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The True Financial Cost of a Surrogacy Journey for the Intended Parents

Many decisions go into selecting a surrogate to carry your baby; unfortunately, many are financial. While you don’t want to put a number on your baby’s head; it’s a big part of the surrogacy process.

If you’ve already gone through fertility treatments yourself, you know how expensive IVF can be and the toll it can take on the mother. However, since you’re now asking someone else to go through this for you, the costs are your responsibility, along with many other costs.

Having a surrogate carrying your baby is a big emotional and financial decision. Here are the costs to consider to determine if it’s right for you.

Step 1: Making Embryos at the Fertility Clinic

The first step in achieving pregnancy is to make embryos at the fertility clinic. Making embryos involves stimulating the ovaries, retrieving eggs, and creating embryos. Typically in surrogacy, one embryo is transferred to the gestational carrier.

It can cost $7,000 – $20,000 to retrieve and freeze eggs (if necessary), but the cost can vary by location and patient needs. This may include medication costs, which can be as much as $3,000 – $6,000 depending on the patient, and embryo or diagnostic testing, which can be as much as $1,700.

If your situation requires a sperm or egg donor, the cost will increase. Sperm donation is much less costly than egg donation and costs around $200 – $2,000, depending on the situation. Egg donation is much more expensive because of the journey the egg donor must take.

Egg donor compensation is usually between $5,000 – $10,000. In addition to this cost, you will pay the following:

  • Egg donor agency fee – $7,000 – $8,000
  • Legal fees – $800 – $1,000
  • Insurance coverage (short-term for the donor) $300 – $500
  • Psychological evaluation – $400 – $500

Same-sex couples always need a donor, either sperm or egg. Traditional heterosexual couples often try to make embryos with their own egg and sperm first. However, if infertility issues make it impossible, you may need a donor for the egg, sperm, or both. This will increase the cost, especially if you have failed IVF attempts to create embryos using your eggs and sperm.

Step 2: Hiring a Surrogacy Agency

A surrogacy agency matches intended parents with a qualified surrogate. They work with both parties from start to finish, helping facilitate the process. They make the process easier for intended parents and surrogates, helping everyone feel comfortable. They also ensure they cover all legal aspects.

The average surrogacy agency charges $30,000 – $50,000 and usually includes the following services:

  • Screens and qualifies potential surrogates
  • Screens and qualifies intended parents
  • Consultation to help you and your partner choose the right program
  • Personal matching services that ensure it’s a good match for both sides
  • Coordinates all communication between the various parties, including clinics, attorneys, psychologists, and anyone else involved
  • Counseling for both the surrogate and the intended parents
  • Support after the birth for the new parents and surrogate

The surrogates are already screened and qualified to be matched with intended parents at most agencies, but every agency works differently. Do your research and determine what an agency offers before choosing one. While cost is a driving factor, you should also consider other factors, such as the services provided to the couple and the surrogate.

Choosing the least expensive agency may seem smart financially, but it can be detrimental to your process. While money is a factor, consider the services and compassion the service provides. Don’t be afraid to talk to others who have used them, read reviews online, or interview the agencies yourself before making this big decision.

 It’s important to note that you should never put down a significantly large deposit before being matched with a surrogate. This is a common scam tactic, and reputable agencies do not require this. If you’re asked for large amounts of money upfront, look for another agency. They should only request a large deposit or first agency payment once you’ve been matched with a surrogate and are moving forward with the process.

Step 3: Compensation for the Surrogate

A surrogate mother goes through a lot to help a couple and deserves adequate compensation. However, unless you have a family member or friend qualified and willing to help with your surrogacy needs, you’ll need to compensate the surrogate, and sometimes even with family members or friends, it’s necessary.

The average compensation for surrogates is $45,000 – $60,000, but there may be additional fees too. The fees you pay a surrogate can vary widely based on many factors, including location, experience, and what is involved. Therefore, knowing a surrogate’s fees before getting too involved is important to ensure it’s something you can afford.

The compensation paid depends on the following factors:

  • The surrogate’s location – Costs are higher in certain areas, and if travel fees are involved in getting proper medical care, it can increase the costs. Find out the average surrogate compensation in your area if you’re considering a surrogate that’s local to you.
  • The surrogate’s experience in delivering babies – Experienced surrogates or those who have delivered their own babies usually get paid more because of their history of being able to deliver healthy babies.
  • The surrogate’s overall health and lifestyle choices – Surrogates with good health and good lifestyle habits have a higher chance of delivering a healthy baby and getting paid more. Most parents are willing to pay more for the peace of mind of knowing the surrogate has good habits and will consider the baby’s health.
  • The surrogate’s age – Younger surrogates usually get paid more because they have a higher chance of having a healthy baby with fewer complications.
  • The surrogate’s charges – Some surrogates charge higher rates than the average surrogate for their services.

