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Requirements for Surrogates and Eligibility Criteria

Commercial surrogacy laws vary significantly from state to state and regulations can change with new legislation and ethical considerations. It’s essential that those interested in surrogacy speak to a reputable assisted reproduction attorney at the onset of a journey.

In places where commercial surrogacy is legal, potential surrogates typically need to meet certain qualifications and undergo a screening process to ensure they are suitable candidates. While the exact requirements may differ, there are some common qualifications for becoming a surrogate in most locations including:

Surrogate Age:

Age is one of the most important requirements for surrogates. Surrogates are usually required to be between a certain minimum and maximum age, usually between 21 and 42 years old. The age requirements are put in place to ensure the safety and well-being of both the surrogate and the baby, as well as to increase the likelihood of a successful pregnancy. A specific age range may vary depending on the laws and guidelines of the jurisdiction, as well as the preferences of the Intended Parents and the fertility clinic involved. Pregnancy at an advanced age can be associated with an increased risk of certain pregnancy complications, such as gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. Surrogates also need to be emotionally mature and capable of understanding the implications and emotional complexities of surrogacy. The lower age requirement helps ensure that the surrogate has reached an appropriate level of emotional maturity to handle the process and has had a chance to create a family of her own. It’s important to note that age limits are not arbitrary but rather based on medical and statistical considerations aimed at ensuring the best possible outcome for all parties involved. Each surrogacy arrangement is unique, however, and some individual cases might have exceptions or different age criteria based on specific circumstances.

Physical and Mental Health:

Surrogates should be in good physical health and free from any significant medical conditions that might pose risks during pregnancy or childbirth.  Healthier women generally have a lower risk of pregnancy-related complications and are more likely to have healthy pregnancies and deliveries. Surrogates will undergo an official medical evaluation at the Intended Parent(s)’ fertility clinic. This exam will determine a potential surrogate’s health and suitability for pregnancy and cover medical history, including any pre-existing medical conditions, surgeries, and previous pregnancies. This information helps identify any potential risk factors. A thorough physical examination is conducted to assess the woman’s overall health, including vital signs, body mass index (BMI), and any physical conditions that might affect her ability to carry a pregnancy. The evaluation will also include an assessment of a potential surrogate’s reproductive health, including menstrual history and any history of pregnancy complications. An ultrasound and pelvic examination is conducted to evaluate the health of the uterus. A potential surrogate will be screened for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) that could affect her health or the pregnancy. In most cases, a potential surrogate’s immunization history is reviewed to ensure she is up-to-date on vaccinations that are important during pregnancy, such as rubella and flu vaccines. Some fertility clinics require the Covid vaccine, others do not.

Based on the evaluation results, the fertility clinic assesses a potential surrogate’s overall health, identifies any potential risks or issues, and provides guidance and recommendations as to whether or not she is suitable to become a surrogate. It’s important to note that a potential surrogate should not go off of any medication, including medications prescribed for mental health disorders, in order to become a surrogate.

Additionally, surrogates will usually need to undergo psych/mental health evaluations (done by a licensed professional specializing in assisted reproduction) to ensure they can handle the emotional aspects of surrogacy.

Prior Pregnancies:

Surrogates must have previously given birth to and are raising/have raised their own children. Having previously carried and given birth to their own children provides surrogates with firsthand experience of the physical and emotional aspects of pregnancy and childbirth. Additionally, women who have successfully carried their own pregnancies to term and delivered healthy babies are more likely to be medically suitable for surrogacy. The ability to carry a pregnancy to full term and have a successful childbirth indicates that the surrogate’s reproductive and overall health are favorable for another pregnancy. Women who have been through pregnancy and childbirth are familiar with prenatal care, medical procedures, and the general process of pregnancy, which can make the surrogacy journey smoother and less stressful. Having her own children also means a potential surrogate has experienced the joys and challenges of pregnancy as well as parenthood and is therefore genuinely interested in helping others create a family.

It’s important to also mention that the hormones used in surrogacy as well as rare pregnancy complications can lead to secondary infertility. This is why surrogates should be done with their own family building before carrying on behalf of others.

Diet and Lifestyle:

Surrogates are required to maintain a healthy lifestyle, free from harmful substances, such as tobacco, drugs, and alcohol consumption. During pregnancy, it’s essential that surrogates avoid certain foods and substances that could pose potential risks to the health and development of the baby. Consumption of alcohol during pregnancy is strongly discouraged as it can lead to fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs), which can cause physical, behavioral, and cognitive impairments in the baby. Smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke can also increase the risk of complications such as premature birth, low birth weight, and birth defects. All illicit drugs, including marijuana, can be harmful to the developing baby and may cause serious health problems or developmental issues. High caffeine intake has been associated with an increased risk of miscarriage and low birth weight.

To avoid exposure to harmful bacteria and parasites, surrogates should avoid raw or undercooked meats, poultry, fish, and seafood, and avoid unpasteurized dairy products which may contain harmful bacteria like Listeria.  Even when well cooked, some fish species, particularly those high in mercury, should be avoided or limited during pregnancy. Mercury can harm the baby’s nervous system development. Raw or undercooked eggs and foods containing raw eggs should be avoided due to the risk of Salmonella infection. Additionally, herbal supplements and teas are not always safe during pregnancy, as they may contain substances that can harm the baby.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy is vital for the well-being of both the surrogate and the developing baby. A healthy lifestyle during pregnancy includes proper nutrition, regular exercise, adequate rest, and avoiding harmful substances. A balanced diet rich in essential nutrients like folate, iron, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acids supports the baby’s growth and development. This means incorporating a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and dairy products into daily meals.

