The compensation for surrogates is always a hot topic, and I’ve seen a lot of false information floating around regarding the actual cash payout amounts. In this article I will outline the surrogate compensation industry standards, explain how the payments work, explain what factors can reduce your compensation, and answer frequently asked questions related to this topic.
The Benefits Package from Your Surrogacy Agency
When you sign up to be a surrogate with an agency, they will provide you with a document known as the benefits package. In this detailed document you will see all of the monetary benefits provided to surrogates throughout the course of a journey. Below I’ve listed the common items to see on a surrogate’s benefits package, and I included the amounts actually paid out by my agency.
Base Compensation for Surrogates
Base compensation refers to the large cash sum payments that are paid out to surrogates for carrying a baby for the intended parents. There are several strings attached to base compensation, and I go into detail about how and when surrogates receive these payments. Keep scrolling to find a detailed section on base compensation.
Monthly Cash Allowance for Surrogates
A monthly cash allowance used for prenatal vitamins, childcare during doctors appointments, office and admins costs such as faxing paperwork or scanning documents, etc. Basically all the small costs incurred by the surrogate during a journey.
For my own journey, my agency pays a $300 monthly allowance after legal clearance.
Surrogate Medical Screening Travel Costs
Medical screening requires travel to a clinic. The surrogate should expect to be reimbursed or covered for all costs including childcare, lost wages and travel expenses.
For my own journey, my agency does not pay a cash payment for medical screening.
Surrogate Compensation for Starting Medication
The surrogate is paid a cash sum compensation when she starts medication for embryo transfer. This is usually per cycle (so basically monthly) until transfer. This is referring to all the IVF medication including shots and hormones to prepare your body for embryo transfer.
For my own journey, my agency pays $500 cash payment per cycle. This also includes mock cycles if you need to have one.
Dropped Cycle Fee Paid to Surrogate
If the surrogate has been taking IVF medication and her cycle was dropped by the intended parents or the clinic, then she should be compensated an additional cash fee. She is only eligible for the extra cash payment if this dropped cycle was in no way her fault, but a decision made by another party.
My agency pays $500 for a dropped cycle.
Surrogate Compensation for Embryo Transfer
Another larger cash sum compensation is paid to the surrogate for embryo transfer. This should be paid automatically and is not contingent on whether or not the transfer was successful. Because travel is often required for embryo transfer, all of the travel, wage loss and childcare costs are covered by the parents and are not considered to be part of the compensation.
My agency pays a flat fee of $1,000 to the surrogate for embryo transfer.
Invasive Procedure Compensation for Surrogates
Unfortunately not all embryo transfers are successful, and sometimes a follow-up procedure is required. Examples of these types of procedures can be in the event the surrogate has a positive HCG blood test followed by no heartbeat, miscarriage after heartbeat prior to start of base compensation, dilatation and curettage, termination, fetal reduction, ectopic pregnancy, cerclage, amniocentesis, hysteroscopy or chorionic villus sampling.
For the majority of these procedures, my agency paid the surrogates a $500 fee.
Higher Compensation for Surrogacy Twin Pregnancies
Twin pregnancies are much more common in surrogacy than in natural conception, which is something every surrogate should be aware of before the process begins. Some surrogates agree to a double embryo transfer, which often results in twins. Other times a single embryo splits in two, resulting in identical twins. No matter how the twin pregnancy occurs, the surrogate is entitled to additional compensation.
My agency pays an additional $8,000 per additional baby. FYI – Triplets are also much more common in surrogacy, which entitles the surrogate to additional compensation beyond what she would earn from twins.
Maternity Clothing Cash Allowance
My agency’s benefit package automatically gives each surrogate a $700 cash payment for maternity clothes. This gets paid out during the first trimester. Surrogates don’t have to show any proof of purchase or receipts, so it really can be used for anything they want.
Surrogacy Maternity Wellness Services
If you’ve been pregnant before, you know that our bodies need a little TLC during those maternity months. Surrogacy benefit packages often include wellness services such as prenatal massage, chiropractic treatments, fitness classes and gym memberships, nutritional counseling, midwifes and doula services, etc.
