What is a Surrogate Mother?

The surrogate mother is the hero of the surrogacy process. She’ll carry the baby on behalf of the Intended Parents, which is itself challenging. She’ll undergo a variety of invasive fertility procedures, plus agree to strict personal and medical restrictions to ensure the success of the pregnancy and the health of the developing baby.

Jump Down this Article:

  • Surrogate Matching Explained
  • Qualifications for Your Surrogate
  • Treating Your Surrogate Ethically
  • Frequent Questions: Surrogate Mothers
  • Also in The Cost Guide:

    • The Surrogacy Cost Guide
    • How Much to Pay Your Surrogate
    • Buying Insurance for Your Surrogate

      Your surrogate mother is neither an employee nor a servant. Your surrogate is more than just an incubator to carry a fetus. She is the primary caregiver to your nascent family. For nine months your surrogate will carry your pregnancy and take care of your developing baby. Starting with an array of medical and psychological evaluations, followed by weeks of fertility treatments, your surrogate mother’s role will take a full year’s effort to complete.

      Whether your surrogate is from Kiev or California, Intended Parents should remember that the surrogate mother is an equal participant in the surrogacy journey. The Surrogacy Contract is a partnership agreement, with each person having obligations toward the other.

      The surrogacy contract is a two-way agreement in which the surrogate agrees to care for the pregnancy, but also in which the Intended Parents agree to care for the surrogate.

      The surrogacy contract is a two-way agreement in which the surrogate mother agrees to care for the pregnancy, but also in which the Intended Parents agree to care for the surrogate. That means treating her ethically, respectfully, and with an appreciation for the service she is performing.

      Matching & Preparing your Surrogate Mother

      Surrogate Matching refers to the process of recruiting surrogates and assigning them to waiting Intended Parents. Once matched, a surrogate candidate will undergo extensive health and fertility exams, plus legal and psychological checks. This is often a requirement by the IVF clinic to accept the surrogate as a patient.

      Surrogate mothers in many overseas countries are pre-evaluated and readily available with no waiting period. In the United States, the process to recruit and evaluate a surrogate mother requires a six to eight week screening process (a service called “Surrogate Matching”).

      Once the surrogate mother has passed her initial evaluation and been “matched” to an Intended Parent, it is often another 2 months before she is fully prepared for her embryo transfer (called “Surrogate Preparation”). While these two processes are underway, parents often work with the clinic to complete their own donations and IVF cycle.

      Find a surrogate motherThe initial matching stage requires a series of blood tests and ultrasound scans, as well as a litany of personal evaluations (including criminal and psychological evaluations). The Preparation stage includes fertility boosting hormone injections to thicken the surrogate’s endometrium and make her more receptive to the intended parents’ transplanted embryo.

      Surrogate mothers overseas are often not as thoroughly screened as in Western countries. Even in the United States some agencies perform far more rigorous evaluations of their surrogate candidates than others. The disparity in surrogate evaluation may be one reason for the differences in pregnancy rates between countries and between clinics within the same country. if you worry about the health of your surrogate, you may ask her agency to perform additional medical tests, although you likely will need to pay extra for this.

      Although the depth of her initial evaluation and medical screening is often quite different, the preparation and fertility treatments for your surrogate mother are basically the same from country to country.


      Qualifications of a Surrogate Mother

      To become a surrogate mother women must meet strict medical, psychological, and personal criteria. Here is a short list of the minimum that every surrogate mother should meet.

      Have at least one successful, natural pregnancy

      The first requirement is the most obvious… all surrogate mother candidates must demonstrate they are fertile and capable of maintaining a healthy pregnancy by having their own successful pregnancy. In addition having gone through pregnancy gives an important understanding of what is involved and the physical and emotional toll that pregnancy may bring. Raising a child is also a sign of emotional stability and responsibility.

      Be generally healthy and take good care of themselves

      We all know that it’s important to eat healthy and exercise regularly, and even more so during a pregnancy. All surrogates must be able to demonstrate that they live a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise and personal wellness habits. Surrogates must also live in a well-maintained home unless they will be offered housing by their agency.

      Healthy body weight

      Women who are overweight are at a greater risk of developing gestational diabetes, which can be a risk not only to the surrogate but also to the pregnancy. IVF clinics have become very strict regarding the body mass index (BMI) a surrogate mother must maintain, and may accept a possible surrogate only if she can modify her lifestyle to meet this criteria.

      Be between 21-40 years old

      Different clinics have different requirements regarding the age of a surrogate. In general surrogates need to be at least 21 years to have the emotional stability needed to be a surrogate. Meanwhile, while there are instances of women successfully serving as surrogates into their 50s, most clinics will only accept surrogate mothers up to the age of 35.

      No drugs. Limited alcohol.

      A woman must live a stable lifestyle to qualify to become a surrogate mother. This means no drugs of any kind, whether it is street or prescription pills without a doctor’s prescription. While an occasional drink is normal and acceptable, heavy or regular use of alcohol is also a reason for exclusion. The surrogate also must agree to regular drug screenings throughout the pregnancy.

      Be a non-smoker

      Smoking during pregnancy can cause a stillbirth, premature delivery, and low birth weight. It will also cut the oxygen off to the baby by narrowing blood vessels throughout your body, including the ones in the umbilical cord.

      No criminal history.

      All surrogate candidates go through an extensive criminal background check.

      Have a stable relationship or support network

      Being pregnant is often hard work, and most women will need some form of emotional or physical support during their pregnancy. A good surrogate should have either a husband/partner able to assist her throughout the pregnancy. If not a spouse, then an available network of family and friends can often provide the needed support.

      Emotionally stable

      Every surrogate mother candidate must pass a psychological review to ensure she is emotionally capable of fulfilling the requirements of being a surrogate. Surrogates must be able to schedule appointments, remember to attend them and follow doctor’s orders. They have to also be able to read and understand the legal Surrogacy Contract with the help of an independent lawyer. Most importantly, a surrogate mother must be able to care for the growing baby responsibly throughout the pregnancy, and then she must relinquish her parental rights when the baby is delivered.

      Positive outlook on life

      Intended Parents should look for a surrogate who is generally positive and optimistic. This type of attitude is important as she goes through the pregnancy (which can sometimes include physically and emotionally challenging days.). A good attitude will help her stay focused on the important work that she is doing, and the joy that she is bringing to a childless couple.

      Be able to handle the logistics of the surrogacy process

      This includes and ability to Take time away from your employer and family for surrogacy (appointments, bedrest, birth, post partum) It also means the surrogate must often we willing to travel to fertility clinics, lawyers, doctor’s/ultrasound appointments.