A surrogate mother does more than help others realize their dreams of parenthood. They help families experience the joy they crave through their immense sacrifice. Being a surrogate mother costs a lot. It involves time, energy, commitment, and other health concerns.
But imagine the feeling you get, knowing that you helped others have a baby. Usually, it would be a baby they otherwise would be unable to have. Unfortunately, not everyone who wants to become a surrogate mother can experience the joy of surrogacy. You must meet some requirements to qualify as a gestational carrier. It is a journey only for people with all it takes to see it through.
If you want to know what it takes to become a gestational carrier, we have identified the requirements here.
Criteria for Surrogate Mothers
There are different stages of the gestational surrogate requirements. Each qualification tests for a different set of criteria. The screening stages in the surrogacy process ensure that surrogate mothers are fully aware and prepared for the journey. It also ensures that only the right people take on the task to avoid disappointing outcomes.
The criteria include basic qualifications, psychosocial requirements, medical screening, and legal requirements.
- Basic Qualification
Gestational surrogates in the U.S. must be at least 21 years old and not older than 45 years. However, some situations permit surrogates older than 45. Also, surrogates must have, at least, a child of their own after a successful pregnancy term. Additionally, there must be proof they have not experienced any complications during their previous pregnancies. The maximum number of deliveries an intending surrogate should have had is five. But surrogates should not have had more than three births via cesarean section.
Aspiring gestational surrogates must not have taken anti-depressants for at least 12 months. They must also be off anti-anxiety drugs and other related medications. Furthermore, there should be no new tattoos and piercings on any part of their body within the last 12 months.
- Psychosocial Requirements
Psychosocial requirements involve counseling and evaluation to test your preparedness for the task ahead. They measure your physical and mental readiness to become a gestational surrogate and see the program through to the end.
One of the considerations in the psychosocial requirements is how surrogacy affects your family and community. Surrogates must have a stable family. Furthermore, the family must be able and willing to support the cause. The family must also be in a friendly environment that will support the gestational carrier throughout the surrogate pregnancy.
Surrogacy could take up your time for up to a year or more. Therefore, it requires a lot of commitment. So surrogates must prove their readiness to attend medical appointments. They must also be available to meet with the intending parents when required. Furthermore, the extra stress involved in everyday routines requires an emotionally strong person to surpass.
In addition, hormonal changes and emotional stressors will set in during surrogacy. Therefore, it is important to go through emotional counseling to better prepare you for the task ahead. A professional surrogacy counselor will help you prepare for the expected challenges, raising your chance of success during the program.
- Screening and Testing
At this stage, a surrogate will provide medical records and results that prove they are free of certain diseases and infections. These include HIV and STIs like genital ulcerative lesions, herpes simplex, chancroid, and urethral discharge. There must also be no traces of syphilis. A person with these diseases and other infections may transfer them to the fetus.
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine and the Practice Committee for the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology recommend testing an intending surrogate within 30 days before the embryo transfer. The intending parents must also undergo the same tests to ensure they are free of infectious diseases.
Furthermore, the screening looks for evidence of drug use in the intended gestational carrier. It also looks for needle tracks that may be evidence of drug use. Recent piercings and tattoos without evidence of sterile techniques can lead to disqualification.
The surrogate mother will undergo tests for other conditions. These include oral thrush, smallpox, spots of Kaposi sarcoma, and lymphadenopathy. Jaundice, hepatomegaly, eczema, severely necrotic lesion, icterus, and generalized vesicular rash are also tested.
The screening and testing require the service of a qualified professional. The professional can recommend a gestational carrier after they have satisfied all medical conditions for the program.
- Legal Requirements
Firstly, you must note that there is no federal law on surrogacy. However, different states have various laws guiding the program. For instance, intending parents may still have to apply for adoption before getting the baby in some states. Some states would only require a declaration of parentage for the delivery.
Furthermore, some states do not permit compensated surrogacy. In such states, gestational carriers would only do so for altruistic reasons. So it would be best to familiarize yourself with the state laws on surrogacy before proceeding.
One important aspect of the legal requirements for surrogacy is to get a surrogacy attorney. The attorney works on all legal issues, from the mother’s needs to the parentage. The attorney also ensures that you meet your state’s legal requirements regarding surrogacy.
In addition, the lawyer must draw up a surrogacy contract with the intended parents. Such contracts should cover the gestational carrier’s needs throughout surrogacy. This will ensure that the surrogate mother is comfortable and address their preferences. After addressing the legal requirements, it is safe to proceed with the program. Meeting the legal requirements is useful in the case of a breach of the surrogacy contract. The contract can protect the surrogate mother or the intended parents according to state laws.