Other fees you might pay for a surrogate include:

  • Wage recovery – If the surrogate must stop working due to the pregnancy or during the embryo transfer, such as for bed rest or other reasons, you may need to compensate her further. The same is true if the surrogate’s partner cannot work to take care of his/her partner during the pregnancy. If the partner loses wages, you may be responsible for covering them.
  • Maternity leave – If the surrogate doesn’t get paid maternity leave at her place of employment or must take more time than they pay for, you may be responsible for covering the lost wages.
  • Multiple births – If the surrogate gets pregnant with twins or more, the compensation for the surrogacy usually increases. The fee per additional fetus increases by an average of $2,500 – $7,000 per fetus.
  • Travel costs – If the surrogate must travel for medical services, you must cover the travel costs. This sometimes includes the cost of a partner traveling too.
  • Parking, tolls, and other transportation costs – Any costs the surrogate incurs to attend medical appointments, meet with the counselor, or anything related to the pregnancy should be covered.
  • Clothing – You may cover the cost of the surrogate’s maternity clothes if this is her first pregnancy or she doesn’t have clothing that fits.
  • Complications at birth – If the surrogate expected a vaginal birth, but a C-section is necessary, your costs may increase.
  • Childcare – If the surrogate already has her own children and requires childcare to attend medical appointments, stay in the hospital, or deliver the baby, you must cover the costs.

Step 4: Psychological Screening for Surrogates

Psychological screening is an important part of the surrogate process. It ensures the surrogate understands the process, is emotionally stable enough to handle it, and is aware enough to understand the legal ramifications.

The average cost of psychological screening for surrogates is $1,000 – $2,500. It’s usually completed on a Zoom-type call, so you don’t have to worry about travel costs but must cover the cost of the screening.

While this might seem like a lot, it’s well worth the money. Knowing you have a surrogate who understands the process, is ready to handle it emotionally, and won’t cause problems mid-process can provide you with tremendous peace of mind.

The screening is done by a licensed mental health professional specializing in surrogacy. The psychological screening may seem overwhelming for all parties involved, but it ensures the following:

  • The surrogate has processed her emotions and feelings about the process
  • The surrogate understands the risks to her health and the chances of an unhealthy delivery
  • The surrogate processed her feelings about what happens after the birth

The process takes place in several steps and includes:

  • Clinical interview – The mental health professional assesses the surrogate’s mental health to ensure she is stable and understands the process. The professional will discuss the surrogate’s motivation for being a surrogate, ask questions about her support system, and discuss her plans during the journey.
  • Personality assessment – This is a standardized test, such as the Personality Assessment Inventory. It includes a few hundred questions and is a multiple-choice test.
  • Report – The mental health professional creates a report for the fertility clinic and surrogacy agency stating whether the surrogate can carry through with a pregnancy. This report isn’t shared with the intended parents.

Step 5: Escrow Management Fees

The surrogacy journey has many phases, and the surrogate mother usually receives payment in phases. However, you don’t pay the surrogate directly. Instead, the money is managed by an escrow company. Of course, the escrow company charges a fee for their services.

Having an escrow company handle the money ensures there isn’t a conflict of interest and adequate proof of payment. In addition, the escrow company ensures all conditions are met before disbursing funds and keeps all parties informed.

The average escrow fee for the intended parents is $1,000 – $1,500, but it can be higher in some areas.

Please note that using an in-house escrow company is never a good idea. The temptation for misappropriation of funds is high, and there have been many instances of such occurrences. Keeping the funds with a third-party escrow company is best to avoid this issue.

Step 6: IVF Treatment for Surrogates

In order for a surrogate to get pregnant, they must go through IVF. This process is costly, and it is in addition to creating the embryos.

The average cost of IVF is $12,400 but can be as much as $15,000 – $30,000, depending on the location and situation. This cost includes egg retrieval and embryo creation, so the actual IVF procedure cost can be around $4,500 – $8,500 for the transfer, depending on its complexity.

There are many steps to the IVF treatment, including the following:

  • Initial consultation – This is the consultation with the fertility clinic to determine if the surrogate is a good candidate for IVF. They will review the surrogate’s records and discuss options for the procedure. If you’re using your own embryos, you’ll go through a consultation too. This is how you determine if you’re a good candidate for the egg and sperm for the embryo or if donor eggs/sperm is necessary. Having multiple consultations will increase the cost.
  • Hyperstimulation of ovaries – If you provide the eggs for the embryo, you’ll undergo hyperstimulation of the ovaries. This step involves medication, usually injections you give yourself, and frequent ultrasound monitoring with the fertility clinic. The clinic determines when the eggs are mature enough for retrieval, as there is an optimal time to retrieve them for successful fertilization.
  • Sperm collection – The fertility clinic will need sperm collection to fertilize the eggs. If the couple is providing the sperm, it’s a live transfer. Otherwise, you may consider your donor options, either fresh or frozen sperm.
  • Fertilization and embryo culture – The eggs and sperm are brought together at this point to encourage fertilization. Fertilization occurs 16 – 18 hours after the egg and sperm are brought together (if successful), and the clinic will assess the success 2 – 3 days after fertilization.
  • Embryo transfer – This is the big moment when the embryo(s) are transferred to the surrogate’s uterus for implantation. This usually occurs 3 – 5 days after collection.

