Before you can become a surrogate, it’s important to recognize that there are certain surrogacy requirements you’ll have to meet — to not only protect your safety and interests but to protect every other party in the surrogacy process, as well.
The qualifications for being a surrogate will vary by surrogacy professional, so in order to learn what is required to be a surrogate mother with a particular surrogacy agency or fertility clinic, you’ll need to speak with a surrogacy specialist. However, most professionals’ criteria to be a surrogate do follow the same general guidelines, recommended by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.
Here, learn everything you need to know about surrogate mother requirements in the U.S. today.
What Does It Take to Be a Surrogate?
Before we get into the details of requirements to be a gestational surrogate, we want you to understand the unofficial “requirements” for surrogate mothers — that is, what you should be ready for if you choose this path.
Being a surrogate is an extremely rewarding journey, but it’s not always the easiest one. Before you decide to pursue this path, do your research. Understand the physical and emotional challenges that may await you and your family during this journey. Be ready to sacrifice a great deal of your time and energy to help someone else become a parent.
Patience, dedication and hard work are what it takes to be a surrogate mother and have a successful surrogacy journey. Consider speaking with current and former surrogates to learn more, and don’t hesitate to reach out to a surrogacy professional for their opinion on what makes the best surrogate candidate.
Why are There Requirements for Becoming a Surrogate Mother?
The number of women who want to become gestational surrogates continues to grow. But, the fact is that not every woman who wants to be a surrogate can pursue this path.
Surrogate mother qualifications exist for a reason. They protect all parties involved and ensure they have the best possible chance of success. Intended parents want to work with a woman who can successfully and safely carry a pregnancy to term, while surrogacy professionals want to work with surrogates who are healthy and dedicated to the process. For that reason, every prospective surrogate must meet gestational surrogate qualifications before starting this process.
We know it can be frustrating to be deemed ineligible from a dream you are so invested in, but remember that rules about being a surrogate exist first and foremost to keep you safe.
What are the Qualifications to be a Surrogate Mother?
There are usually two different kinds of qualifications for being a surrogate mother: physical and psychological. These qualifications ensure that a prospective surrogate is prepared for all the potential challenges and complications of the surrogacy process and will be able to carry out her responsibilities appropriately when she embarks on this journey.
Physical Requirements for Surrogacy:
The physical requirements to become a surrogate mother exist so your surrogacy professional knows you can carry a gestational pregnancy to term safely and without complications. After all, when you become a surrogate, you will be carrying a child for someone else — and also carrying their hopes and dreams of parenthood. Therefore, it’s important that you are as healthy as possible to reduce the risk that an embryo transfer or pregnancy will fail.
As mentioned, each surrogacy professional will set their own medical qualifications to be a surrogate but, in general, all surrogates must:
- Be between the ages of 21-35
- Have a healthy BMI
- Have completed at least one successful previous pregnancy
- Have no major complications in previous pregnancies
- Have no new tattoos or piercings within 12 months of starting the process
- Be off anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medication for 12 months
Your surrogacy professional will work with you and the intended parents’ fertility clinic to arrange any necessary medical screenings. These will confirm that you meet all the necessary surrogacy requirements for a successful gestational pregnancy. When the screenings will take place in your surrogacy process will depend on your professional’s program.
Psychological Requirements for Surrogacy:
Just as you must be prepared for the physical challenges of the surrogacy process, you must also be prepared for the potential emotional challenges that await you. Surrogacy can be an emotionally complicated process when you carry a child for another person at the same time as you maintain your personal responsibilities. The hormones associated with pregnancy can make these emotions even more powerful.
Therefore, to help you prepare for and cope with these emotional challenges, surrogacy professionals require you to meet certain psychological qualifications to be a surrogate. They will arrange for you to complete a mental and psychological screening, where a mental health professional will make sure you:
- Are aware of the commitments of the surrogacy process and how you will balance those with your personal responsibilities
- Have no untreated addiction, abuse, depression, eating disorders or traumatic pregnancy, labor and/or delivery experience
- Understand the emotions of carrying a child for someone else
Meeting the Criteria to Become a Surrogate
But, what exactly are the steps involved in how to qualify to be a surrogate mom, and how can you ensure that you meet all of the specific gestational surrogate requirements a surrogacy professional has?
All women will need to complete a few steps before they can become a surrogate — steps that will help you and your professional determine whether surrogacy is really the right choice for you. Remember, all professionals will differ but, generally, here is how they find out whether you meet their particular criteria for becoming a surrogate mother:
Step 1: Fill out an initial application.
The very first step in your surrogacy process will be completing an initial application with a surrogacy professional. Oftentimes, you’ll be able to complete an application online. The professional may require you to list personal and medical information about yourself to determine if you meet the basic requirements to become a surrogate mother.
Step 2: Speak with a surrogacy specialist about your application.
Once you submit an application to become a surrogate, a surrogacy specialist will usually review your application before setting up a phone call or in-person meeting with you. At this meeting, the specialist will talk you through your application and ask any additional follow-up questions she or he may have for you to confirm that you meet surrogate mother guidelines, including discussing any possible exceptions. They will also answer any questions you may have and help you decide whether surrogacy is the right path for you.
Step 3: Complete a mental health and psychosocial screening and a medical screening.
If your surrogacy specialist determines that you meet their basic surrogate mother requirements, they will usually move forward with scheduling a mental and physical health screening. Usually, the mental health and psychological screening is completed before matching with intended parents, while the medical screening is completed by the intended parents’ fertility clinic after you are matched (but before you sign your legal contract).
Remember, this screening will always be free to you as a prospective surrogate, whether you end up meeting the requirements for surrogacy or not. Only after both of these screenings are completed and you’re approved to become a surrogate can you and your intended parents sign a contract and begin the medical process of surrogacy.
What If I Don’t Qualify for Being a Surrogate, But I Want to Be One?
If you don’t meet a professional’s requirements to become a surrogate, it can be tempting to research how to become a surrogate if you get denied by an agency. However, pursuing surrogacy with another agency or with an attorney after being previously denied is not a smart move. If you are ineligible for the surrogacy process, the truth will come out eventually.
Remember that all prospective surrogates (even those in an independent surrogacy journey) will need to be screened by a fertility clinic prior to being approved. If you have previously been denied by an agency for medical reasons, the intended parents’ clinic will likely deny you for the same reason.
You may be able to get further in the process with an independent surrogacy, but you will eventually be turned away from surrogacy. Professionals will admire your dedication but, for the safety of all involved (especially you), they will eventually disqualify you from surrogacy.
Save you and the intended parents the time and effort — don’t attempt to start a surrogacy journey if you’ve been previously denied by a surrogacy professional.
The requirements for being a surrogate may seem extensive, but remember that surrogacy is a complicated process that is incredibly important to all involved — and meeting these requirements at the start is an important step to making sure the journey proceeds as smoothly as possible.
If you’re still confused and asking, “Am I eligible to be a surrogate mother?” the best thing to do is contact a surrogacy professional. Their specialists can give you more information about their program’s requirements for becoming a surrogate mother and help you get started with the surrogacy process whenever you are ready.