Although surrogacy may remind you of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler’s hilarious relationship in “Baby Mama,” it has provided a clear path to parenthood for thousands of “real-life” families in America and across the globe.
Aspiring parents have a number of options to make their dream of having a family a reality, and surrogacy is becoming a more popular choice every year. Unfortunately, while surrogacy is certainly more prevalent today, the cost remains a significant barrier for many individuals and couples hoping to start a family.
Take a look at the details below to learn what costs are associated with surrogacy and how you can trim down the total expense.
What is surrogacy?
Surrogacy is a financial agreement between a surrogate, also known as a gestational carrier, and a couple or individual, in which a surrogate agrees to carry and deliver a child for the intended parent(s), often for a fee.
Gestational surrogacy vs. traditional surrogacy
Sometimes surrogates are friends or family members, while in other circumstances, a couple or individual may find their surrogate through an agency or organization. In many cases, the egg and/or sperm come from the intended parent(s) along with a donor egg and/or sperm. This is one of two types of surrogacy, referred to as gestational surrogacy.
Traditional surrogacy, on the other hand, occurs when the surrogate’s egg is used to create the embryo, with sperm from either a donor or the intended parent.
In gestational surrogacy, the surrogate is not genetically related to the child, but in traditional surrogacy, the surrogate becomes the child’s biological mother.
The legality of surrogacy
America is one of very few countries where surrogacy is legal — but it isn’t legal in all of America.
Surrogacy is not regulated at a federal level, so each state passes and enforces its own laws regarding surrogacy. States like California and Nevada, for example, have explicit laws that allow for surrogacy. In other states, aspiring parents will face certain hurdles if they pursue surrogacy.
For example, Florida does allow gestational surrogacy agreements, but only for legally married couples, and in North Dakota, one of the intended parents must be genetically related to the child.
To find out what surrogacy laws exist in your state, check out The United States Surrogacy Law Map, created by Creative Family Connections.
How much does it cost to hire a surrogate?
It likely won’t surprise you to hear that surrogacy isn’t the cheapest route to parenthood.
Here are some estimated total costs (at the time of writing) from a few of the top surrogacy agencies in America:
- American Surrogacy: $75,000 to $125,000.
- Circle Surrogacy: $128,750 to $158,250.
- 3 Sisters Surrogacy: $60,000 to $100,000.
- Reproductive Possibilities: $80,000 to $100,000+.
- West Coast Surrogacy: $90,000 to $130,000.
For most families, surrogacy comes with a six-figure price tag, but the total varies depending on a number of factors.
Altruistic surrogacy vs. commercial surrogacy
For instance, there are two payment situations for surrogacy: altruistic surrogacy and commercial surrogacy.
With altruistic surrogacies, the surrogate receives no compensation for her services, other than costs related directly to the pregnancy (medical bills, insurance, etc.).
In commercial surrogacy, however, the surrogate receives a fee, generally $25,000 to $50,000 or more, in addition to reimbursement for pregnancy-related expenses. In countries where surrogacy is not legal, it is typically commercial surrogacy that’s banned.
In commercial surrogacy, the fee a surrogate receives for carrying the child is a substantial portion of the overall cost, so individuals and couples who are able to work with an altruistic surrogate can save thousands of dollars. Nevertheless, there are a number of additional expenses involved in surrogacy, so the sticker price fluctuates from case to case.
Some of the common costs related to surrogacy
Here are some common costs (and rough estimates, based on cost breakdowns from top agencies in America) that contribute to an individual or couple’s final bill:
Agency fees ($20,000 to $30,000)
- Background checks.
- Medical screening.
- Psychological screening.
- General case management.
Surrogate fee ($25,000 to $50,000)
This is the payment a surrogate receives for carrying the child (not applicable in altruistic surrogacy).
Medical fees ($15,000 to $30,000)
- IVF procedures.
- Donor egg/sperm.
- Labor and delivery fees.
Insurance ($1,000 to $25,000)
- Surrogate’s health insurance expenses (premiums, copays, deductibles, etc.).
- Term life insurance policy for the surrogate.
Legal fees ($5,000 to $10,000)
This includes the cost to hire a lawyer for the purpose of drafting relevant documents and establishing legal parentage for the intended parent(s).
- Travel expenses for the surrogate during embryo transfer.
- Maternity clothes for the surrogate.
- Surrogate support group fee.
While families can anticipate a number of these expenses, there are plenty of unexpected situations that can inflate the total cost.
For instance, West Coast Surrogacy estimates an average cost of $90,000 to $130,000, but the total may continue to climb if there are multiple attempts at fertilization, if the surrogate becomes pregnant with more than one child, if the surrogate misses work due to her pregnancy, and so on. In fact, some estimates indicate the total price can reach as high as $300,000 or more!
