For couples deciding to go the route of surrogate pregnancy, there’s already an awareness that many challenges are ahead. This is a choice typically made when the traditional pregnancy of the mother in the couple is unfeasible. Usually, that’s due to medical circumstances, such as a heart condition that would endanger both mother and child during pregnancy or a hysterectomy that required the surgical removal of the womb to prevent a deadly disease like ovarian cancer. Of course, choosing to go with surrogacy does mean extra time and investment for a successful pregnancy. Part of that process of success usually comes from working with an agency, but what are surrogacy agencies, and what’s the right one for you?
Going It Alone
At the absolute minimum, a surrogacy agency is a “matchmaker” of sorts. Surrogacy agencies help hopeful families find someone willing to become surrogate mothers on their behalf. In concept, this sounds like a simple enough task, perhaps one that a couple could even do themselves, and “cut out the middleman” of the agency and the payment for their services.
In reality, trying to do this without the help of an agency would mean more time—and sometimes even more money—wasted that could have gone directly into financing a successful surrogacy. Finding a surrogate mother is, after all, a much more severe and long-term commitment than finding a courier to deliver a package. A surrogate mother must be medically confirmed to be healthy enough to carry a baby to term safely. A surrogate mother’s odds of success are much greater if she’s already had at least one child previously because she already knows what to expect from her own pregnancy process, and there’s less chance of unpleasant surprises. A surrogate mother must also live a lifestyle that is healthy for herself and the growing baby. Someone that volunteers as a surrogate mother but is a chronic consumer of drugs, cigarettes, and alcohol, for example, is entirely unsuitable.
A hopeful family can try and locate a suitable surrogate mother themselves. However, this means a lot more work on their part, or perhaps even paying even more money than they would have by using an agency. A stringent “vetting process” must be enacted, conducting background research, interviews, and screening for medical suitability and personal qualifications. All of this requires time and money and may result in, at best, lost time and money finding a suitable candidate, or, at worst, impatiently picking the wrong candidate and having an unsuccessful surrogacy experience.
An agency provides an incredible amount of help in the beginning by taking on many of the time-consuming activities. For example, searching for someone even willing to become a surrogate mother takes time. An agency will already have a roster of people to choose from. Next, a proper vetting and confirmation process ensures that a potential surrogate mother is suitable and qualified. An agency will handle this entire process.
For some couples, this is enough. If an agency can line up a hopeful family with a suitable surrogate mother candidate, that’s all they need to be done.
However, for others, there are additional factors that need to be looked at. In some parts of the world, surrogacy is a voluntary process, meaning that aside from living and medical expenses, a surrogate mother is undertaking this role out of sheer generosity. In other parts of the world, “compensated surrogacy” is legal, which means the surrogate mother gets significant financial recognition for the role she takes on. These types of transactions are best handled as legal contracts that can be verified and enforced. Experienced agencies can present contracts that will safely cover all aspects, especially if they are drafted in a region with some federal law in place, such as the country of Georgia. In contrast, in the USA, the legality of compensated surrogacy varies from state to state.
Further factors also include coordinating additional medical facilities and services. A couple may, for example, wish to have an In Vitro Fertilization, or IVF, which means egg and sperm from the hopeful parents themselves are fertilized in a lab and then implanted in the surrogate mother. Some surrogacy agencies will already have the contacts and arrangements to quickly allow hopeful families to schedule access to the facilities and have this process done, rather than have those families seek out and negotiate these services for themselves.
Some hopeful families, especially if they are going abroad, may also want an agency familiar with the legal framework required for a safe return to the country of residence. In some instances, different countries may have specific legal requirements before a surrogate baby can be formally recognized as a citizen of the parents’ homeland and granted all the rights and privileges of that citizenship. Hopeful parents may want to find an agency to facilitate the legal procedures required to ensure a smooth return.