With news breaking today that Kim Kardashian West and Kanye West will reportedly be hiring a surrogate to carry their third child, many might be wondering how to become a surrogate mother. As you might expect, it’s not an easy process; a lot of surrogates say that it’s an incredibly rewarding experience, though, if that’s your jam. Here’s what you need to know if you’re thinking about becoming a surrogate.
“There are two different types [of surrogacy],” Jane Groenendaal, Surrogacy Director for New Beginnings Surrogacy Services, tells Bustle in an email. “[There's] gestational surrogacy (when the surrogate has an embryo from the intended parents) and traditional surrogacy (when the surrogate uses her own egg).” In the case of traditional surrogacy, the surrogate is also one of the child's biological parents, which can get complicated from a legal perspective. (For this reason, New Beginnings only performs gestational surrogacy.) With gestational surrogacy, an egg gathered from one parent is fertilized with sperm from another parent, after which the embryo is placed in the uterus of the gestational surrogate. I say "parent" with regards to the egg and sperm, but that doesn't necessarily have to be the legal parent; donors are also an option. For instance, same-sex parents might opt for gestational surrogacy, but also use either an egg or sperm donor.
It’s not known which type of surrogacy the Wests will reportedly be using; my money is on gestational, though, so that’s the type we’ll talk about here. Gestational surrogates, also known as gestational carriers, are one of many options for parents that fall under the umbrella of assisted reproductive technology, or ART. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 1.6 percent of children born in the United States each year are conceived with ART; about two percent of all ART cycles in the United States use gestational carriers. (Or at least, that was the case between 1999 and 2013, which is the most recent data we have.) Surrogacy appears to be on the rise, as well — the CDC reports that while the number of gestational carrier cycles documented in 1999 was 727, by 2013, it had risen to 3,432. All in all, 13,380 deliveries and the births of 18,400 infants occurred through gestational carrier cycles between 1999 and 2013.
Surrogacy and all the legal issues that go along with it are under state jurisdiction, rather than federal, so the requirements for becoming a surrogate will vary depending on the laws of the state in which you live. "These laws might detail pre-birth orders (who the parents legally are, before birth and after birth), insurance (not all insurances cover surrogacy-related costs or fertility treatments), and also who is covered by insurance ... [and whether] surrogacy for compensation is even allowed," says Groenendaal to Bustle. Some states are also more surrogate-friendly than others, so you’ll want to take that into consideration if you’re thinking about becoming a surrogate.
Typically, though, prospective surrogates need to be between 21 and 39 or 40 years of age, healthy, not on government assistance, in a stable living situation, and have successfully carried at least one child to term already, according to a variety of surrogate agencies and organizations I checked out while researching this piece. "It is a requirement in the [United States] that surrogates have already had healthy live births, and for the top agencies, we want to know the kids are still with their mom," Groenendaal tells Bustle. In her experience, she says, "They make the best surrogates, the ones with loving, healthy families."
If that’s you, and you're interested in becoming a surrogate, you can start by filling out an initial online questionnaire or application at the surrogacy organization of your choice. The process will vary from organization to organization, of course; after you've put in your initial application, though, the organization will take a look at your materials, and if they think you're a good candidate, they'll get in touch with you for a more intensive screening. During this part of the process, you might do things like fill out longer questionnaires, provide medical records and/or have an exam, and meet with a social worker or have a psychological screening. If, at the end of all that, you're accepted as a surrogate, the agency or organization will begin looking for parents who might be a good match with you.
When it comes to the matching process, Groenendaal says that at New Beginnings, both parents and surrogates provide a "wish list" of what they're looking for in a match. For parents, this wish list might include "location, age, ethnicity, income, level of education, and experience being pregnant," according to Groenendaal. Surrogates, meanwhile, might have a wish list for compensation. The time required for the matching process isn't always easy to predict; says Groenendaal, "Sometimes matching is fast, and sometimes it can take a couple months. ... Both parties need to be fit for the process."
Parents might decide to have children through surrogacy for any number of reasons. The same is true of surrogates, but although surrogates do receive compensation (more on that in a moment), the big thing it usually comes down to is this: They genuinely want to help others start or build families. Indeed, as Sherrie Smith of the Center for Surrogate Parenting told The Atlantic in 2013, “The biggest misconception about American surrogates [is] that they do it for the money. Having a baby for someone else is as far from easy money as you can get.”
But there is compensation, of course (no shame in money being a factor in deciding to become a surrogate) — having a baby for someone else not only isn’t easy money, it just isn’t easy, period. A typical surrogate compensation package includes a base rate of anywhere between around $30,000 to $50,000, depending on how experienced a surrogate you are or how many embryos you carry (if you’ve been a surrogate before, your compensation rate will be higher; you’ll also get additional bonuses if you carry, say, twins); a monthly allowance of a few hundred bucks to cover things like local travel and mileage for doctor’s appointments and other miscellaneous expenses associated with surrogacy (like pregnancy tests, vitamins, etc.); a maternity clothing allowance (usually about $75 if you’re carrying one embryo and $1,000 if you’re carrying twins); and, of course; coverage of medical procedures — embryo transfer, C-sections, etc.
Is becoming a surrogate right for you? Only you can make that call, of course. If you’re considering it, though, here’s a good place to start.