Skip to main content

Are you planning on becoming a surrogate in California? You’ve come to the right place to learn.

Not all heroes wear capes. Indeed, surrogate mothers are some of life’s greatest heroines.

Surrogacy is a practice that allows a woman to voluntarily carry a baby for an individual or couple that cannot conceive or would like to grow their family. Surrogates are generously compensated and can receive perks as well.

In this guide, we’ll discuss what you should know about the surrogacy process as well as tips for becoming a surrogate in California.

Is Surrogacy Right for You?

Surrogacy is more than just a nine-month commitment. It’s a journey that will encompass every aspect of who you are. For this reason, it is important to read everything you need to know about the surrogacy process including the legal side of surrogacy. Surrogacy experts such as the team at Joy of Life® can answer any questions you may have.

As a surrogate, every aspect of your life will be laid bare – medical history, psychological state, sexual health, criminal record, and financial status. This information is pertinent as it helps to screen potential surrogates so that only women in good health, who are mentally stable and have the right support system get to proceed.

These surrogacy requirements are set in place because of the complex nature of surrogacy. It is done to protect everyone involved in the case.

Which Type of Surrogate Will You Be? Traditional vs. Gestational

There are two main types of surrogacy you can do in California: traditional and gestational.

Traditional Surrogacy

Traditional surrogacy, also known as “genetic surrogacy,” “partial surrogacy,” or “straight surrogacy,” uses artificial insemination with the sperm of a donor or the intended father and the surrogate’s egg to produce the baby. As a traditional surrogate, you would have a genetic link to the child as the child’s biological mother. Therefore, the traditional surrogacy process will involve additional legal procedures where you, as the surrogate mother, renounce your parental rights, while the intended parents also file for custody of the child as stepparents.

Gestational Surrogacy

Gestational surrogacy, sometimes called “host surrogacy” or “full surrogacy,” uses in-vitro fertilization (IVF) to create the embryo using the sperm and eggs of the intended parents or donors. As a gestational surrogate, you will not be genetically related to the child.

Why is Gestational Surrogacy Usually Preferred?

Today in California, the preferred form of surrogacy is gestational surrogacy. Because the surrogate is not genetically related to the child, gestational surrogacy is less complex biologically, emotionally, and legally than traditional surrogacy.

However, there are instances where traditional surrogacy may be an option. This is true in the case of same-sex male couples and single fathers who require an egg from a donor and therefore don’t mind the surrogate being the biological mother. (Having the surrogate donate her own eggs eliminates the cost involved with securing an egg.) Same-sex women who do not have healthy eggs of their own may also opt for traditional surrogacy. In all these scenarios, traditional surrogacy can be a great option if the intended parent(s) already know the surrogate or have a close personal relationship with her.

Both gestational and traditional surrogacy are legal and well-regulated options in California. At Joy of Life®, we focus on gestational surrogacy. Please visit our FAQs for more information!

General Requirements for California Surrogates

Becoming a surrogate mother in California requires you to be in good physical and emotional health. Every woman thinking of becoming a surrogate mother in California must undergo psychological testing. This is to ascertain and identify any personality disorders or psychological conditions the potential surrogate may have. Part of the health requirements of surrogacy also state that applicants should ideally have a BMI between 19 – 33, or generally under 30.

In addition, potential surrogates should have had at least one biological child of their own and preferably finished having their own children. Surrogates should not be abusers of illicit drugs and should lead a stable lifestyle. In terms of age requirements, the general age range for surrogates in California is between 21 – 38 years old.

Different surrogacy agencies in California may have their own requirements for surrogates. Feel free to review our requirements at Joy of Life if you plan to apply to be a surrogate with us.

Legal Requirements for Becoming a Surrogate in California, And Why It’s One of the Best States!

California is one of the best states to enter into a surrogacy arrangement. There are no federal laws that govern the surrogacy process. However, each state has its own regulations. California has by far the most advanced surrogacy laws in place that protect all the parties involved – intended parents, surrogate mother, child, and egg donor, where applicable.

Unlike some states where surrogacy is illegal and may even attract penalties and fines, women thinking of becoming a surrogate mother in California have little to worry about. In states such as Louisiana, for example, surrogacy is limited to heterosexual couples who are legally married. Thankfully, California’s surrogacy laws are more inclusive and allow people of any sexual orientation, marital status, and gender, as well as people with or without a genetic link to the child, to become a parent. Parents will continue to enjoy legal protection under California laws even if they decide to move to another state.

