What is Independent Surrogacy?

Independent Surrogacy (a.k.a Private Surrogacy) is when Intended Parents enter into a surrogacy agreement without the aid of an agent. Independent Surrogacy is less expensive than an agency program because the parents perform all the tasks themselves. “Indy” surrogacy can be a challenge, but low-cost support services and resources can simplify the process.


Inside this Article:

In The Surrogacy Guide:

Surrogacy can be a long and complicated process, so most intended parents choose to work with an experienced agent. But a professional agent can often be an expensive luxury. Independent surrogacy is the lower-cost alternative.

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.

The Challenges of Independent Surrogacy

Finding an Independent Surrogate

The biggest challenge to Independent Surrogacy is finding and building a relationship with a qualified surrogate. This is often a tremendous problem for many Intended Parents. Parents often spend years looking for a qualified surrogate, and are often disappointed to find that they charge hefty fees and offer few assurances.

It’s a misnomer that “Independent Surrogates” will carry a pregnancy for little money. Many surrogates choose the Independent route because they believe they can charge the parents more than what they would be paid by an agency. The total budget may be lower than an agency, but it’s not cheap.

Parents most 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 seeking an Independent journey because they were rejected by an agency, IVF clinic or surrogacy lawyer. You should be familiar with the legal qualifications for a surrogate and make sure your candidate meets each criteria. (You can find surrogate requirements here.) If your surrogate candidate does not meet all requirements, your IVF clinic or surrogacy lawyer is likely to reject her.

If you decide to find your own surrogate online, you 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.

Managing Your Surrogate

Most surrogates prefer to work through an agency because the agency performs all of the work, guarantees their compensation, and protects them from risks. But some surrogates prefer working without an agency. Some surrogates prefer working directly with parents because they believe they’ll get higher compensation (because parents are saving money on agency fees). Other women prefer to work with the parents because they enjoy the personal connection shared throughout the journey (and afterward). Most women will be motivated by some combination of both reasons.

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.

Legal Criteria for Independent Surrogacy

Independent surrogacy does not mean the parents get to make their own rules. Surrogacy arrangements are tightly regulated in most states, and parents should be familiar with the laws in the sate where their surrogate lives.

Most states require a court process to establish who are the baby’s legal parents. This is known as a “pre-birth order” or “post-birth order.” This court decree will instruct the Office of Vital Records to register the Intended Parents as the legal parents on the birth certificate. Without such an order, the surrogate is likely to remain the legal mother after the baby is born, regardless of a surrogacy agreement. You will need a lawyer to file the pre-birth or post-birth court order process.

The pre-birth/post-birth order has it’s own legal requirements. A properly executed surrogacy contract is absolutely needed. The surrogate is often required to submit an affidavit acknowledging she is not the mother. Additional requirements vary from state to state, but may include medical reports and records from the IVF cycle and pregnancy. IF the state has restrictions on commercial surrogacy, detailed records of expenses may also be needed.

There is significant risk if the Surrogate lives in a state where the surrogacy contract is unenforceable (or possibly even illegal). If your state is “unfriendly” to surrogacy arrangements, you should consider a surrogate who lives in a more supportive area.

Despite the challenges, many couples successfully choose the Independent Surrogacy route every year. You can read their stories in several online communities.

Why choose Independent Surrogacy?

Independent-surrogacy-mother-and-fatherMost 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, 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. 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.

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

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.


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 an 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.

Frequent Questions about Independent Surrogacy

What is Independent Surrogacy?

Independent Surrogacy (or Private Surrogacy) is any program that does not include an agent. It may also include several related options, including Assisted Surrogacy (with independent service providers) or Guided Surrogacy with the help of a paid consultant.

Why choose Independent Surrogacy?

Most couples choose 'Indy' surrogacy because the prices are far lower. A typical Independent journey cuts $15,000 to $25,000 in agency fees from the total budget. A Surrogacy Consultant can assist couples through the journey for a small fee.

What is lower-cost 'Assisted Surrogacy'?

'Assisted Surrogacy' is a unique type of 'Indy' journey that uses independent freelance vendors instead of an agency. The vendors provide similar services, but they are often much less expensive. Check out SENSIBLE's Surrogacy Guide for specifics.

What's the greatest challenge of an Indy journey?

Finding a qualified surrogate is the most difficult task of Independent Surrogacy. Many couples spend years trying to find a surrogate who is both qualified and willing to work without an agency.

What tasks must the IPs perform?

Indy Surrogacy requires parents to perform three main tasks, although each includes a lot of detail: Finding and vetting the surrogate; managing all clinical procedures and getting pregnant; and overseeing and troubleshooting the pregnancy.

Who can perform Independent Surrogacy?

Independent surrogacy requires the parents to be immediately accessible to the surrogate if any problem should arise. So overseas couples are usually discouraged from attempting Indy programs in the U.S.

How much do Surrogacy Agencies charge?

The typical US surrogacy agency will charge from $20,000 to $30,000 USD for a single journey. Overseas agencies charge from $5,000 to $8,000 USD.

About the authors

  • Bill-Houghton
  • Author: William Houghton

    Bill Houghton is the founder of Sensible Surrogacy, author of the Sensible Surrogacy Guide, 2x surrogacy dad, and a dedicated advocate for secure, legal and ethical Gestational Surrogacy. Read Bill's Biography

Didn`t find what you need?

Search our complete library for all the answers...

...or return to the ‘Sensible’ Surrogacy Guide.