My surrogacy agency provided a budget up to $1,000 for these types of pregnancy-related wellness services during a journey, but it was not a cash payment directly to the surrogate. I needed to show proof of payment to the service provider in order to get reimbursed.
Housekeeping Budget for Surrogates
Some agencies will provide a housekeeping budget for surrogates. This is usually towards the end of the pregnancy, and/or for pregnant surrogates who have been put on bedrest.
My agency provides a one-time $300 housekeeping budget for surrogates who are past 36 weeks, or twin pregnancies at 34 weeks.
Additional Surrogate Compensation for Cesarean Section Delivery
If the doctor requires the surrogate to have a c-section during labor and delivery, she is entitled to additional compensation. Why is this case? Well, c-sections are considered higher risk than vaginal delivery, and they also have a longer recovery time. Additionally, surrogates are less likely to be able to be repeat surrogates if they’ve had more than 3 c-sections. Multiple cesareans can compromise the health and integrity of the uterus, making a surrogate more high risk and less likely to be matched with parents in the future.
My agency pays an additional $2,500 for a required cesarean section delivery.
All About Base Compensation for Surrogates
As mentioned above, base compensation is the large cash sums paid directly to surrogates for carrying a baby for the intended parents. Base compensation is the mother load of cash directly into your pockets, but you don’t just automatically earn this money when you sign up to be a surrogate. Read on to see all the contingencies and required milestones to earn base compensation.
How Much Money Do Surrogates Earn in Base Compensation?
Let me start with the number you all want to know. My journey started in 2022 and my base compensation was $45,000. This number was the standard average that my agency was paying at the time. If I’m being honest, I knew of other surrogacy agencies who were automatically paying a base compensation of $50,000 to their surrogates. But I had a special connection to my agency and I was more interested in having a meaningful journey than focusing solely on the compensation. But this decision is different for every surrogate and it’s up to her to decide the right compensation amount and agency.
Can Surrogates Negotiate a Higher Base Compensation?
The answer to this question is yes and no, it depends on the individual and the agency.
I will use myself as an example. I was 36 years old when I started my surrogacy journey. Given my age, I was on the higher end of the age range to be a surrogate, which can bring additional risks and possibly decreased fertility. There are many intended parents who would automatically pass on me for a match, based just on my age. This makes me a harder surrogate for the agency to match. If I was pushing for an increased compensation beyond the standard amount, I would be even more difficult to match. The agency can only give me the increased compensation if they can find parents willing to pay it.
Health Conditions and Lifestyle Choices that Can Reduce Your Compensation as a Surrogate
When it comes to negotiating your own higher compensation as a surrogate, you need to be honest about what you’re bringing to the table. As mothers, we often assume that because we delivered healthy babies of our own, this makes us great candidates to be a surrogate. But this is often not the case. IVF pregnancies are higher risk than regular pregnancies, and the intended parents are paying for a service. I know we don’t like to think about our bodies as “services” to another person, but that is kinda the reality of surrogacy. I started this blog to make surrogacy more transparent, and quite frankly, give it to you straight. Below I’ve listed common reasons why surrogates are harder to match, making them less likely to be able to negotiate a higher compensation.
BMI Over 25
In order to be a surrogate, the clinics will not allow a BMI over 32. But many parents want a surrogate with a BMI closer to 25. Statistically surrogates with higher BMI’s are more likely to have pregnancy complications. Some intended parents will pass on a surrogate based on her BMI being on the higher side.
Health Conditions Can Reduce Your Surrogacy Compensation
There’s a wide range of health conditions that may not disqualify you from being a surrogate, but they could make you harder to match. A couple of them could be higher blood pressure, high blood sugar, etc.
Too Many Pregnancies Can Increase Complications
The number of previous pregnancies can count against you as a surrogate. Basically the more you’ve had, the more likely you’ll be to have complications in your next pregnancy. This is especially true for c-section deliveries from previous pregnancies.
History of Smoking or Drug Use
Any history of smoking or drug use can make you a less desirable surrogate candidate, even if you no longer use them. During the screening process your medical records will be examined. If there’s any documentation of smoking, drug use (including marijuana or THC), it will be disclosed to the parents. This could make it harder to match you with intended parents.
