What Are the Requirements Around Surrogacy in the US?
Becoming a surrogate mother is an incredibly unique and special journey, but women considering it are often steered away due to the seemingly overwhelming requirements. But it doesn't need to be this way. When you work with a quality, trusted surrogate agency, your questions are welcomed and there are professionals who can guide you through those requirements. In this article, we will explore what exactly it means to become a surrogate, what the surrogacy requirements are in the United States, and provide the next steps on what to do before making any major decisions.
First, What is Surrogacy?
Before we get into the requirements for becoming a gestational surrogate (or gestational carrier), it's important to first understand a top-level view of what surrogacy really is. Surrogacy is a legal arrangement and process in which a woman agrees to carry and give birth to a baby on behalf of another person or couple who then becomes the baby's parents after delivery. Surrogacy is an opportunity for those who want a child very badly but cannot conceive naturally themselves, to become parents. Being a gestational carrier and giving the gift of parenthood to intended parents is one of the most selfless, generous, and sacred jobs to do. When you choose to become a surrogate, you help others by changing their lives in a way like no other.
There are actually no federal regulations or requirements for surrogacy in the United States. Every state governs the practice of surrogacy uniquely and has its own set of legal and ethical criteria. Three states (Nebraska, Michigan, and Louisiana) do not recognize surrogacy, and it is considered “illegal” there. The majority of states have no requirements or regulations at all or consider a surrogacy agreement to be unenforceable, which is something to be cautious of if you’re considering surrogacy or becoming a gestational carrier. Other states, like Vermont, have solid laws and regulations for becoming a surrogate mother. That being said, this list gives an overview of what to generally expect from regulated, trusted surrogate agencies across the country.
1. Pregnancy History
You must have at least one child that you’ve given birth to and are currently raising in order to become a surrogate. It’s important to understand how your body and mind respond to being pregnant and giving birth before taking on the responsibility of carrying a baby for intended parents. It’s important to know that you will genuinely enjoy the pregnancy.
Medically, you must have had at least one uncomplicated pregnancy and full-term delivery in order to be considered as a potential surrogate. If you have a history of pregnancies or deliveries that have not gone “by the book”, you may be at too high a risk to carry for someone else. Having a c-section does not disqualify you as a surrogate, but you would not be eligible if you’ve had more than three, due to the risk of serious complications.
2. Living Environment
Your living environment must be healthy, stable, and supportive for you to become a surrogate. This is important for your's, the baby's, and the intended parent's safety.
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) states that gestational surrogates should be between the ages of 21 and 45. However, each IVF facility, and each surrogacy agency, can narrow that range at their discretion.
ASRM does not recommend a certain body mass index (BMI) for surrogacy. However, the general recommendation from IVF facilities and surrogacy agencies is a BMI under 35. Again, at their discretion, your organization may have a lower BMI cutoff.
5. Support of Spouse or Partner
If you are married or in a life partnership and choosing to become a gestational carrier, it is necessary to have the support of your spouse/partner. Being pregnant as a surrogate is an around-the-clock job, and having the support of your partner is important for both you and the baby.
6. Reliable Transportation
Having a reliable mode of transportation is necessary for becoming a surrogate, as it is crucial to make it to every appointment throughout the process.
7. No Public Assistance
If you are on public assistance of any kind, then you cannot enlist as a surrogate.
There are no requirements set forth by ASRM regarding a surrogate’s education level. However, most organizations do ask that their surrogacy candidates have a high school diploma or GED.
9. No Smoking or Drug Use
If you are planning to be a gestational carrier, you must not be a smoker or use any drugs. Smoking and drug use can cause serious harm to the baby and are prohibited entirely.
10. Limited Caffeine Consumption
You must be open to adjusting your caffeine intake during the pregnancy term, as recommended by your doctor.
11. Zero Alcohol Consumption During Pregnancy Term
You must consume no alcoholic beverages during the pregnancy term. No amount of alcohol is considered safe for consumption during pregnancy- drinking while pregnant causes a serious increase in health risks for the baby.
12. Psychological and Physical Evaluation
A full physical is required before becoming a gestational carrier. You will also be tested for STIs before the process begins. In addition, mental health is equally as important as physical health, therefore a psychological evaluation is also required for intended surrogate mothers.
13. No Criminal Convictions
You must have zero convictions for any crime. This will be verified by a complete background check.
14. US Citizenship
You must have proven citizenship of the United States of America.
15. Pre-Existing Health Condition History
Your medical history will be reviewed by the IVF facility. Certain health conditions would make a candidate ineligible for surrogacy. Some of these can include: diabetes, epilepsy, pre-eclampsia, hypertension, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and postpartum depression.
Becoming a surrogate isn't for everyone, but those who are meant to be gestational carriers change lives through this role. Working with a surrogate agency you can trust is one of the most important ways that you can guarantee you’re meeting and understanding the requirements for surrogacy. Vermont Surrogacy Network is reputable in New England and across the globe for being an ethical and supportive surrogacy agency, and we're here to help you with all of your surrogacy questions and needs.
If you want to learn more about what it takes to become a gestational carrier, have any questions about our process, or just want to say hello, get in touch today. We can't wait to be a part of your journey!