In California, explicit laws exist under the Uniform Parentage Act that allow people of all orientations to apply for surrogacy arrangements. Intended parents will also be able to obtain a pre-birth order that automatically acknowledges them as the legal parents of the child.

As a surrogate mother in California, you will also have specific rights that your surrogate agency will inform you about.

What to Know about Surrogacy Contracts

There are contracts for surrogates to sign prior to starting any medical treatments, and contracts to be signed after the birth. As part of the surrogacy arrangement in California, both sides, surrogate and intended parents, will be required to consult with an attorney specialized in traditional surrogacy law who will help draft the surrogacy arrangement, discuss the legal requirements of surrogacy, and review all contracts.

The contracts required to get started will detail the surrogacy plan of both parties, including what the agreed-upon terms and conditions are, protocols of what to do should the surrogate develop pregnancy complications, as well as other key issues, such as detailing the birth plan.

The contracts after the child’s birth involve the surrogate relinquishing her parental rights. This contract also gives full custody to the intended parents.

If You’re Married, Can You Still Be a Surrogate in California?

Yes! But pursuing surrogacy when married is the type of decision you need to first sit down with your partner and have an honest conversation about, because surrogacy could alter the dynamics of your home life and your relationship. Surrogacy professionals encourage potential surrogates to embrace the surrogacy journey with their immediate family, as having their support is important for a healthy and successful pregnancy.

One of the biggest obstacles to surrogacy, when one is married, is a misconception of how the child is conceived. Your partner will be relieved to know that no intimacy is required between the surrogate mother and the donor of the sperm.

In addition to the misconceptions, couples will have to discuss the emotional and psychological turmoil that comes with surrogacy. For example, some men struggle with having sexual intercourse knowing their wives are with a child – a child that is not theirs. Surrogacy specialists will not pursue surrogacy if the spouse isn’t on board.

Surrogacy agencies require a potential surrogate mother to have a solid support system. And this is often times the immediate family. Another reason surrogacy agencies require a willing partner is because the spouse also has to undergo psychological assessment alongside the surrogate, so your spouse’s support is vital.

How does one begin the conversation about surrogacy with their spouse? Well, before you even broach the topic with them, you must do as much research on the subject matter as possible and find answers to the questions your partner is likely to raise.

How to Be a Surrogate When You Already Have Children

If you have children, be as open as you can with them about what you are about to do as a surrogate mother. Depending on their ages, the conversation might be easier to have or require a little bit more preparation. You do not have to go into too much depth with the younger children, but do emphasize key points such as the importance of this pregnancy for the intended parents (so they realize there won’t be a baby coming home when mommy delivers).

Children are naturally inquisitive. Don’t deflect their questions. You can have the conversation about mommy being pregnant at the onset of your medical treatment or when the pregnancy begins to show. For the older children, it may even be a good idea to have the discussion before the pregnancy because family dynamics may change. You will need more help around the house, and having the children cooperate and assist with additional chores will be beneficial for you.

Do You Need a Surrogacy Agency in California?

Working with a surrogacy agency is not a requirement in California, but it is recommended that surrogates work with a reputable agency because of the complexities surrounding the surrogacy process. A surrogacy agency can use their expertise, experience, and connections to help you throughout the surrogacy journey. When choosing a California surrogacy agency, look at their track record, success rate, level of involvement, and the help they provide to surrogates.

At Joy of Life®, for example, our surrogacy agency in Southern California offers generous compensation, other perks, as well as have events for our surrogates. In addition, many of us are former surrogates or intended parents ourselves, so we understand what you’re going through and our community can support you!

How to Find the Right Parents as a Surrogate Mother

Whether you’re thinking of becoming a surrogate for a friend or for intended parents you’ve never met, what’s clear from the get-go is that you must be comfortable with the parents and can communicate well with each other. Surrogacy can last anywhere from nine to 12 months. As a result, finding intended parents that you can relate with and who understands your concerns will be of great help.

Fortunately, this isn’t something you have to do alone as a surrogate. With the help of your surrogacy agency, you will be able to find a good match. Surrogacy agencies like ours have profiles of intended parents who are looking to pair with surrogates, so we can help you find a match.