Other services that might be necessary during the IVF procedure and would increase the cost include:

  • Laser-assisted hatching to help facilitate implantation
  • Cryopreservation, or freezing the embryos if there are too many to implant
  • Embryo genetic testing if there are concerns about the health of the embryo

Step 7: Travel Expenses

Travel expenses are a large part of the surrogacy costs. As the intended parents, it’s your responsibility to cover all travel costs for yourself and the surrogate.

The surrogate’s travel may include the following:

  • Medical screening appointments
  • Embryo transfer
  • Medical appointments during the pregnancy
  • Emergency appointments

There may also be travel costs for mental health appointments if the surrogate wants ongoing counseling or if there are travel costs for any legal support the surrogate requires.

As the intended parents, your travel costs will include the following:

  • Attending major medical appointments and ultrasounds
  • Delivery of the baby
  • Bringing the baby home

Travel expenses often include airfare, hotels, and meals. The need to travel is often last minute and costs top dollar. You can rarely take advantage of travel deals, such as low airfare or hotel specials. Instead, you must take whatever is available, which can greatly increase your costs.

The travel costs for the surrogate may also include costs for her partner to travel, if desired, which can increase your costs.

Step 8: Legal Contracts and Fees

A large part of the surrogacy process is legal. There are contracts and lawyers that must be involved. The legal process doesn’t begin until a fertility clinic clears the surrogate to be a surrogate, including the mental health assessment.

There are many aspects of the legal fees you’ll pay as the intended parents, as you’ll pay the fees for your attorney and the fees for the surrogate’s legal needs.

The parents and surrogate should have separate lawyers to avoid conflict of interest and ensure both parties’ needs are met.

Intended parents’ legal fees include legal contract preparation and negotiation. This is the phase where you and the surrogate negotiate the compensation for carrying the baby and all terms included in the contract. You need a good lawyer representing you during this step to ensure your rights are covered. This usually costs an average of $2,500 – $5,000.

The legal fees for the surrogate are usually less but can be around $1,500 – $2,500. Like the legal counsel for intended parents, this ensures the surrogate has adequate legal representation and understands her legal rights.

The contract will cover all aspects of the process, including what the intended parents will pay for when money is disbursed and, of course, the amount of compensation.

The legal contracts and fees may include court filing fees of $150 – $250.

If everything goes as planned, the legal fees should end after the baby’s delivery; however, there are instances where the legal battles continue, and additional legal fees are incurred.

Step 9: Health Insurance, OBGYN Care, and Labor and Delivery

If the IVF procedure is successful, the intended parents are responsible for all healthcare costs during the pregnancy. According to the Peterson-Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) Health System Tracker, the average cost to have a baby in the United States is $18,865.

If the surrogate has health insurance that covers surrogacy, you might be able to pay her current premiums during the pregnancy and any co-pays, deductibles, and out-of-pocket costs. If the surrogate doesn’t have a ‘surrogacy-friendly’ policy, you may be responsible for paying for premiums on a new policy or paying out of pocket for the medical bills. This depends on the state the surrogate lives in, the laws, and the options available to you.

The costs you must cover during the pregnancy, in addition to health insurance, include the following:

  • OBGYN visits – A woman sees the doctor 10 to 15 times during a typical pregnancy if it’s a complication-free pregnancy. If there are complications or concerns, there may be more frequent visits.
  • Testing – Throughout the pregnancy, the surrogate will undergo testing, including blood tests and ultrasounds. There may also be glucose testing and fetal monitoring if there are any concerns.
  • Labor and delivery – If the surrogate requires a C-section rather than a vaginal delivery or there are complications during the delivery, it could increase the cost.

Once the baby is born, there could be further costs for the surrogate mother and baby. For example, the mother may require more care, especially if there are complications that could extend her hospital stay. In addition, there may be costs for medication and more medical care for the baby.

For example, if the baby has complications during delivery and must be in the NICU, it can greatly increase your costs. If you have health insurance, your baby becomes eligible for coverage the day it is born, but the average NICU costs are $5,000 daily. Depending on the hospital’s location and the complexity of the baby’s issues, they could be more.

Final Thoughts

A lot goes into the cost of surrogacy, but of course, the reward is well worth it. The key is to work with professionals with experience in it and who understand the ins and outs involved, including the medical, emotional, and legal aspects.

Knowing what to expect ahead of time can help you determine if it’s right for you and what services you can afford. Each surrogacy agency charges different prices and offers different services. But even when you work with an agency, many third parties will be involved to increase your surrogacy journey costs.

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