The cost of choosing a commercial surrogate varies according to the situation.
Compensation and fees are calculated based on the complexity of the surrogacy agreement. The national average for compensation ranges from $20,000 and $27,000 [source: Alternative Reproductive Resources]. If an egg or sperm donor is also needed, the cost may increase by thousands of dollars.
In vitro fertilization procedures vary among specialists and currently cost somewhere between $15,000 and $30,000 [source: Northeast Assisted Fertility Group]. Intended parents pay thousands more for counseling for both the surrogate and themselves, surrogate expenses prior to the pregnancy (including attorney fees, lost wages and life insurance premiums), medical and travel expenses, and attorney fees.
If the chosen surrogate doesn't have health insurance or her insurance excludes surrogacy, the intended parents must obtain a policy to cover the pregnancy.
After tallying it all up, the Northeast Assisted Fertility Group (NAFG) advises intended parents to budget an average total cost of $100,000 to $120,000 to carry out a surrogacy arrangement [source: Northeast Assisted Fertility Group].
Despite the significant financial burden, surrogacy is a satisfying option for many people. Some couples endure repeat miscarriages or unsuccessful ART procedures. Others have a genetic defect they do not wish to pass along or they can't carry a pregnancy to term. Gay male couples who want a genetic link to their children may also choose surrogacy.
Women who choose to become surrogate mothers are typically between the ages of 21 and 42 years old, have previously given birth and are high school graduates. The majority of surrogate mothers were raised Christian, about 75 percent are married and approximately one third are employed full-time [source: Center for Surrogate Parenting, Inc.].
Although it's easy to think money is the primary motivation for women who choose to become surrogate mothers, studies have found a variety of reasons impact their decision. Some do choose to become surrogates for financial reasons while others want to share their own gratification of motherhood with an infertile couple.
To begin the process, intended parents have an initial consultation with mental health professionals, their attorney and the staff at the center facilitating their surrogacy program.
Once a couple decides on a program, they prepare to be matched with a carrier. They typically undergo psychological evaluation and testing for sexually transmitted diseases. They also complete a profile that will be presented to the surrogate. The future intended parents choose an IVF clinic and plan their financial affairs with their attorney. They set up an escrow account from which the surrogate's compensation and expenses will be paid.
Women interested in becoming surrogate mothers begin the process in a similar way. A potential surrogate meets with the staff and mental health professionals in her chosen program. Medical and psychological evaluations are completed and an attorney reviews her health insurance policy for surrogate coverage. Potential surrogate mothers also undergo a background check, including criminal and driving records.
At this point, both the intended parents and the surrogate mother are ready for the matching process. Carriers and intended parents are shown profiles from which to choose. If all parties agree, introductions are made and a contract between intended parents and surrogate mother is drafted and signed with the help of an independent attorney. After the contract is prepared, medical procedures -- whether artificial insemination for traditional surrogacy or IVF for gestational surrogacy -- begin.
Do surrogate mothers have any parental rights? What's the "womb-for-rent" controversy? We'll discuss legal aspects of surrogacy in the next section.