Becoming a surrogate – also called a gestational surrogate – is a wonderful way to help another family. A woman who applies to be a surrogate mother is someone who is generous and kind, and who desires to help others. Gestational surrogates are women who have had easy pregnancies and deliveries, and whose own families are complete.
What makes a woman become a surrogate? Some women know someone struggling with infertility and see a way to help. Others enjoy being pregnant but do not want to add to their own families. No matter what your reason is for pursuing surrogacy, helping someone else grow their family is an experience like no other.
10 ways to prepare to become a surrogate mother
As you can imagine, the surrogacy process is complex, and involves many professionals in addition to surrogates and intended parents. Before a woman applies to become a surrogate, there are ways she can prepare for the journey ahead – physically, emotionally, mentally and more.
1. Be ready for an emotional journey.
A surrogacy journey can be emotional for a variety of reasons. First, you are about to begin helping someone else become parents or grow their family. That is a huge deal! Second, there will be hormones! But perhaps the largest part of surrogacy is knowing and understanding what a huge impact you will be having on others’ lives. That includes carrying – and caring for – someone else’s baby, as if it were your own until delivery day. And then, at the end of the journey, delivering a healthy baby and giving the baby back to his/her parents. How will you manage post partum? Will you be ok saying goodbye to the baby after birth? This is something all potential surrogates must think about. Experienced surrogates explain this as not being difficult at all, because from the very beginning they knew the baby wasn’t theirs. “I’m just babysitting!” some have shared.
2. Ensure your body is ready physically for surrogacy.
While you have experienced pregnancy, becoming pregnant as a surrogate is a little different. For starters, you will need to undergo IVF. You can ask yourself, “Are there any lifestyle or health changes I need to make in order to have a successful pregnancy?” For some, it may be amending their diet. For others, it’s adding in more exercise. Whatever it may be for you, it’s important to identify any changes before applying, and determine whether or not you can commit to making them happen.
You will also need to meet the physical requirements of being a surrogate mother. That includes having a BMI (Body Mass Index) of no higher than 33 (calculate your BMI). So while you may have a similar BMI to what you had when you were pregnant with your keepers, that same BMI may not meet IVF Clinic requirements. This is because in order to become a surrogate, you must take IVF medications. And clinics provide guidelines for women to meet so that their bodies respond to the medications as successfully as possible. This is in the best interest for both the gestational carriers as well as the intended parents.
Once you are released to your OBGYN, your pregnancy should progress just as it did with your keepers. You may have a few more appointments – and maybe virtual or in-person attendance from our Intended Parents! – but other than that, there should be no surprises.
Speaking of OBGYNs, it’s a good idea to have the OB and hospital you’d like to use for your surrogacy thought out; who you’d like to support you medically during your surrogacy journey.
3. Be in the right state of mind.
Mentally preparing for a surrogacy journey is important, as the surrogacy process is filled with lots of steps and milestones, and can take anywhere from 14-20+ months. We ask women interested in becoming surrogates to be ready to commit to us – and their intended parents – for approximately two years; this time span covers the full IVF process, plus the pregnancy as well as post partum. And while 2 years can feel short, if you had plans of moving or other larger life decisions, you may want to put them on hold.
You can also ask yourself, “Can I give myself shots?” Some IVF medications are on the form of shots, and you will be required to administer them yourself (or recruit someone to help you!) Either way, if you have a fear of needles, surrogacy may not be the right path for you.
Last, can you open your mind up to being open and transparent about your personal life with others outside of your close family and friends. Pregnancy can be filled with intimate (and very personal!) details, that you likely kept private with just your partner or spouse during your own pregnancies. With a surrogate pregnancy, your agency and your intended parents will be involved in every step of the process with you. Your intended parents will receive updates about your health and status from the clinics, your medical records will be reviewed by others and very personal details about pregnancy (and the not-so-pretty side effects!) may be shared.
4. Read through surrogate requirements to see if you qualify.
“What are surrogate requirements?” is one of the most-asked questions we get from women interested in becoming gestational carriers. Women interested in applying to be surrogates must meet a list of requirements in order to qualify. Before you apply, it’s a good idea to read through the list to see if you meet the criteria.
If you’re wondering who sets these requirements, in most cases they are set by ASRM (American Society for Reproductive Medicine) and IVF clinics (not by surrogacy agencies). Surrogate requirements are put in place to try and ensure a smooth and secure journey for all parties involved. Criteria includes requirements around an applicant’s health, lifestyle, education and financial stability.
