Building a family doesn’t always take the same path, and for many couples, surrogacy is the route that provides the child they desire.
But even though surrogacy is becoming a more chosen path to a family, there are still a lot of questions surrounding the process, cost, and details. Many families are unsure of what is involved in surrogacy or don’t think it’s an option available to them.
To get a bit more clear on surrogacy and what it entails, we spoke with Circle Surrogacy, the most experienced and attentive surrogacy and egg donation agency in the world. Circle Surrogacy handles gestational surrogacies, which is what most of us are thinking about when we hear the word. In a typical gestational surrogacy arrangement, intended parents create embryos through IVF. One or more of these embryos is implanted into a surrogate (sometimes known as a gestational carrier) who carries the child or children to term but has no genetic relationship to them.
Because Circle Surrogacy is led by a team of people who have had their own firsthand experiences with surrogacy, egg donation, and infertility, they strive to create a personal, smooth, and stress-free experience. This process is often emotionally complicated for many parents, so Circle Surrogacy handles everything in-house, besides the IVF process, to keep things as simple as possible.
Circle Surrogacy works with all prospective intended parents – whether a couple or a single individual, LGBTQ+ or heterosexual, domestic or international.
We spoke with Kristin Marsoli, Circle Surrogacy’s Marketing Director, and her colleague, Heather Manojlovic, a Surrogate Prescreening Coordinator, to get the details on your biggest questions regarding surrogacy. Kristin and her husband are proud parents to their son thanks to Circle Surrogacy, and Heather has completed two amazing surrogacy journeys with Circle and is now in the process of beginning her third.
Read on for our conversation on surrogacy, including how to support friends, what the financial details are like, what it takes to become a surrogate, and how to have a conversation about surrogacy with your partner.
1. How should you support a friend using a surrogate?
Kristin: When an Intended Parent (IP) consults with Circle Surrogacy, one of the questions they are asked is what their support network looks like. It’s important for IPs to have a solid foundation of friends, family, and coworkers whom they can lean on and share their journey. Growing your family through surrogacy is a wonderful journey, but it’s also an emotional one. Like traditional pregnancies, there can be bumps in the road.
If you’re supporting someone who is going through surrogacy, it’s important to be there for them when they want to share updates and news. Researching surrogacy on your own so you have a better understanding of the process will help you communicate with your friend and also help you educate others (so your friend doesn’t have to). Everyone approaches their surrogacy journey differently. Some IPs are very private, so your support may come in the form of listening and asking what you can do to make their lives easier at any given moment. Other IPs are very open about their surrogacy journeys and enjoy sharing details about their journey with friends – which means asking questions and listening to their stories is a wonderful way to provide support.
2. What are some reasons women use surrogates?
Kristin: A woman will explore surrogacy for a variety of reasons, but these two are the most common: either she (and her partner) have struggled with infertility, or she is unable to carry a child on her own (this could be due to cancer or other health conditions).
Many women also come to surrogacy after having faced many challenges getting pregnant – and carrying a baby – on their own. Surrogacy provides a way for these women to have the family they’ve always dreamed of and have been working so hard for.
3. How hard is it to find a surrogate? What is the best way to approach this search?
Kristin: Some Intended Parents (IPs) find a surrogate on their own – a family member or friend – or through an online surrogacy board.
Many IPs, however, will use a surrogacy agency to match them with a surrogate mother. At Circle Surrogacy, surrogates and Intended Parents fill out lengthy questionnaires and speak with team members to share their views on surrogacy and what they expect out of their journey.
Circle then matches Intended Parents and surrogates based on three criteria: legal fit, personality fit, and views on selective reduction. The amount of time it takes for Intended Parents to match with a surrogate depends on Intended Parents’ preferences and specifications, as well as where they live.
Here is more information about how surrogates and parents are matched at Circle.
4. What is a cost breakdown of using a surrogate? How much does it cost if you already have frozen embryos?
Kristin: Surrogacy costs vary by each individual journey. Estimated surrogacy costs with Circle Surrogacy for a journey with just a surrogate (using frozen embryos already created) can be around $119,000 (excluding IVF clinic costs).