Criteria for Rejection of a Gestational Carrier
A few conditions can disqualify an intending gestational carrier even if they meet other requirements. Surrogacy is no easy endeavor, and everyone involved must take every precaution to achieve the goal. Therefore, everything counts, and any situation that jeopardizes the efforts must be addressed.
A gestational carrier can face rejection for the following reasons:
- Inability to Consent
Firstly, a gestational carrier must be able to consent to the program. Therefore, they must be in the right mind to do so. Any signs of cognitive and emotional inability to consent can lead to disqualification. Also, a mental health professional may determine someone as unfit after a psychological evaluation, even if they can consent.
- Evidence of Coercion
Financial or emotional coercion is another possible cause of disqualification. The gestational carrier must be willing to undergo surrogacy of their own accord. Therefore, they should not have to consent under duress.
- Lack of Altruistic Motives
A surrogate candidate will not qualify for the program if they do it mainly for personal gains. A gestational carrier should prove they are doing it for genuine love and interest. However, a surrogacy professional or lawyer may be able to eke out some benefits for the surrogacy candidates. This must be done within the legal limit according to state laws.
- Unresolved Personality Issues
Issues like addictions, depression, eating disorders, bipolar disorder, shock, child abuse, and sexual abuse, among others, can lead to disqualification. Intending gestational carriers must have resolved such issues before qualifying for surrogacy.
- Marital and Relationship Challenges
A surrogate mother requires a stable family. Therefore, problems with a spouse or other family challenges can affect their chance of qualifying. Also, the surrogate candidate’s spouse must be willing to give support throughout the surrogacy process. In addition, the surrogate must maintain a healthy and respectful relationship with the intended parents.
A surrogate mother must live a healthy lifestyle to qualify for surrogacy. A person living a chaotic lifestyle will not qualify for surrogacy. Additionally, the intending gestational carrier should not have major life stressors that can affect their health and that of the child.
- Inability to Let Go After Delivery
During the psychosocial screening, some individuals may indicate they are unwilling to let go of the child. Indications of such excessive emotional attachment after delivery can lead to disqualification.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can surrogate mothers have preferences for intended parents?
Surrogate mothers can have preferences and decide their criteria for intended parents. Usually, surrogacy agencies match you with your intended parents according to mutual goals and priorities. Your preferences might include race, ethnicity, personality, gender identification, and sexual orientation. You can also decide your preferred religion and relationship status. In addition, you can choose your desired location and the clinic of choice. Your preferences will determine the intended parents you match with.
2. Where can surrogacy candidates find intending parents?
You can find intending parents through various channels if you are interested in being a gestational carrier. There are agencies where surrogacy professionals can easily match you with intending parents. But if you do not want to go through a surrogacy agency, you can go independent.
As an independent surrogate, you may need to do more to find intending parents. But you can get them through personal connections, social networks, adverts, referrals, and surrogacy websites.
You can screen the intending parents yourself as an independent surrogate mother. The flexibility and control you enjoy let you choose those you consider the best fit. However, it would help if you involved a surrogacy specialist and surrogacy attorney.
3. Which U.S. states are surrogacy-friendly?
Surrogacy laws vary by state. Some states recognize people’s rights to surrogacy and have rules in favor of the program. Others have surrogacy as an offense or crime.
Some states that consider surrogate motherhood friendly include California, District of Columbia, Connecticut, Delaware, Nevada, Maine, New Hampshire, Oregon, Rhodes Island, and Washington D.C. On the other hand, Michigan, Louisiana, and New York are considered unfriendly for surrogacy. Although New York does not rule it out altogether, you must tread carefully to avoid legal issues.
4. How many times can a surrogate mother participate in the program?
A surrogate mother must have at least a successful birth and not have over five successful pregnancies. Therefore, you can be a surrogate for as long as possible within limits. All you need is to pass the screening each time you want to volunteer. Also, you must get the recommendations and approval of a medical professional each time you choose to bear a surrogate pregnancy.
Being a surrogate mother is a good cause, but it is not without its challenges. It takes a brave, physically strong, and emotionally ready person to choose to embark on a surrogacy journey. It equally requires a lot of commitment and sacrifice. However, not everyone willing to follow the path would qualify.
Gestational surrogate requirements are divided into various stages. These are basic qualifications, psychosocial requirements, screening and testing, and legal considerations. Each stage is not only to test you but also to counsel you for the task ahead. Among the things to consider before you can become a surrogate is how it will affect you and your family. Then you must be in the right physical and mental state to qualify for the task.
Some things that disqualify people are lifestyle choices, relationship challenges, medical issues, and the lack of support. But you can safely become a surrogate if you have all these and rightly consent to help the intended parents.