Where You Live Can Affect Your Surrogacy Compensation
If you live in a rural area where there’s not a lot of medical services and infrastructure, this can make a surrogate harder to match. Some intended parents want surrogates who live near major airports with plenty of hotels and Airbnbs, and options for pediatric care.
Proof of Fertility
Surrogates with older children can be harder to match with intended parents. Why? Because if a surrogate hasn’t had a baby within the last 5 years, she doesn’t have proof that her current fertility is viable. As the years go on, our fertility decreases. A surrogate with a 10-year-old could possibly be much less fertile than expected.
A Surrogate’s Employment Can Count Against Her
There are certain types of jobs best suited for pregnant women. If a surrogate’s work day consists of sitting safely behind a desk all day, or better yet working from home in bed, the intended parents can rest assured their baby will be safe. But if a surrogate’s job entails being on her feet all day, lifting heavy loads, being around toxic chemicals, or any other hazardous activities, she becomes a less desirable surrogate candidate. With certain types of jobs she is more likely to go on bedrest or need to take a leave of absence, which could mean that the parents have to pay lost wages.
Surrogates Who Work as OnlyFans, Have a History of Porn or Exotic Dancers
There’s another kind of employment that gets tricky when it comes to surrogates and intended parents, and that entails “adult entertainers.” From Only Fans creators, porn stars and exotic dancers, these types of jobs can create obstacles when it comes to matching the surrogates with intended parents. I can tell you from experience that most intended parents will pass on a surrogate who works in these types of industries. But every once in a while there will be more openminded and accepting intended parent who is willing to work with the surrogate. But will intended parents be willing pay a premium base compensation for an adult entertainer surrogate? Maybe so… but unlikely.
Maximum Base Compensation a Surrogate Can Earn
If you’re looking to be a surrogate and your goal is to maximize your income, here’s the insider scoop of real-life base compensations I’ve seen paid to surrogates.
Surrogates Who Make $80,000 in Base Compensation
The absolute highest base compensation I’ve seen is $80,000. This is extremely rare and should not be expected by any new surrogate. This level on compensation comes from “high-profile” surrogacy journeys where the intended parents are either very wealthy and/or famous.
To qualify for a high-profile surrogacy journey, you must be in impeccable health and have spotless medical records. Most women who qualify to be a surrogate wouldn’t qualify to match with high profile intended parents. She must have a sweet disposition, have a low BMI, be between the ages 25 – 32 years old and be easy on the eyes. Is all this criteria fair? Nope, it’s not. But it’s the reality.
This type of high profile journey often comes with some hidden costs and drawbacks that some may not realize. The surrogate rarely actually meets the parents, except maybe for a very short period of time during the delivery. The surrogate often doesn’t even know who the parents are, and they are given false names and identities. They are usually required to sign an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) and they cannot share any details about their journey to friends, family or the general public. This can be a very isolating and lonely experience, and you can kiss the dream of a close relationship with your intended parents goodbye.
Surrogates Who Make $60,000 – $70,000 in Base Compensation
In order to qualify to make between $60K to $70K in base compensation, a surrogate must also be in excellent health and have very clean medical records. She must not be too young or too old, and have no questionable lifestyle choices (basically be a squeaky clean lady). Most intended parents cannot afford this level of base compensation, so it will still require a special match to make this work.
Most of the surrogates I know who have earned this level of compensation have worked with international parents who come from very wealthy families. And if I’m being very honest, the majority of them carried babies for Chinese intended parents. Historically surrogates who have carried for Chinese families have earned much higher compensation. Chinese matches also come with drawbacks and compromises. There’s usually a big language barrier and very little contact with the parents. Most communication is through a bilingual agency. There’s cultural differences which can result in misunderstandings and disagreements. It’s definitely not your warm and fuzzy surrogacy journey, it’s more like a business arrangement.
