Becoming a surrogate mother for a family member is a wonderful, selfless thing to do. Odds are, if you’re in this situation, you have likely seen your family member try hard to become a parent for months or years to no success and wish for them to have a child more than anything.
If you’re reading this article, you may be seriously thinking about being a surrogate for a family member. Whether you thought of the idea yourself or the intended parents have asked you to help them this way, you’re probably honored at the opportunity that has been presented to you — and the trust and respect it means your loved one has for you. You may even be excited to get started as soon as possible.
However, there are some very important things to consider before being a surrogate mother for a family member. Surrogacy in general is a complicated, detailed process and, when you add in existing relationships and surrogate-intended-parent dynamics, it can quickly become even more complex.
Becoming a surrogate for a family member is certainly a possibility, but we suggest you ask yourself these questions before committing to this life-changing process:
1. What are the surrogacy laws in my state?
Often, prospective surrogates ask, “Can you be a surrogate mother for a family member in my state?” Fortunately, most of the surrogacy laws in the United States do not set any additional requirements for those who are related or have a close personal relationship with their surrogate or intended parents. As long as you both are committed to the surrogacy process, your ability to complete a gestational surrogacy (one in which you’re not related to the baby) in your state will not be impacted by your relationship.
However, there may be different requirements if you are considering a traditional surrogacy — in which you are also the egg donor for the intended parents.
No matter which surrogacy process you are considering, make sure you speak with a surrogacy attorney to understand the legal situation if you’re thinking about being a surrogate mother for a family member.
2. Am I prepared for the challenges of the surrogacy process?
While it can be incredibly humbling to be asked to be a surrogate for a family member, it is also a huge commitment. Often, the process takes at least a year of screenings, medical and legal procedures and pregnancy before the surrogacy is finally complete.
So, you may be wondering, “Where do I begin the process of how to become a surrogate mother for a family member?”
Most of the surrogacy process is the same if you are being a surrogate for family. While you will have already found intended parents, you will still need to decide which kind of surrogacy professionals you wish to use, complete the necessary screening to be approved for surrogacy, finalize a legal surrogacy contract, go through the medical process of surrogacy and carry a pregnancy to term.
Surrogacy is an emotionally and physically demanding process for both surrogates and intended parents. While you will have the benefits of a strong established relationship with your intended parents from the beginning, the process can still take a lot out of you and your family member. Before committing to this process, you and your intended parents should speak with a surrogacy professional to learn more about what will be required of you during this journey.
3. Do I want to work with a surrogacy agency or independently?
As a surrogate for a family member, you’ve already found your intended parents, so you may initially think you do not need the assistance of a surrogacy agency. However, the benefits of a surrogacy agency extend beyond matching, especially if you are entering into the surrogacy experience for the first time.
If you choose to complete an independent surrogacy, you and your family member will be responsible for all the steps of the surrogacy process, including finding professionals and coordinating services between them. This can be a difficult path for anyone. Many surrogates and intended parents find that the support and guidance a surrogacy agency provides allows them to focus on the most important things — staying healthy, maintaining a positive personal relationship and bringing a baby into the world — rather than the minute details. A surrogacy agency can also provide any professional mediation necessary for some of the more sensitive aspects of the surrogacy journey, which you may feel uncomfortable discussing with a family member.
4. Do I want to receive financial compensation from my family?
Sometimes, a woman who decides on pursuing surrogacy for a family member may feel uncomfortable taking money from someone for whom she cares. However, the choice to pursue an altruistic surrogacy (in which a surrogate receives no base compensation) is one that should only be made after you consider the pros and cons of the process.
It’s normal if you feel awkward about the idea of receiving base compensation from your family, but this compensation can actually be very beneficial in preventing future complications. You may not fully understand the commitments of surrogacy for family members until you are in the process and, if you have waived your right to receive compensation, you may regret your choice. You may even feel taken advantage of because of all the sacrifice and services you are providing for nothing but goodwill. On the other hand, your intended parents may feel forever in debt to you — a guilt and discomfort that could also cause complications in your relationship in the future.
Before you and your intended parents decide to pursue an altruistic surrogacy, you should consider speaking with a surrogacy professional and separate surrogacy attorneys for advice and suggestions moving forward. They can help you agree on a compensation amount that you and your intended parents are comfortable with and which will prevent future complications.
5. Is it incest to be a surrogate mother for a family member?
This is always an uncomfortable thought, but it’s a common fear. First, understand that surrogates don’t become pregnant in the “traditional” way — an intended parent never has intercourse with a surrogate in any situation. Surrogates become pregnant through an embryo transfer in a fertility clinic.
However, traditional surrogates would be the biological mother of the baby, so while it’s not incest, this is something you would need to take into consideration, especially with surrogacy within the family. In families, this wouldn’t just raise tensions during the surrogacy process. It can also be uncomfortable for the child to have his or her biological mother in such close proximity his or her whole life, and it can create conflict and jealousy between younger generations for years to come.
This is another reason why gestational surrogacy is the preferred option, regardless of whether or not you’re related to the intended parents.
6. Do I understand the unique circumstances of being a gestational surrogate for a family member?
In addition to the intricacies of surrogate compensation when being a surrogate for a family member, there are also some additional things to consider.
You may think that your existing relationship with your family member will remain unchanged during and after the surrogacy process, but it will not. After all, surrogacy is an intimate, life-changing process, and committing to this process with a family member will also change your personal relationship with them. You two will forever be bonded by this shared experience.
If you are considering being a surrogate for a sibling, keep in mind that old sibling rivalries could emerge — especially if you are being a surrogate for your sister. You will be completing a process that she can’t and, even though she may not rationally feel this way, emotions of jealousy can emerge over you being the one to carry her child. These difficult emotions can be avoided with open, honest conversation throughout the surrogacy process.
Although you will have a close relationship with your intended parents, you will also need to set clear boundaries with your family. It’s tempting for intended parents to want to be involved in every aspect of their surrogate’s pregnancy, but you will still have the right to continue with your everyday life until your pregnancy prevents you from doing so. Again, honest communication is important in ensuring you don’t feel like your privacy and space is being encroached upon and the intended parents don’t feel like you are excluding them from your surrogacy experience.
If you are considering learning more about how to be a surrogate mother for a family member, it’s important to recognize any potential complications before starting the process. A solid relationship can quickly become complicated and damaged if you don’t take the proper steps to prepare ahead of time.
One of the best ways to do this is by contacting and working with a surrogacy agency throughout your process. A professional can help you understand what challenges are ahead of you and support you through any difficulties you encounter as you learn how to become a surrogate mother for family members — not only to preserve a positive surrogacy experience but also your unique relationship with your loved ones.
Can you be a surrogate for a family member? Absolutely, but remember: If you are asked to be a surrogate for a family member, you always have the right to say no. Never commit to the surrogacy process until you’re ready, no matter your relationship with the intended parents. A surrogacy will only be successful if you and the intended parents are fully prepared for the challenges and rewards ahead — and are ready to move forward with a full understanding of what is to come.