If you are exploring surrogacy for the first time, you likely have many questions about what the surrogacy process is, how much do surrogates cost, and how to find a surrogate.
A great resource for getting answers to all of your questions is speaking with a surrogacy agency. Not only can they provide answers to basic questions about surrogacy, but they can also share information that relates to your personal surrogacy journey and what it would entail.
What Is a Surrogacy Agency and Do I Need One?
A surrogacy agency will support intended parents, surrogates, and egg donors on their journeys while managing the details of the journey. Surrogacy agencies can be big or small, provide some services or all services, and costs can be variable or fixed.
If you work with a surrogacy agency you will likely pay them an “agency fee.” This surrogacy agency fee can range from $15K to $30K or more and covers the agency providing their professional services throughout your journey.
Some agencies have a full staff of professionals in-house and will provide all services for you. Other agencies may provide one or two services, but you may be required to find support in some areas of your journey (finding a lawyer, for example).
Watch our Instagram video below to learn some of the differences between using a full-service surrogacy agency and pursuing surrogacy on your own:
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Whether or not you need an agency is entirely up to you. If you are the type of person who would like to have professionals handle all aspects of your journey, then yes, an agency is the right choice. If you prefer to be in control of all the details, then you may choose to not use an agency.
Questions To Ask a Surrogacy Agency
Although you may have many questions about surrogacy, we’ve outlined 10 questions that intended parents should consider asking any surrogacy agency with whom they speak. These questions—while not agency-specific—can help intended parents start to see the differences in agencies and decide which type of agency is the best fit.
1. What makes your agency different from other agencies?
This question will help you see the different program options surrogate agencies provide and start the conversation of what is important to you in agency selection. Making a list of pros and cons for each agency from their answers to this question can help you narrow down your choices.
Some differences may include:
- Agency size and the number of agency team members who will support you on your journey.
- Whether or not they have a full in-house staff of professionals (lawyers, accountants, program managers, social workers), or if intended parents will need to source third-party support outside of the agency.
- Types of programs and costs. Some agencies will only match you with a surrogate, while others allow you to bring a surrogate to them (this may reduce the cost of a surrogate); if you require an egg donor, some agencies have a full egg donation program as well. Also, some agencies have fixed-cost programs, while others have variable (a la carte) programs. You can also ask the agency to break down their surrogate cost for you.
2. How much communication is expected between intended parents and their surrogate?
This question will help you see how the agency views a surrogacy arrangement and the importance they place on building a relationship with your surrogate. Some agencies—such as Circle Surrogacy—are relationship-based agencies, meaning, they put a heavy emphasis on at least weekly contact between intended parents and their surrogates to help deepen their relationship. This helps intended parents and their surrogate build trust versus a more transactional relationship.
Open communication early—and throughout the journey—can help ease the questions or concerns intended parents often ask around “How do I know if my surrogate is eating healthy, or not doing X, Y or Z.” If your relationship is built on trust, you can have an open dialogue. A strong parent-surrogate relationship is the building block for a smoother journey overall.
3. What services are provided in-house? What will I need a 3rd party for?
As noted above, this may be how an agency differentiates itself from others. Asking this question will outline what services are included in the agency fee, which of those services are in-house at the agency, and which ones need to be sourced (and potentially paid for outside of the agency costs) by intended parents.
4. How many matches does your agency officiate monthly?
The number of matches an agency does can also indicate the size of the agency and the volume of surrogacy journeys (and experience) they have overall. If an agency does 5 to 10 matches in a month, and there are many IPs waiting to be matched, the wait time can be longer and less predictable, although that may not always be transparently communicated. More monthly matches mean more data behind future predictions.
5. What criteria will impact how long I wait to match with a surrogate?
As an intended parent, you will be asked to share what you are looking for in a surrogate match. These criteria can vary from her location or her marital status to what level of communication she’s hoping for and so on. The agency will use this information to help find you the best match. If you have narrow criteria—perhaps finding a surrogate from a specific state or a surrogate who works in a certain profession—this can affect how quickly you are matched. The more open and flexible you are, the easier (and faster!) it will be to find you a match. Currently, intended parents requesting a surrogate who has received the COVID-19 vaccine is having the biggest impact on match time.
6. How does your agency protect me financially and legally in ‘what if’ scenarios, such as complex deliveries or losses?
Surrogacies, like traditional pregnancies, sometimes encounter bumps in the road. No agency can guarantee you won’t encounter a hurdle, but some agencies offer programs that have built-in safety nets, such as financial protections and in-house trained social workers for additional levels of emotional support. Surrogacy journeys can be complex, therefore it is important to identify an agency that is transparent with you about the possible scenarios they can help you address.
7. How do you find surrogates? What are the requirements?
Agencies find surrogates in a variety of ways—advertising and personal referrals are two methods of how an agency might find a woman interested in surrogacy. Women who wish to apply must meet a list of surrogate requirements in order to be considered. These qualifications—alongside psychological and medical screenings—are put in place to ensure that a woman is physically, mentally, and emotionally ready for a surrogacy journey. Surrogacy agencies consider guidelines put forth by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) and fertility clinics when screening surrogate applicants.
8. What should we look for in a surrogate match?
Take it from someone who has not only gone through a surrogacy as an intended parent but also works in the surrogacy industry—the bond between intended parents and surrogates can be magical. You are taking two strangers who in ordinary life may never have met and putting them together on a monumental journey.
So many of Circle’s surrogates and intended parents have created life-long bonds that go beyond the surrogacy journey, including Mandi and Nicola featured in the Instagram video below. So what should you look for in a surrogate match to have that great relationship? Think about what’s important to you in a person, what type of personality match is a fit, and the type of person with whom you’d be friends. Someone who is responsible, caring, and has wonderful support are great places to start!
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9. Do we start with the IVF clinic or the surrogacy agency first?
That depends on your personal journey. Some intended parents come to surrogacy already having created embryos at a fertility clinic. Some intended parents have been working with a reproductive endocrinologist at a clinic as they tried to get pregnant on their own, so they already have a doctor. While other intended parents come to a surrogacy agency as a first stop, looking for direction on where to go next.
Some agencies may require you to create your embryos before signing on. Other agencies—like Circle Surrogacy—do not require intended parents to create embryos before coming on board. Many intended parents will create embryos while they are waiting for a surrogate match. Circle is flexible and will work with you on your timeline and the order in which you do things.
10. What are your success rates? Are they self-reported?
Success rates will vary by agency, but it’s a GREAT question to ask! We can speak only for Circle Surrogacy: We have a success rate of 99.3% of intended parents bringing home a baby from their first two transfers or completing at least three transfers. Circle Surrogacy is confident in its success in helping parents achieve their dreams of parenthood, and we’ve had our success rates audited by a reputable tax and audit firm.
These questions are meant to help guide you—and inspire your own additional questions—when it comes to surrogacy and finding a surrogate and a surrogacy agency. Circle Surrogacy has been making parenthood possible since 1995; we’re here to answer any questions you might have. You can call us at 617.439.9900 or email us at [email protected].
Or, if you’re ready to speak with our experienced team to learn more, you can fill out a short form and we’ll be in touch!