How Do I Find a Surrogate Mother?
Intended parents often arrive on the doorstep of Donor Concierge after spending months, and sometimes years trying unsuccessfully to find a surrogate mother to carry their much-wanted child. Some have spent hundreds of dollars placing ads on the internet or they’ve asked friends or family members, often with disappointing, and costly results.
Regardless of how savvy you may be, in my experience an independent arrangement with a gestational surrogate will cost more in the long run - in time, in legal issues, and in heartache. Surrogacy is a complicated process that involves many aspects beyond the IVF treatment and the birth of the baby. How will the surrogate be compensated for her time? What happens if both parties don’t agree on an issue and who will represent each party when these inevitable conflicts arise?
Surrogacy agencies act as intermediaries and take time to educate both intended parents and potential surrogacy candidates on the process, to act as an advocate for both parties and to make sure that women who want to be surrogates are doing it for the right reasons.
There are a plethora of agencies in the United States so how do you choose the best surrogate agency?
‘Old School’ Surrogacy Agency Model:
With what we call an “Old School Surrogacy” model agency, the Intended Parent signs up to work with a specific agency based on its reputation. You pay one-third to half of the agency fee before the agency will even start to show you any surrogate profiles. In essence, you are signing up to be their client, for them to find you a surrogate, and manage all aspects of the cycle. While there are some benefits to the traditional model such as getting to know the team that will be working with you long term during the surrogacy, there pitfalls.
The surrogacy agency may not have any available surrogates to present to you at the time when you sign up. Usually, agencies have a long list of intended parents who are waiting to be matched, so matches occur based on who is “next in line” for a potential match. In working with our clients who are using a traditional agency model, we found that average wait time for a surrogacy match can be 4 to 8 months.
By this time, you may have paid $6,000-$14,000 dollars, and you feel the pressure to work with the first candidate that the agency presents to you, otherwise, you might lose your place in line, even though this candidate might not be the best match for you.
The Consumer/Client Choice Model:
Donor Concierge prefers a focus on ‘client choice’ during the selection process. Surrogacy is an expensive and intense process. The relationship you have with your surrogate is intimate and complex, as well as a major financial commitment. Once your surrogate is pregnant, you will be interacting with her and entrusting her with the most precious aspect of your life for the next 9 months. We feel it’s important to work with the right person, and have a choice as to whom you work with to create a mutually beneficial relationship.
At Donor Concierge, we cast our net wide, contacting all the agencies that we have vetted and approved, reviewing the profiles of their surrogates who are available. When working with our clients on a surrogacy search, we review the profiles prior to sharing with you and make sure that there is a potential for match. We make sure the candidates are likely to be approved by your doctor, meet ASRM Guidelines, are healthy and come as close as possible to your desired criteria. We ONLY work with agencies that will allow us to review surrogate profiles prior to sharing them with our clients.
With this approach, you’ll see a wider array of both candidates and agencies, and have the opportunity to make an informed choice about both. You’ll see all the potential candidates who are currently available, who are prescreened and meet your RE’s approval, and ultimately, save you time and money.
There are many benefits to this model - having choice, working within your own timetable for cycle, being able to compare and contrast surrogacy fees, agency fees, and even location the surrogate resides. You and your surrogate might be introduced via phone or Skype so that both of you can make sure there is a base level chemistry and mutual trust. At that point, you then retain the candidate according to the agency’s specific policies and fees.
In this consumer driven model, you will only sign onto the agency, and pay the agency fee, when you know they have a candidate that YOU are interested in working with. You may even preview several candidate profiles at a time, choosing the candidate that seems the best fit.
Gail Sexton Anderson is the founder of Donor Concierge. She has been helping intended parents build their families through third-party fertility for nearly 20 years.