A guest post by David Bull, owner of www.mysurrogatemom.com, an independent surrogacy community.
Surrogacy is undoubtedly one of the most challenging processes of all fertility treatments, but it can also be one of the most fulfilling for the parties involved. Educating yourself about how surrogacy works, as well as being ware of everything you need, is the key to having a successful journey.
But how does surrogacy work? Where and how do you start the surrogacy journey safely? These questions are not easy to answer because every surrogacy journey will be different depending on the expectations and preferences of the people involved. One of the best ways to learn more about the process of surrogacy is to speak with a surrogacy professional (e.g., reproductive lawyer, infertility counselor, or surrogacy agency). Despite all the possible differences, every successful surrogacy journey should follow the same basic phases outlined below.
Determine Whether Surrogacy Is Right for You
Before starting the surrogacy process, educate yourself as much as possible on the basics of this third-party reproduction option. Deciding to start a surrogacy process is not something to be done until you completely understand the different medical, psychological, and legal phases of the process, its implications, and what it will demand of you.
Remember that a surrogacy journey requires a year or more of legal, psychological, and medical procedures. Consequently, it’s imperative to know how surrogacy works in order to be fully prepared. Luckily, numerous professionals specialize in surrogacy, such as surrogacy agencies, infertility counselors, and attorneys. They can explain the different phases of the surrogacy process and help you make the best decision.
Set Your Surrogacy Goals
Once you have made up your mind and are ready to start your surrogacy journey, you must determine your expectations, requirements, and the professionals you are willing to work with.
First, you will need to decide if you want to pursue a traditional or gestational surrogacy journey. In the United States, gestational surrogacy is the preferred path. The next decision will be if you want to work with a surrogacy agency or conduct an independent (indie) surrogacy process. Many prospective parents and surrogates find the support that a surrogacy agency provides to be really helpful, particularly if this is their first surrogacy journey. It’s very important to define your goals and expectations before moving forward to the next surrogacy phase: finding your ideal match.
Find a Match
Finding the right intended parents or surrogate is one of the most important phases in your surrogacy process. When you create your personal surrogacy plan, you will need to identify what you want intended parents or surrogate to be like (married, location, religion, etc.). You need to be aware that if you decide to go indie, the process of matching can take many months, and you can usually find intended parents or surrogates through online communities, Facebook groups, or surrogacy forums. Putting out the word about surrogacy among people you know can bring possible candidates. On the other hand, surrogacy specialists have the advantage of established networks and word-of-mouth referrals to find a match faster.
Pass the Medical and Psychological Evaluation
Once you have been matched and before drafting and signing the legal surrogacy agreement, both parties need to undergo an initial medical and psychological screening. This phase is critical to ensure that the surrogate and prospective parents are in a good place physically and mentally to start the process. Remember, this is not just about where you are emotionally now, it is also about where you might be during pregnancy, and in the future. Many straight intended parents have been through significant trauma and can find it difficult to find trust and hope for a good outcome. Some gay parents come to surrogacy with unrealistic expectations that need to be tempered with information about pregnancy and multiple pregnancy. The surrogate must then be deemed medically appropriate to pursue surrogacy. More women seek to become surrogates than are deemed appropriate to proceed. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) (write guidelines about having had a child
Create a Surrogacy Contract
At this point in the surrogacy process, it’s very important to have the guidance of an attorney specializing in surrogacy to avoid potentially disastrous missteps, especially if you are not receiving support from a qualified agency. Your lawyer can fill in the legal gaps and will draft the surrogacy contract.
A surrogacy contract ensures that both the surrogate and intended parents are aware of the obligations and risks related to the surrogacy process. Your attorney will represent you individually to safeguard your rights and interests. Most states in the United States do not have surrogacy laws. Never write your own surrogacy contract.
Complete the Medical Process of Surrogacy
Once all the legal aspects are taken care of, you are ready to begin the medical process of surrogacy. Many IVF clinics will require a surrogacy agreement to be in place before beginning any medical procedure. It is crucial that your surrogate has appropriate health insurance that will cover surrogate pregnancy. If not, intended parents must buy an additional health insurance policy.
Understand that a surrogacy journey is rewarding but challenging. The process can take much longer than you want it to, to ensure that everything and everyone is above board and on track. Don’t ignore red flags in the hopes that everything will end fine. Potential problems should be addressed as soon as they appear.
If you pursue an indie surrogacy journey, be extra watchful for scams. Ask your attorney about how best to set up a compensation schedule. Most of all, follow your gut throughout the process! It will be your best advisor of all.