Every woman considering surrogacy must meet certain health requirements to be a surrogate mother. These requirements are important in ensuring not only your safety as a prospective surrogate but also the safety of the intended parents, their embryos and their eventual baby.
Before you become a surrogate, you’ll need to work with a surrogacy professional — like an agency or a surrogacy clinic — to determine whether you meet the necessary surrogate health requirements. Usually, this is completed through several different kinds of screening, including:
- Initial application: Surrogacy professionals will usually ask certain questions in your initial application to ensure you meet their basic requirements to be a surrogate. This way, they will know quickly whether you’ll be able to proceed with this life-changing journey.
- Background screening: After your initial application is received, a surrogacy professional will arrange for background checks, such as criminal and financial screenings. These will make sure you are fit to be a surrogate.
- Psychosocial screening: As a surrogate, you’ll not only need to be physically fit but also mentally prepared for the potential challenges of the surrogacy process. Therefore, you’ll need to complete a psychosocial screening with a mental health professional to address any emotions you’re feeling now, what you may feel during your pregnancy and how you’ll feel after you give birth. Only after you understand these challenges can you pursue surrogacy.
- Medical screening: There are often two parts to medical screening: once before you match with intended parents and once before the legal contracts are signed. These screenings will be performed by medical professionals to make sure you are physically fit to be pregnant, and they may include blood and urine tests and overall physical examinations.
Only after you have completed all of these screenings and your surrogacy specialist approves you for the surrogacy process can you start the medical process of surrogacy with your intended parents.
The Basic Surrogate Health Requirements
But, what exactly are the health requirements to be a surrogate mother that professionals are looking for when they complete these screenings?
As mentioned, the main purpose of these medical screenings is to make sure you are healthy enough to be a surrogate and carry a child for intended parents. The physical challenges of surrogacy (not to mention pregnancy) can be demanding and, to prevent any delays or disappointment in your or your intended parents’ surrogacy process, it’s crucial that you are medically approved for the process before you begin.
Each surrogacy professional sets slightly different surrogate health requirements, but most use the basic guidelines provided by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. These guidelines include:
- A healthy BMI
- Age of 21-35
- At least one successful pregnancy
- No major complications from previous pregnancies
- No untreated STIs
- No smoking, illicit drug use or exposure to second-hand smoke
- No use of anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medication in the last 12 months
Again, because professionals’ health requirements to be a surrogate mother may vary, speak with an appropriate professional to determine if you can be medically approved for their particular program.
Frequently Asked Questions About Surrogate Health Requirements
Many times, whether a woman meets surrogate health requirements will depend on her personal medical background. Some surrogacy professionals may set additional medical standards, while others may make exceptions for individual circumstances.
If you’re wondering about the health requirements to be a surrogate, you may also have personal health questions about how your conditions may impact your ability to be a surrogate. As always, a surrogacy or medical professional can best answer these questions, but we’ve listed a few of the most common ones below:
- How old can a surrogate be? Can I be a teen surrogate?
As mentioned, many agencies set their own age restrictions for surrogacy, but you must be at least 18 and under age 40 to be a surrogate. Some professionals set a higher age limit on surrogacy, requiring their surrogates to be at least 21 years old. These age restrictions for surrogacy are designed to ensure a woman is at her healthiest age for pregnancy when starting the surrogacy process, as well as providing for the requirement that she must have already been pregnant once before she can be a surrogate. Therefore, teenagers who have not been pregnant and women who have reached menopause often cannot be surrogates.
- Can I be a surrogate if I’ve never been pregnant?
A woman pursuing surrogacy without a previous pregnancy will be disqualified from the surrogacy process. It’s important that you have proven you can carry a pregnancy to term safely before you become a surrogate — for your own well-being and to ensure the intended parents’ embryos are placed in the uterus of the woman who gives them the best chance at a successful pregnancy.
- Can a postmenopausal woman be a surrogate?
As mentioned, surrogacy professionals only work with women who offer the best chances of a successful pregnancy. Because menopause comes with effects that stop future pregnancies, being a surrogate mother after menopause is a very risky and difficult process. This is why many professionals set age restrictions for surrogacy at 40, before most women experience menopause.
- Can you be a surrogate after having your tubes tied?
It is certainly possible to be a gestational surrogate mother after tubal ligation. In fact, some professionals will even prefer it, as tubal ligation is a medical process that will halt ovulation and prevent you from becoming pregnant with your own egg during the fertility process.
