Independent Surrogacy The Pros and Cons of Flying Solo as a Surrogate Angel
What is Independent Surrogacy?
Independent Surrogacy is the process of facilitating your own surrogacy experience without the support of an agency like The Egg Donor & Surrogacy Program in Los Angeles, CA. Being an independent surrogate entails finding and screening your own intended parent match, overseeing all the coordination for your case medically throughout the IVF process, pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum recovery, coordinating the financial aspects of your case, and in some cases also the legal aspects.
Going the independent route appeals to surrogates for a few reasons -some of which may include:
Keeping costs down for the intended parents
Wanting direct contact with the intended parents without a third-party mediator
Wanting to set your own compensation package
Being an experienced surrogate and already knowing the ropes
Starting a repeat journey with the same intended parents
Not meeting the typical qualifications for becoming a surrogate through an agency (e.g. higher BMI, not having given birth previously, personal or medical history that effects eligibility)
Wanting intended parents who would not wish to terminate or reduce a pregnancy under any circumstances
Here are some helpful FAQs to cover the risks and benefits of going independent:
Q: Does going independent keep costs down for the intended parents?
A: Surrogacy is an extremely costly process. It is important to bear in mind that the only fees that are being reduced by going independent are the agency fee, which is a small part of the overall cost, or the surrogate’s compensation package if she is willing to be flexible. The biggest part of the cost is the medical care and medical insurance for the pregnancy and delivery, neither of which can be saved on by going independent. At The Egg Donor & Surrogacy Program we pride ourselves on offering needs -based discounts to intended parents who don’t qualify for infertility financing so that we can provide full service facilitation in a way that is affordable and still helps our intended parents and surrogates to get through the process smoothly. Surrogates through our program can also opt for lower compensation packages at their discretion, but when doing so it is important to still value your time, energy, and dedication to this process. Costs can also be kept lower when a surrogate has existing insurance that will work well for surrogacy, if she does not work and therefore has no lost wages, or if she has friends and family willing to help with her childcare for surrogacy related medical appointments. There are places where costs can be reduced. As an agency, we are always happy to advocate for intended parents with financial need by exploring possible discounts from their attorneys for the contract and parentage process, and discounts from the treating IVF office. Cutting corners and trying to go it alone can escalate costs if conflicts arise if errors are made such as not properly verifying a surrogate’s insurance policy and having claims denied, or accidentally using an out of network medical provider. The agency is there is help get everyone through the journey as smoothly as possible and being cost-conscious is just one area where an agency can help to mitigate unforeseen expenses and actually save money.
Q: Does going independent mean you will have a closer relationship with the intended parent(s)?
A: It is completely understandable to want to communicate with the parents directly rather than through a third party. Having an agency does not interfere with your communication with the intended parent(s). Once surrogates and intended parents match through our program, they are put in direct contact with each other and we encourage regular communication, going to appointments together when possible, and spending social time together outside of the medical appointments. Having a positive relationship with the intended parents is one of the best parts of surrogacy- and a good agency will do everything they can to put you with a wonderful match that you will enjoy communicating with. However, sometimes there may be times where there are tough things to communicate such as financial questions, pregnancy complications, or miscommunications occur. Both you and the intended parents are emotionally invested in the pregnancy, if you must communicate directly about finances it can impact your friendship. This is where an agency can help to find solutions and mediate financial concerns. We provide guidance on how best to communicate medical concerns to protect your relationship. A good agency does not interfere with your relationship but rather they help to keep the relationship positive, stepping in on the tough stuff and offering compassionate support every step of the way and proactively preventing conflicts before they arise.
Q: If I go independent can I set my own fees and choose to be paid more or less?
A: Going independent does give you some freedoms on setting your own fees to either be compensated more or less depending on your wishes. However, a good agency will also listen to your wishes and take your needs under careful consideration. Surrogacy compensation packages are not one-size-fits-all. We have comprehensive compensation packages because we want our surrogate angels and their families to feel taken care of as they give the greatest gift to a loving family. But your personal needs may be different and we are always open to having a conversation about this and coming up with a plan that works well for everyone- this is a team process As an agency we help to ensure that the full funds for your case are safely deposited in an escrow account before you start an IVF cycle to ensure you receive all of the agreed-upon compensation per your contract in a timely manner. When you go independent your fees have to either be negotiated directly with the intended parent(s) or through an attorney which can make this feel like a business transaction and impact your relationship. We know from our many years of experience that surrogates aren’t doing this for the money, this is a human experience and the compensation is there for the inconveniences you and your family undertake to help make another family possible.
Q: Won’t it be easy to facilitate my own surrogacy now that I’ve already completed a surrogacy journey before?
A: As both a 3x previous surrogate myself and someone who has worked behind the scenes for many years now as a Surrogate Match Coordinator, I can attest to the fact that it would not be easier to facilitate your own journey. When going through the process with an agency there is quite a lot they are working on behind the scenes to ensure your journey goes as smoothly as possible. They are working on your case every single day- sometimes in the middle of the night if emergencies arise. I’m thrilled to be a part of an amazing team here that has stepped in for my own journeys so that I could enjoy the human experience with my intended parent(s) instead of being buried in paperwork, and insurance reviews, and chasing down medical offices for a variety of reasons. Undue stress during pregnancy is not ideal for anyone. I’ve also learned that an agency can be an objective advocate for you to ensure you’re being treated fairly, surrogates are so supportive of their intended parents that sometimes they lose sight of their own needs. This is a team process and the agency is an integral part of that team.
Q: Would it be easy and safe for me to facilitate my own surrogacy with the same intended parent(s) I helped before?