Does insurance cover surrogacy?
For both altruistic and commercial surrogacies, the intended parent(s) are responsible for the surrogate’s health insurance expenses.
If the surrogacy is arranged through an agency, the agency will often provide an assessment of the surrogate’s health insurance policy to determine whether or not their coverage includes pregnancy and delivery.
If the surrogate’s health insurance does not cover surrogacy, many agencies can help them find an alternative policy. The intended family is responsible for any premiums, copays, and deductibles the surrogate’s insurance requires during the pregnancy. Many agencies will also request the parent(s) provide term life insurance coverage for the surrogate.
While health insurance is a large portion of the total surrogacy expense, sometimes an aspiring parent may be able to reduce costs through their own employee benefits and/or health insurance coverage.
For instance, Starbucks offers a $20,000 IVF benefit for all employees. This is not common, however, so be sure to start saving early and discuss your options with a surrogacy counselor and financial advisor to prepare for the total bill.
How to save on surrogacy expenses
With a six-figure sticker price to anticipate and the potential for additional unplanned expenses, surrogacy can feel unrealistic for many prospective parents. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to reduce your final bill.
Ask a friend or family member to be your surrogate
The surrogate fee makes up a significant portion of your overall expense, but with an altruistic surrogate, you’ll only cover costs directly related to her pregnancy (medical bills, maternity clothes, etc.). Before you consult an agency for help, consider asking a close friend or family member if they would think about being your surrogate.
Note: while this route can save money, it can also be risky. Make sure you weigh alternative options and consider the potential for legal complications before talking with any friends or family members.
Hire a local surrogate
The intended parents are responsible for any travel expenses related to the surrogate’s pregnancy (transportation to and from appointments, hotel stays, etc.), so hiring a surrogate that lives close to you can dramatically reduce your total cost.
Discuss fertility coverage with your employer
While it is not common, some employer-paid health plans do offer fertility coverage. Review your coverage benefits, and talk with your employer to see if your surrogacy expenses qualify.
Study your health insurance coverage
Your health insurance policy may include a surrogacy benefit (or other family-planning benefits that may apply), so be sure to contact your provider about your coverage.
Ask for donations
If finances are your biggest barrier to parenthood, ask friends and family for help. Talk with loved ones directly, or cast a wider net with a fundraiser on Kickstarter or GoFundMe.
Apply for grants
There are a number of fertility grants available for aspiring parents at both the state and national levels. Here are some reputable organizations to consider (be sure to research their eligibility requirements before applying):
- Family Formation Charitable Trust.
- Pay It Forward Fertility Grants.
- Tinina Q. Cade Foundation Family Building Grant.
- Baby Quest Foundation.
- Life Grants.
If a loan is necessary, search for a low interest rate
For many individuals and couples considering surrogacy, a personal loan will be necessary to afford the arrangement. If that is the case for you, be sure to compare quotes using a personal loan aggregator like Credible or Fiona, and select a loan with a low interest rate.
Five ways to prepare for the cost of surrogacy
If you’re serious about surrogacy, it’s important to start planning right away. Here are five tips to help you prepare for the total cost of your surrogacy arrangement:
Start saving immediately
If you aren’t already budgeting, now is the time to start!
Evaluate your current expenses to find any income you could redirect into a high-yield savings account. This may require eliminating some unnecessary expenses (subscription services, dining out, etc.) and reducing others (updating your cell phone coverage, changing your homeowner’s/renter’s insurance policy, etc.).
Consult a financial advisor
Financial advisors can cost a pretty penny, but they can also help you save money in the long run. If you’re struggling to find ways to save up for surrogacy, a financial advisor can also help you identify budget categories that could be modified or removed to allow for increased savings.
Discuss financing options with the surrogacy agency
Odds are you’ll need financing to pursue surrogacy, and an agency is an ideal place to begin that journey. There are a number of financing options that are specific to surrogacy, and agencies can typically direct you to them.
Research low-cost surrogacy programs
No two surrogacy programs are the same, and some are much more affordable than others. The following organizations offer discounted packages and financing (be advised, you may not receive the same services you would with a larger institution like American Surrogacy or Circle Surrogacy):
- ARC Fertility Program.
- First Steps Program.
- Heart for Heroes Program (for eligible infertile veterans).
- WINFertility Treatment Program.
Consider a home equity loan or home equity line of credit
In addition to personal loans and fertility-specific financing options, some aspiring parents borrow against their homes to fund their surrogacy. This can be a good option for homeowners with all or part of their homes paid off. You’ll likely need a strong credit history to qualify.
When it comes to conversations and options regarding family planning, surrogacy is trending – but with a six-figure price tag, surrogacy can feel out of reach for many families.
There are a number of ways aspiring parents can make surrogacy more affordable, including fertility grants and financing, but proper planning is key.