- How many times can you be a surrogate?
Each surrogacy professional has a different rule when it comes to the number of times you can be a surrogate. Contact one today to learn more.
- I’m breastfeeding; can I be a surrogate?
Surrogacy professionals will require prospective surrogates to have stopped breastfeeding before they begin the medical process of surrogacy, as breastfeeding causes a natural delay in your return to fertility. However, you can likely begin the initial surrogacy application process while you are still breastfeeding, as long as you have plans to stop before you begin the medical procedures.
- Can I be an HIV-positive surrogate mother?
HIV can transfer to a baby during pregnancy, which is why you cannot have HIV and become a surrogate.
- Can I be a surrogate if I have HPV?
HPV is the most common type of STD in the U.S. and, in most cases, the disease will not affect a developing baby. However, if you have an outbreak of genital warts close to your due date, you may be scheduled for a cesarean-section to prevent the transmission of HPV to the baby.
- Can you be a surrogate mother with herpes?
Similarly, herpes rarely affects a baby born from a woman who has the disease. Again, if you have an outbreak before your due date, you may need to have a C-section instead of a vaginal birth.
- Is being a surrogate with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) possible?
Although PCOS mainly affects a woman’s ability to ovulate, it can still cause risks in a gestational surrogacy. For example, women with this condition are more likely to develop gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and other pregnancy complications. Speak with your fertility specialist and doctor to determine if your PCOS diagnosis may affect your ability to be a surrogate.
- Can a female with adenomyosis be a surrogate?
Adenomyosis is a condition that causes endometrial tissue to grow into the muscle layers of the uterus, which can make the implantation of an embryo very difficult. Your doctor can best determine if your condition can be treated successfully so you can be a surrogate.
- Can I pursue surrogacy with endometriosis?
Endometriosis is another reproductive disorder that can make it difficult for you to become pregnant and may increase your risk of miscarriage. Your doctor can best determine the severity of your condition and whether it will affect your ability to become a surrogate.
- Can you be a surrogate after ablation?
Ablation often destroys a thin layer of the lining of the uterus, which makes future implantations of embryos very difficult. Most surrogacy professionals will disqualify you from being a surrogate if you’ve experienced ablation because of the risks it will bring to your pregnancy.
- What pregnancy conditions disqualify you from surrogacy?
Most surrogacy professionals will look for prospective surrogates who have had no or minimal complications in their previous pregnancies. It’s always a good idea to speak with your doctor about your pregnancy history to determine whether past complications will affect your ability to be a surrogate. Remember, intended parents want a surrogate with the best chance of a successful pregnancy, which certain pregnancy complications will make difficult or near impossible.
- Can someone with sickle cell be a surrogate?
Sickle cell can cause health complications during pregnancy, such as miscarriage, premature birth and a low birth rate. Therefore, this condition means it is too dangerous to pursue surrogacy — both for you as a surrogate and the baby you’ll carry.
- Can you be a surrogate with diabetes?
Diabetes makes it difficult for people to control their blood glucose levels and, during pregnancy, this can be incredibly dangerous. If you have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, you will often be disqualified from being a surrogate.
Like any other pregnancy, a surrogate pregnancy comes with the risk of developing gestational diabetes — which lasts until the baby is born. If you have a history of gestational diabetes in earlier pregnancies, speak with your surrogacy professional and your doctor to see if pursuing surrogacy will be safe for you.
- Can someone with a history of mental illness be a surrogate?
Every woman who wishes to become a surrogate must pass certain psychosocial screenings to ensure she is mentally prepared for the emotional challenges of surrogacy. Either during this screening or before, your surrogacy professional will ask you about your history of mental illness.
If your illness has been treated and is manageable, it likely won’t affect your ability to be a surrogate. However, if your condition will prevent you from properly scheduling and attending appointments, taking medication at the correct time and legally consenting to your surrogacy agreement, it will likely prevent you from pursuing surrogacy. Remember, most professionals will require surrogates to cease using anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications, too.
Because your personal mental health situation is always unique, speak with a surrogacy professional for more information.
Understanding and meeting the necessary health requirements to be a surrogate mother is an important part of your surrogacy journey. Only once you have done so can you safely carry a baby for intended parents and help their family dreams come true.
If you have a question that wasn’t answered here, or you want to learn more about surrogate health requirements, contact an appropriate surrogacy agency or surrogacy clinic today.