If you’re planning on carrying a child for a friend, it’s still recommended that you approach a surrogacy agency to help you figure out the legal and medical side of the process.

Challenges to Expect & Building Your Support System

Your surrogacy experience will be one that is both emotional and demanding. Combined with hormone therapy and general morning sickness, it may prove to be quite a taxing time indeed.

There is no denying the fact that surrogacy is an emotionally complex event for all involved. Moments that will be emotionally difficult for your spouse include the time when you are taking fertility medication ahead of the embryo transfer where you must abstain from sexual intercourse. Another challenge will present itself in decreased libido on the surrogate mother’s part. If your partner is a man, they have to contend with this and the idea that you are carrying someone else’s baby.

Pregnancy also comes with risks. You must understand your loved ones’ fears, concerns, and the sacrifices they are making on your behalf as you pursue this altruistic gesture.

Thankfully, you don’t have to go through this alone. Before you start on your surrogacy journey, it would be a good idea to identify people in your network of friends and family whom you can count on.

Pregnancy brings with it an array of feelings and receiving emotional support from others that can help ease the difficulties encountered on the journey. They can help you by simply offering a listening ear, running your grocery errands, taking you out for a spa day or lunch, or simply doing some house chores on your behalf. It doesn’t hurt to have someone to drive you to and from appointments either!

Taking Care of Yourself During the Surrogacy Process

The first few months of your pregnancy can be difficult. With hormone therapy, supplements, and regular checkups it can all take a toll on you physically and emotionally. It’s not unusual to not feel your absolute best with some women having mild to severe morning sickness. It’s therefore very important to take care of yourself.

Being pregnant and emotional is normal. However, you can reduce the discomfort by adopting a healthy pregnancy diet and making sure that you’re getting enough exercise. This may also assist in regulating hormones and balance your emotional state, making you feel better. Interestingly a good diet, getting enough sleep, and some form of exercise can also help to reduce the chances of developing postpartum depression.

Preparing to Let Go of the Child At the End

There is no denying the fact that giving the baby away is one of the hardest stages of the entire surrogacy process.

In traditional surrogacy, the surrogate’s own egg is fertilized with either the intended parent’s sperm or that of a donor in a laboratory. The biological link to the child can lead to sentimental attachments that can make letting go much harder. In a case from 1986, a traditional surrogate, Mary Beth Whitehead, refused to cede custody of Melissa Stern, the baby she had carried. This revealed the emotional turmoil and difficulties surrogates may sometimes face when it’s time to hand over the child.

With gestational surrogacy, none of the surrogate’s eggs are used to make the embryo that’s implanted into the surrogate’s womb via IVF. This is the preferred option that’s encouraged by surrogacy agencies across the board. That said, the surrogacy process can still be an emotional journey for gestational surrogates as well. This is why counseling and emotional support are important pillars for the surrogate as you prepare for the emotionally taxing task of giving up the child you’ve carried.

While you’re cognizant of the fact that, as a surrogate mother, you’ve played an important role and brought joy to the intended parents, it is still a process to resolve your emotions and feelings after the journey. Postpartum depression can be common with surrogate mothers, but with the support of a good counselor and family, many women emerge out of this shell and resume their lives.

Looking for a Surrogacy Agency in California? Contact Joy of Life!

Here at Joy of Life® Surrogacy, we walk with you on your surrogacy journey. As both former intended parents and surrogates, we understand how you feel before, during, and after your surrogacy journey. As one of the premier surrogacy agencies in Southern California, we have received glowing testimonials from past surrogate mothers, and we’ll be there for you too!

If you’re interested in becoming a surrogate in California, apply with Joy of Life® today!

Joy Millan

Author Joy Millan

I’m Joy, the founder and CEO of Joy of Life. With a professional background as a fertility clinician, I’ve spent thousands of hours working with surrogates and intended parents alike. As a mother of two, I often wished for more support and a deeper commitment to care for those embarking on non-traditional family-building journeys. This is why I established Joy of Life: to create a more robust, compassionate experience in parenthood for both parties involved with surrogacy. In 2021, I stepped back from daily operations at Joy of Life to fight cancer. Fortunately, the combined 20 years of experience from our incredible team has allowed me to focus on my health & recovery. I continue to provide company guidance and serve as the head liaison for our network of doctors, clinicians and caregivers.

More posts by Joy Millan