Surrogacy has been around since 1986, but you may have only heard of it recently through announcements of celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Sarah Jessica Parker, or Nicole Kidman. These famous couples spent fortunes on high-profile surrogacy programs. But what about ordinary couples? Are expensive surrogacy programs within reach for everyday families struggling with infertility?

An alarming number of couples suffer from infertility.  Gay men rely on surrogates to have their own biological children.  And there’s even the occasional report of healthy couples using surrogates to avoid the hassles and risks of pregnancies.  Whatever the reason, thousands of couples hire surrogates every year.

If you’re one of those couples struggling to have a child, you’ve likely considered hiring a surrogate as a possible option.  But before you go down that road, there are lots of factors to consider. You have to ask yourself how much you can afford to pay to conceive and deliver a healthy child you can call your own. After all, even if you have the financial resources to spend thousands of dollars on your own kid, your funds are still finite. You should make sure that you get the most value out of the deal.

Here are the usual expenses that entail hiring a surrogate:

1. Surrogate Compensation and Benefits

Without a doubt, the largest expense of a surrogacy journey is the salary and benefits of your surrogate.  According to Bill Houghton, director of the Sensible Agency, a surrogacy agency based in Nevada, a surrogate mother in the U.S. earns about $40,000 as a base salary. She also receives up to $10,000 USD in various benefits.

“Of course there are a lot of reasons why women choose to become surrogates,” says Houghton.  “There’s a lot of altruism and generosity involved.  But it would be a lie to say that money is not a factor as well.” 

Surrogate compensation is about 40% of the total cost of a surrogacy journey, according to Sensible’s surrogacy cost guide. Most of the time, surrogates are paid not only on salary, but also expenses and extra fees.  Houghton advises parents to understand exactly what they’ll be charged for before choosing to work with a surrogate.

There are a variety of ways a surrogate costs can mount up.  In addition to her salary your surrogate is paid special fees every time she receives fertility treatments.  For example, she gets thousands for “start-medications fees”, paid whenever she begins taking fertility treatments; “Embryo Transfer fees” whenever she undergoes an embryo transfer; “Invasive procedure fees” whenever she undergoes an invasive procedure.

Surrogates also earn additional pay for the day-to-day grind of being pregnant.  Living stipends add hundreds to your budget each month.  Surrogates are also entitled to maternity clothing allowance, travel expenses and even childcare or housekeeping services. 

You have to take note of these personal expenses that you might have to shoulder when enlisting the help of a surrogate.

2. Agency Fees

Finding a surrogate mother and managing the medical and legal process is more daunting than most couples expect.  If you’re going to enlist the help of a surrogate mother, it’s a good idea to work with someone connected to an agency. An agency will handle all of the daily tasks of getting and being pregnant.

Agency fees are the second biggest item in your surrogacy budget.  A quick Google search shows most agencies charging from $20,000 to $40,000 in agency fees.  Some more luxury-oriented agencies will charge higher fees than their surrogates receive in compensation. 

Although expensive, agency services are often worth the cost. For their fee, agencies will find a qualified surrogate and oversee her care. The agency will also conduct thorough background checks and screenings to ensure that your surrogate is not just healthy, but also reliable and credible.

Some additional services included in the agency fee:

  • Advertising – The agency charges for the sourcing and selection of their surrogate mothers. They use both traditional and online ads to reach potential candidates.
  • Matching – This expense is all about finding the perfect surrogate for you. The agency performs medical evaluations, psychological assessments and legal background checks.
  • Clinic management – the agency will make and oversee all of the medical appointmns for the surrogate, including whatever’s needed in getting pregnant and then all of the prenatal care during the pregnancy.
  • Additional Services – Other potential services that an agency may perform on your behalf is to take care of your and your surrogate’s insurance filing. This means taking note of the premiums and coverage.

3. Medical Expenses

Medical expenses can range from $15,000 to $25,000 to get your surrogate pregnant and oversee the prenatal care.  The basic medical steps in a surrogacy journey include donating sperm and eggs, conceiving embryos with an IVF procedure, and then transferring the embryos to the uterus of your surrogate.  These are the basic activities of every surrogacy journey.

Most clinics will offer a Surrogacy Package that includes the basic procedures.  There may also be some less obvious tasks and hidden expenses.  If your clinic doesn’t include these in the budget, be prepared to pay for medications (which can add thousands to the budget), embryo storage, and blood tests or analytics that are required by the FDA.

It’s always wise to know what fees you’ll be required to pay before agreeing to the procedure. It’s also crucial to realize that the cost of the procedure may increase if there are any complications that could arise during or after the process.

If your agent has done his job, your surrogate should have insurance to cover the prenatal office visits and all the delivery costs.  Without insurance, even in an uncomplicated, healthy delivery can be very expensive.  If the baby arrives early, NICU fees will likely be $5,000 per day (and a stay of two or more weeks is not uncommon). Without insurance, expect to paying for the entire medical bill out of your own pocket.

4. Legal Costs

Since surrogacy can be considered as a business transaction, you must have a contract drawn up to print everything in black-and-white. This way, the terms and conditions are clearly agreed upon by both parties.

It’s prudent to hire a lawyer to help you in this area. The document has to include the necessary provisions in your state or locality so that you won’t encounter problems with your child or surrogate in the long run.

Some US states are “surrogacy friendly” and offer a legal process to name you as the legal mother before the baby is born.  Other states will name the surrogate as the legal mother until a court process is finished in the weeks after the birth. Either way, you’ll need to hire a lawyer to ensure you are the legal mother of your baby.  The total legal fees can range from $5,000 to $10,000 depending on the lawyer and jurisdiction.

The total expense that you can expect may vary. It largely depends on your town or state jurisdiction since you have to ensure that you comply with the laws in your area. With this, you should aim to work with legal experts who specialize in surrogacy since they have the experience and technical knowledge to make sure that your rights are protected.

Conclusion

The cost of getting a surrogate mother can vary depending on the clinic you’ll choose. It will also vary depending on what kind of relationship you have with the woman, what type of relationship you want between the mother and child, and the country that you’re in. You’ll need to ask each clinic exactly how much it will cost you to get a surrogate mother for you and your partner so you’ll end up with one that suits your budget and preferences.