Some of the questions on the surrogate application may feel a little personal, but that’s because you are applying for a very personal opportunity: to carry a baby for someone. Part of the surrogate application process is collecting your medical records, which will be reviewed by IVF professionals.
5. Research surrogacy to understand the full process.
Compared to a few years ago, today there is a tremendous amount of information and education available to you online about surrogacy. For anyone considering surrogacy, research is key! A great first step is researching the process. The surrogacy process for a surrogate can be anywhere from 14-20+ months…and a LOT happens during that time! There are many milestones early in the process, such as your application review, surrogacy consultation, matching with intended parents, medical screening and embryo transfer, it’s a good idea to have an understanding of the general surrogacy timeline to help you plan. Plus, knowing what’s to come will help you see what is expected of you as a gestational surrogate; what appointments you’ll need to attend, when and if you’ll need to travel, medications you’ll need to take, and more.
Next, you may want to research surrogacy agencies. There are SO many surrogacy agencies out there, each offering something different. Here’s a list of questions you can use when you’re comparing and considering different agencies. Your agency should feel like a good fit, provide comprehensive support throughout your journey and have experience. Hint: your agency’s location does not matter! You never have to go to your agency; any travel you do would be to your Intended Parents’ clinic – and that could be anywhere!
6. Share your desire to be a surrogate with family and friends.
This is such an important step of the process before the process. During your surrogacy journey, you may need the support of your family and friends; whether that is in the form of help with childcare, someone to drive you to an appointment, or even someone to drop off dinner on one of those days you need an extra hand. Having their support from the very beginning makes your journey go more smoothly. Plus, if your network doesn’t know of anyone who has gone through surrogacy or has been a surrogate, this will be a wonderful way for you to educate them on how wonderful surrogacy is!
Also, agencies such as Circle Surrogacy require each surrogate to have a primary support person (PSP) alongside them on their journey. If the surrogate has a partner or spouse, that is usually the PSP, however surrogates have had their sisters, mothers and even grown children as their PSP.
7. Understand the time commitment and determine if and how surrogacy will fit into your life.
The surrogate application process is not considerably time consuming, and Circle Surrogacy makes it easy with their surrogate portal so you can manage your application info whenever it’s convenient for you. The biggest time commitment will be right before and after the embryo transfer, when you will be required to attend a local clinic near where you live (not the intended parents’ clinic) for monitoring. You will be asked to travel 2 times during your surrogacy to the intended parents’ IVF clinic: once for the medical screening and once for the embryo transfer. Even then, you may be able to match with intended parents working with a clinic within driving distance from your home to cut down on your travel. You will need a time commitment from your Primary Support Person to travel with you both times to the IPs’ clinic.
Once you are released to your OB, your surrogacy will have the same time commitment for appointments that your traditional pregnancies had.
In short, a surrogate pregnancy does not require a big time commitment outside of the two larger medical appointments!
8. Talk to your kids about surrogacy.
You know what’s awesome about kids? They take everything in stride, and they love new adventures! Sharing your desire to be a surrogate with your children is important, as your surrogacy will impact their lives, as their Mom is going to have something else to focus on for a little while! What should you tell your kids about your surrogacy? That’s up to you; you know your kids best, and how you can involve them in your surrogacy journey. Determine what is best to share based on their age; your older children may have a better understanding, so you may speak with them differently than your younger children. We have found that children LOVE being part of surrogacy journeys; Circle’s surrogates share their stories about talking to their children about surrogacy in this blog post.
9. Connect with experienced surrogates.
Reading about surrogacy is helpful, but speaking with an experienced carrier will be invaluable. Having a two-way conversation allows you to ask questions and get honest answers. You can join groups on social media to connect with experienced surrogates, or with an agency like Circle, you can speak with experienced surrogates on staff, who can answer questions about their personal journeys AND explain the surrogacy process at the agency. Just email them at: [email protected]
10. Be ready to let your intended parents in your life (and your family’s life) for an open and trusting relationship.
Because surrogacy is such an intimate and monumental venture, you will be sharing a great deal of personal information with your surrogacy agency, and in turn, your intended parents. Your medical records will be obtained, and a background check will be done on you as well as anyone over the age of 18 who lives in your home. During the process you will also learn a lot of personal information about your intended parents. The strongest and most successful surrogacy journeys are those where there is honesty and truthfulness between IPs and surrogates which leads to a deep bond and strong relationship.
If you’re considering becoming a surrogate, that is so exciting! There are many intended parents waiting to start or grow their families. We encourage you to read through our surrogate FAQs and to fill out an application as the first step and connect with one of Circle Surrogacy’s experienced gestational carriers who can answer all of your questions!