If you need an egg donor and to create your embryos, it can cost an additional $27,000 (excluding IVF clinic costs).
5. How long does the entire process take?
Kristin: For an Intended Parent, the entire process from sign-on to holding their baby for the first time can take anywhere from 16-21 months. Of this time, it can take three to five months to match with your surrogate.
This, of course, is an estimate of time. Depending on your specific journey – where you live, whether or not you would like to transfer one or two embryos, and any specific matching criteria you may have for your surrogate – it could take more or less time.
6. Is surrogacy legal in all states?
Kristin: There are some states in which surrogacy is not legal, however, some state courts will not enforce against surrogacy agreements if a surrogate is compensated. Therefore, Circle Surrogacy currently accepts surrogate applicants from 46 states (we do not work with women from New York, Louisiana, Michigan, and Nebraska).
Circle works with Intended Parents from all 50 states and around the world, meaning Circle can work with intended parents from New York, as long as their surrogate resided – and would give birth in – one of the 46 states with which compensated surrogacy is recognized by the courts.
7. Is surrogacy covered by insurance?
Kristin: Some Intended Parents may have medical insurance that covers at least some portion of the medical expenses. Some employers may also offer benefits that cover a portion of the expenses as part of their employee benefits package. A surrogate’s insurance also may cover the maternity and delivery expenses.
In all cases, it’s important to review the insurance policies to fully understand coverage and exclusions. If a surrogate’s insurance will not cover the maternity and delivery expenses, Intended Parents must purchase a surrogacy-specific insurance policy to cover the costs.
8. What are the risks of using or being a surrogate?
Kristin: Most of the concerns that the public has about surrogacy simply do not occur if you work with a reputable agency. Circle Surrogacy has never had Intended Parents abandon a child or had a surrogate run off with the baby. And Circle has never had a court refuse to establish parental rights. Since Circle Surrogacy uses a relationship-based model to match parents and surrogates based on their interests and personalities, surrogates and parents have shared that it’s a perfect match almost every time.
The main realistic risks are medical complications, which can occur with any pregnancy.
9. How old do you have to be to sign up to be a surrogate? What is the application process like, and how are surrogates chosen?
Heather: Surrogates in Circle’s program can be anywhere between the ages of 21-41 in order to apply.
The application process starts with an online application. Once the application is complete, the surrogate is connected to an experienced surrogate on staff who helps walk her through the entire process of becoming a surrogate all the way through matching.
If her initial application is accepted, the next steps involve additional screening surrounding all medical records from pregnancy and delivery. After all needed medical records are obtained on behalf of the surrogate, Circle works diligently to obtain an official pre-approval based on these records from one of the IVF clinics we partner with.
A screening call for the surrogate and her primary support is scheduled soon thereafter with a licensed social worker on our team. This call is great because not only are the logistics of a journey discussed as a refresher for what to expect, but this is where part of the matching magic happens. Once this call is complete, not only are we able to fully establish if the applicant is a good candidate, we are also able to align the surrogate with her top compatibility match option. Since Circle’s primary matching focus is based on relationship-based matching between the surrogate and her Intended Parents, this is a vital part of the process.
Surrogates are ultimately accepted into the program based on a combination of factors surrounding financial stability, strong support, and uncomplicated medical history inside and outside of their pregnancies.
10. How can someone approach the topic of being or using a surrogate with a hesitant partner?
Heather: Communication is a vital aspect of a surrogacy journey in general. Just as communication with a surrogate and her Intended Parents is vital, communication with her primary support person/partner is important as well.
When discussing surrogacy with a hesitant partner, it’s important to address their concerns. Most of the hesitation comes from a place of love and is based around concerns for their spouse. Using fact-based literature and talking through their concerns really helps to open up the conversation.
It’s also helpful to talk to someone who has been in their shoes. Here at Circle, we frequently connect partners to experienced surrogates’ spouses to talk through their hesitations and concerns. The most important thing to remember is talking things through is always the first step.
Sometimes a partner who is initially unsupportive adjusts to the idea later on. Having that support is such an important aspect to a journey and necessary support to continue forward with a journey.
This post was in partnership with Circle Surrogacy, but all of the opinions within are those of The Everymom editorial board.