What is Independent 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:

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 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?

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 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.

Finding an Independent Surrogate Mother

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.

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. These “Independent Surrogates” may 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.

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.


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.

Low-Cost Alternatives to the Independent Journey

Assisted Surrogacy: A Complete Agency Service… for Less!

Independent service providers can handle every aspect of your surrogacy journey with less hassle and a lower cost. Independent services are the same as those offered by any Surrogacy Agency…but more affordable.

  • Freelance surrogate recruiters: Find your qualified surrogate without expensive Agency fees
  • Journey coordinators: To handle every detail of your surrogate’s treatments and prenatal care
  • Egg donation agencies: We’ve worked with some of the best donor agencies worldwide
  • Legal and medical resources: We know experienced professionals in nearly every state
  • Escrow and insurance services: We partner with the best management services worldwide

Sensible offers unique, low-cost, high-success surrogacy options with clinics in Los Angeles, St. Louis, Bogota and Kiev. We can be your consultant, coordinator, or “agency” partner throughout the entire journey. We offer special reduced prices with several international clinics, agencies and other service providers that we have come to trust over the years.

Surrogacy Consulting for the Independent Journey

SENSIBLE is the expert resource in international and independent surrogacy. An experienced consultant can guide Intended Parents through their own Independent Surrogacy journey, or refer them to reliable service providers.

  • Complete and unlimited education & counseling from the moment you first consider gestational surrogacy in the US or overseas.
  • Consulting throughout your surrogacy journey to improve the overall security, affordability and likelihood of success.


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 mother 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 mother; 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

  • William (Bill) Houghton
  • Author: William (Bill) 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.