Who, exactly, is this woman who will play such an incredible role in your life? And how do you find her? Guidance for what you should look for in the woman who will ultimately give birth to your family.
Who is the typical surrogate?
Surrogates are generally caring, generous, family-oriented women who feel very strongly about giving others the gift of family. Most are responsible, conscientious woman who are very devoted to the process of surrogacy. The majority of surrogates come from medium to low-income households. The relationship status of surrogates varies from single moms to married women, and education levels vary from GED’s to advanced degrees.
What should intended parents look for in a surrogate?
Clearly, the primary concern of any intended parent should be the surrogate’s general health and lifestyle and pregnancy history. That being in order, here are some things every intended parent should take into consideration:
• The support system the surrogate will have during the surrogacy (will she have the support of a partner, a parent, a roommate, her place of employment or a close friend)?
• Her responsiveness to requests from the agency, e.g. whether she has followed through with appointments, etc. (You can ask your agency about that.)
• How her partner, husband and/or family feels about the surrogacy?
• Whether or not she plans on dating during the surrogacy (assuming she is single).
• Whether you and she agree on issues such as reductions or pregnancy terminations.
• How your surrogate feels about invasive procedures such as amniocentesis, etc.
• How much involvement you want in the surrogate’s life during (and after) the pregnancy/birth (e.g. phone calls, Skype, emails, appointments, through agency only, on-going relationship, etc.)
• How important a surrogate’s diet is during the pregnancy and how willing she is to follow requested guidelines.
Also, don’t discount your own “Spidey Sense”. Sometimes you just get a vibe about someone, good or bad, and you should go with your instinct.
What does an agency look for in a potential surrogate?
As you can imagine, many factors go into deciding whether or not we should accept a potential surrogate into our program. Among the factors we consider are:
• Health history
• Criminal background check
• Willingness to work with all types of families
• Whether she responds to emails, calls, etc. in a timely manner
• Her motivations for wanting to become a surrogate
• Her level of openness about the surrogacy
• Her ability to make it to her appointments (reliable car and/or form of transportation)
• Her overall health, including:
o non-smoker, drugs or alcohol
o mental health
o pregnancy history
• Current living situation:o how many people she lives with and whom
o whether her environment is safe and clean
o whether her home is close to medical facilities
o how her partner and children feel about the surrogacy
You mentioned the potential surrogate’s motivations—can you elaborate?
There’s no question that compensation is a big motivator for potential surrogates. The funds often help with down-payments on a house, college education, children’s college funds and other major expenses.
Additionally, surrogates tend to be women who enjoy helping others and love being pregnant.
How do you screen your surrogates?
It depends how the surrogate finds or is referred to an agency, but generally the process is this:
• The agency has an initial phone conversation with the surrogate to discuss general requirements like height, weight, why she wants to become a surrogate, etc.
• Assuming she meets the basic standards of surrogacy, she is then asked to fill out an application which delves deeper into her medical/personal history, etc. At this time, most agencies ask her for permission to conduct a background check for any criminal history she may have.
• If everything, including the background check, looks good, a home visit to check her living situation, meet her children and partner (if applicable) and get a general overall view of her lifestyle is conducted.
• It’s at that point that an agency will formally admit her into their program and start sending her profile out to intended parents for consideration.
Wendie Wilson is the Founder and CEO of Gifted Journeys, a Los Angeles-based egg donation and surrogacy agency. She first became involved in assisted reproduction when she was an egg donor for a cancer survivor. The experience moved her so much she decided to dedicate her life to helping others find joy through ART by founding Gifted Journeys. Wendie is a board member of Parents Via Egg Donation, the largest support site for families going through the process of using donor eggs. She has also been involved with RESOLVE, speaking at or moderating local meetings. In 2010, Wendie hosted a 14-episode radio spot called Gifted Journeys: All Things Infertility on the Voice America Health and Wellness Network to share information with others going through the journey of assisted reproduction. Wendie also co-authored the book, “The Insider’s Guide to Egg Donation: A Compassionate and Comprehensive Guide for All Parents-to-Be” which was published in the spring of 2012 and won a Ben Franklin award for its LGBT chapter.
Wendie can be contacted by email at WendieWilson@GiftedJourneys.com or www.GiftedJourneys.com.