daily treatments, and monitoring by a local specialist
- Arranging the delivery in a convenient obstetrics hospital or birth center
Task 3. Managing the pregnancy and supporting the surrogate & pregnancy
Surrogacy is a personal and emotional process for both the surrogate and the parents. Central to the surrogacy journey is the relationship between the surrogate and the parents. Successfully building and nurturing that relationship is the key to success. The surrogate will look to the parents for emotional guidance, as well as logistical support, throughout the entire process.
- Emotional support during the fertility treatments and pregnancy
- Regular oversight of the pregnancy, including counseling and other benefits if requested.
- Troubleshooting any conflicts in the relationship with the surrogate or the clinic
In a typical “Agency Program” these tasks are all performed by the Surrogacy Agent. Because agents handle many cases, these tasks are largely routine and uncomplicated. But for the inexperienced parent, they may be impossibly tricky (without professional guidance).
The obligations of an Independent Surrogacy journey can be a heavy burden for most Intended Parents. Legal requirements, medical procedures, plus the daily care and compensation of a surrogate often requires specialized knowledge of state and federal laws. In a typical Independent Surrogacy journey, the tasks take over the course of a full year and the parents are completely on their own to navigate the paperwork and bureaucracy.