Surrogates should also not be exposed to hazardous chemicals or be employed in jobs where pregnancy is a contradiction and reasonable accommodations cannot be made.

Financial Stability:

Most journeys require that surrogates demonstrate financial stability to ensure they are not entering surrogacy out of financial desperation. This includes not being on any type of government assistance program including housing or food assistance.

Supportive Environment:

Surrogates may need to demonstrate that they have a supportive and stable home environment. Pregnancy can be physically demanding and a safe environment helps reduce the risk of accidents and injuries that could harm the surrogate or the developing baby. Pregnancy can bring about a range of emotions and hormonal changes. A supportive environment with understanding and caring individuals can provide stability and reduce stress and anxiety levels. Emotional well-being during pregnancy is not only essential for the surrogate’s health but can also positively impact the developing baby. High levels of stress during pregnancy have been associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes, including preterm birth and low birth weight. A safe and supportive environment encourages healthy lifestyle choices during pregnancy, such as proper nutrition, regular exercise, and adequate rest. Support from family and friends can also positively influence behaviors like smoking cessation and avoidance of alcohol or harmful substances.  

Pregnancy may come with physical discomfort and limitations, especially as the pregnancy progresses. A supportive environment can mean assistance with daily tasks, childcare, household maintenance, and emotional support during this time.

Willingness to Take Hormones/Medications as Prescribed:

When a woman becomes a gestational carrier, she will need to take hormones and medications as prescribed to prepare her body for the embryo transfer and to support the pregnancy. These medications are an essential part of the surrogacy process. Hormonal medications are used to regulate and coordinate the timing of her menstrual cycle, ensuring that the uterus is in an optimal condition to receive the embryo. To increase the chances of successful implantation, surrogates may take hormones like estrogen to thicken and prepare the uterine lining. This creates a favorable environment for the embryo to attach and develop during the early stages of pregnancy. After the embryo transfer, gestational surrogates continue taking hormonal medications, such as progesterone, to support the early stages of pregnancy. Progesterone helps maintain the uterine lining and provides additional support for the developing embryo until the placenta can take over hormone production.

Taking hormones and medications as prescribed allows medical professionals to closely monitor the surrogate’s progress and adjust the treatment if needed. Regular monitoring helps ensure that the pregnancy is progressing as expected and allows for early detection of any issues that may require intervention. Following the prescribed hormone and medication regimen can significantly increase the success rates of the surrogacy process.

It’s essential for surrogates to adhere to their prescribed medical treatment plan and attend all scheduled medical appointments to ensure the best possible outcome for both themselves and the Intended Parents. The entire surrogacy journey is carefully coordinated with the guidance and supervision of medical professionals, fertility specialists, and reproductive endocrinologists to ensure the highest chances of success and a healthy pregnancy for all parties involved.

Legal Restrictions and Requirements for Surrogates:

Some states limit surrogate compensation (some ban it outright) and/or have a unique set of eligibility requirements. Please read our state by state guide for more information and always check with a reputable attorney to discuss surrogate in your specific state.

Frequently Asked Questions about Requirements for Surrogates and Eligibility Criteria

What are the common qualifications for becoming a surrogate?

In places where commercial surrogacy is legal, common qualifications include being within a certain age range (usually between 21 and 42 years old), having good physical and mental health, previous successful pregnancies and raising their own children, maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle, and demonstrating financial stability. Additionally, surrogates should be willing to take prescribed hormones and medications as part of the surrogacy process.

What medical evaluations do potential surrogates undergo?

Potential surrogates will undergo comprehensive medical evaluations, including a review of medical history, physical examinations, reproductive health assessments, STD screening, and immunization history. These evaluations help identify any potential risks and ensure the surrogate’s overall health and suitability for pregnancy.

Why is it important for surrogates to have had their own children before becoming a surrogate?

Having previously carried and given birth to their own children provides surrogates with firsthand experience of the physical and emotional aspects of pregnancy and childbirth. It also indicates that the surrogate’s reproductive and overall health is favorable for another pregnancy. Additionally, as surrogacy can cause secondary infertility, it’s important that a surrogate be done with her own family before helping others build theirs.

What foods and substances should surrogates avoid during pregnancy?

Surrogates should avoid alcohol, tobacco, illicit drugs, high-mercury seafood, raw or undercooked meats, unpasteurized dairy products, raw eggs, and certain herbal supplements during pregnancy. It’s also essential to limit caffeine intake and avoid exposure to hazardous chemicals.

Why is a safe and supportive environment important for surrogates?

A safe and supportive environment reduces the risk of accidents and injuries during pregnancy, provides emotional stability, reduces stress and anxiety levels, and encourages healthy lifestyle choices. Additionally, during the later stages of pregnancy, a surrogate often needs assistance with daily tasks, childcare, and emotional support during pregnancy.

What legal restrictions and requirements should potential surrogates be aware of?

Some states have limitations on surrogate compensation or unique eligibility requirements for surrogacy. It’s important to research and understand the legal aspects of surrogacy in your specific state and consult with a reputable attorney for guidance.

Remember, surrogacy is a complex process, and individual circumstances may vary. Always seek professional advice and guidance from experienced attorneys, and medical practitioners to ensure a successful and legally compliant surrogacy journey.

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Bridget Myers

Bridget Myers grew up in small town in Maryland. She started her career as a substitute teacher before meeting the love of her life and moving to the suburbs of Chicago. She has a passion for dogs and painting. Bridget got involved in Surrogacy Place after researching surrogacy for her best friend. Since joining the team at Surrogacy Place, she has developed a passion for advocating on behalf of Intended Parents and surrogates and doing her part for meaningful reform in the industry.