Surrogates Who Make Between $45,000 – $55,000 in Base Compensation
Between $45,000 – $55,000 is the compensation range for most surrogates, myself included. This is what most intended parents can afford. These surrogates are wonderful women who want to help families, and maybe aren’t “perfect” in their medical history, have “geriatric pregnancies” (which just means over 35-years-old), or just aren’t overly interested in the highest compensation. These types of matches tend to be the most meaningful and build lasting friendships between the surrogate and the intended parents.
Surrogates Who Make Under $40,000 in Base Compensation
If you’re a surrogate and your compensation is $40,000 or less, then there’s got to be a good reason to justify this low amount. It could be that you’re at higher risk for complications because of compromised health, if you have a criminal history or your partner has a criminal history, if you live an alternative lifestyle that makes you harder to match, etc. If none of this applies to you, then you are most likely getting underpaid. If your agency is telling you that’s the max they can get you for compensation, then you need a new agency. Period.
I’ve Seen Surrogacy Advertisements from Agencies that Claim to Pay $100,000 to Surrogates
Yes, there are many Google and social media ads that claim to pay their surrogates six figures. Here’s the deal with those ads. The agency is adding up all the expenses and benefits, along with base compensation, to come up with that big number. If you look at all the cost of health insurance, life insurance, cash milestone perks, travel expenses, etc., then it’s really easy to end up with a $100,000+ amount. But this is not really cash in your pocket, and it my opinion they are false advertising. I have heard directly from surrogates that once they got on the screening call and learned what the real actual compensation was, they felt deceived and didn’t want to work with such an unethical agency.
When and How Base Compensation is Paid to the Surrogate
It takes many months of being actively engaged in her journey before a surrogate will start earning any of the base compensation. She will go through the application process, reviewing of medical records, clinic review and approval, psychological screening, medical screening at the clinic, medication cycles and then embryo transfer. A surrogate is looking at an average of 6 months of hard work before base compensation starts. But the biggest hurdle of them all is having a successful embryo transfer with heartbeat confirmation.
After Heartbeat Confirmation the Surrogate Will Start Earning Base Compensation
After many months leading up to this point, the surrogate will travel to the fertility clinic for embryo transfer. This is a big day for both the surrogate and the intended parents. After the procedure is done, the long wait of about 10 days happens to see if the transfer was successful.
During this time HCG tests will be happening to monitor hormone levels, but the big moment will be the ultrasound to see if there’s a heartbeat. If there’s a heartbeat, that means that the pregnancy is viable and the embryo has implanted. This also starts the base compensation payments to the surrogate. They usually begin the first of the month, in the month following heartbeat confirmation. The monthly payments are usually around $5,500 a month, obviously depending on what your base compensation rate is.
How Does the Surrogate Receive the Base Compensation Payments?
All of the payments to the surrogate are managed through the escrow company. The parents deposit the money into the escrow account, and then the escrow account manager deposits the monthly payments directly into the bank account of the surrogate. I recommend that all surrogates create a separate bank account just for their surrogacy journey. This way it is easy to track and calculate how much money you’re actually making.
Do Surrogates Have to Pay Taxes on their Surrogacy Income?
First off, I am not a tax or legal expert and I cannot give anyone financial advice. But I will tell you what I know about this subject.
If you ask the IRS, I’m sure they would automatically say that all income must be properly reported and therefore taxed. That being said, surrogates fall into an odd category because they are not employed by anyone. The surrogacy agency doesn’t issue a 1099 form, and neither does the escrow company. So all the income would be self-reported.
In the state of California, surrogacy income falls under a “pain and suffering” category. While I have had conversations with industry professionals on this particular nuanced legal subject, I cannot really say more at this time. If you’re an ART attorney and would like to weight in, send me an email.
I have heard of rare cases where the intended parents can write off their surrogacy spend, and this could potentially report the surrogate’s income. This would only happen with domestic intended parents, because most international intended parents live in countries where surrogacy is illegal.
Covering Expenses for a Surrogacy Journey
The final thing I want to say is that all the expenses that occur during a surrogacy journey should be covered by the intended parents. This includes health insurance, fertility treatments and medication, travel costs, additional childcare, lost wages from travel and appointments, and any other cost that comes up. The payments for these bills should never come out of a surrogate’s compensation. If this is happening to you, then sound the alarm because something is not right.