A: While some surrogates think that a repeat journey with the same intended parents is a no-brainer, life happens sometimes, and issues can still arise. In many ways, it is harder to be objective or protect the best interests of both you and your family when you already have a relationship with the intended parent(s) you are helping. An agency can be a great asset in helping to facilitate a repeat journey as well. Sometimes once an intended parent already has a relationship with their surrogate, they feel like they can ask even more of them on a sibling journey, and sometimes that’s okay and sometimes it is not. You are still making all the same efforts you did in your first journey together, and possibly more now that the intended parents are more experienced and have a greater awareness of their own needs. Because you’re a previous surrogate and you already know the ropes, it makes sense that you’re more prepared for all that needs to happen in your next journey after completing your first. However, going independent means taking on extra work you didn’t have in your first journey through an agency. You will need to communicate on the tougher stuff directly with the parents if you fly solo, and this may change your relationship.
Q: What if I don’t qualify as a surrogate candidate through an agency? Should I go independent?
A: This really depends on what qualifications you didn’t meet- your safety and the safety of the pregnancy is paramount. If you are declined by an agency, you can always ask for the reason to see if it is something that might be fixable such as losing weight. Agencies work closely with you to screen you as a medical candidate. Screening entails multiple conversations with the agency staff to get to know you, your wants and needs, and your qualifications as a candidate. Agencies choose candidates how to have the best chance of having a successful and positive experience. The agency checks your state laws surrounding surrogacy with an experienced attorney to make sure it’s legally okay for you to proceed. Medical records are carefully reviewed by an IVF Physician to ensure you’re a good candidate to be pregnant as a surrogate. Criminal and financial background checks are run for you and your spouse (if applicable) to ensure there are no major concerns criminally and that you’re not under financial duress. A Psychologist speaks with you about the process to ensure you have considered the tough stuff that can come up in surrogacy, and to check for clinical psychological disorders such as Bipolar & Schizophrenia. If you don’t qualify because of medical reasons, then proceeding independently is not a good idea for your health. If your state laws mean that a surrogacy contract can’t be upheld that could be a very messy legal process and there may even be penalties for participating in a surrogacy. Psychological concerns could mean putting your mental health at risk, especially with taking hormones for the IVF process. A good agency is screening you thoroughly to keep you, the intended parents, and the baby safe. Also consider how the intended parents might feel if you go the independent route and they find out down the line that there were red flags that were not disclosed such as criminal histories or past pregnancy complications, this will undoubtedly compromise your relationship at a minimum and there could be repercussions. Lastly, but most importantly remember that the agency also screens intended parents with consultations, a therapist letter ensuring their psychological preparedness, and background checks for your safety. It wouldn’t be pleasant for a surrogate to find out later there were red flags with the intended parent(s). All that being said, screening only goes so far for you both- this is a process rooted deeply in trust. The intended parent(s) are trusting you with the most precious 9 months of their baby’s life and you are trusting that they will be good parents for that same child’s entire life. The only way to do it right it is through honesty.
Q: I don’t want to terminate or reduce a pregnancy under any circumstances- am I better off going independent?
A: This may be one of the toughest things to consider when choosing to be a surrogate whether independent or through an agency. The hard truth is that a potential surrogate is better off not pursuing becoming a surrogate either independently or through an agency if she isn’t okay with the parents choosing to terminate or reduce if there is a serious health concern for the baby/ies. Our program has been around since 1991 and we have only seen but a small handful of intended parents who said they wouldn’t terminate for any reason, so as an agency knowing that there are so rarely intended parents to match with who would be on the same page with their surrogate means that we’re not able to match candidates who wouldn’t allow the parents to make those kinds of difficult decisions in the event of medical problems for the baby/ies. We wouldn’t want to keep a surrogate on hold waiting for that right match because it could be a very long wait. The bigger challenge, whether independent or through an agency, is that even if the intended parents say that they would never want to terminate or reduce under any circumstances, they may feel differently if a serious medical concern such as Down’s Syndrome, Trisomy or a heart defect etc. comes up. We would never want to see any surrogate put in a situation that compromises her beliefs or makes her uncomfortable, and there is simply no way to guarantee how the intended parents will feel or what their wishes will truly be based on discussing the issue as a hypothetical question. Magical thinking, or believing that nothing could possibly ever go wrong can put everyone in a very difficult situation. The technology for testing embryos and transferring the healthiest embryos is very good but it’s not perfect. If a potential surrogate feels strongly that she would not be okay with the parents choosing to terminate or reduce under any circumstances, surrogacy is probably not a great fit for her, because although small, the risk for it to come up later is always there. No one can legally make a woman undergo a termination or reduction, not the agency, not the parents, not the attorneys, but when everyone isn’t on the same page about those choices in the team process of surrogacy, the relationship goes south very quickly, and a difficult situation becomes an impossible one. We certainly see surrogate candidates and intended parents who are on the same page about continuing a twin pregnancy when both babies and surrogate are healthy, and we see surrogate candidates and intended parents on the same page about termination and reduction only in the event of a serious medical issue. But keep in mind that you might not both agree on what constitutes a serious medical issue. Anyone starting a surrogacy journey should think critically about this tough subject.
These are just some of the many questions that come up when considering whether to go independent or through an agency. At the end of the day, you need to follow your heart and consider what is in your best interest and the best interest of your family. At a minimum it is a good idea to consult with an agency and ask your questions before deciding what works best, a reputable agency will be happy to take the time to answer your questions with no pressure to proceed. When in doubt you can also ask to speak with surrogates who have been through the agency and get an insider perspective as to the experience you will have with them.
If you have any questions about becoming a surrogate, we would love to hear from you. Please call 818-506-9300 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance.