Last Updated on 10/2/23
Surrogacy is a rewarding experience where a surrogate mother carries a baby on behalf of intended parents who may not have other means to have a child. If you’re considering becoming a surrogate mother, you’re likely filled with questions, including whether you qualify for surrogacy.
Surrogacy agencies will often have their own requirements for surrogate mothers. These standards are designed to safeguard the health and well-being of the surrogate, as well as the child and the intended parents. At Joy of Life, our surrogacy qualifications include that surrogate mothers be U.S. citizens or permanent residents between the ages of 21 to 38, among other requirements.
While individual surrogacy agencies like ours have their own unique sets of requirements, this guide will outline some of the general surrogate requirements and qualifications you may encounter throughout the industry when applying to be a surrogate mother.
General Requirements To Be a Surrogate
- Be between 21 and 40 years of age.
- Have given birth to at least one healthy child of your own, with no history of complications in prior pregnancies.
- Have a healthy BMI.
- Pass physical and psychological health evaluations.
- Abstain from drug, tobacco and alcohol use while pregnant.
- Be financially stable.
- Have a stable support system.
- Be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
- Reside in a state where surrogacy is legal.
- Sign a contract outlining responsibilities, compensation and other terms of the surrogacy.
If you’re ready to become a surrogate, apply with Joy of Life today.
Health Requirements To Be a Surrogate
Be Between 21 and 40 Years of Age
Most agencies and medical professionals set the age requirement between 21 and 40 years. This age bracket seeks to maximize the likelihood of a healthy pregnancy for both the surrogate and the baby. The lower age limit ensures that the surrogate is legally an adult capable of giving informed consent. The upper limit aims to minimize health risks during pregnancy that become more common as we age, such as gestational diabetes or preeclampsia.
Have Already Carried a Pregnancy to Term
Pregnancy goes beyond physical changes; it’s an emotional roller coaster that needs resilience and understanding. When a surrogate has already carried a pregnancy to term, they’ll likely be better prepared for the physical and psychological challenges ahead. They will also have a clear idea about what to expect in terms of medical appointments, bodily changes and labor. A surrogate with a history of healthy pregnancies also offers the intended parents considerable peace of mind that their baby will be safe and healthy.
Maintain a Healthy BMI
Body Mass Index (BMI) is a screening tool that healthcare providers use to assess weight-related health risks. While the exact BMI requirements can vary between agencies, maintaining a healthy weight is a standard requirement for surrogacy candidates.
A high BMI (typically higher than 30) is associated with a higher risk of complications such as gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and the need for Cesarean sections. On the flip side, a low BMI (typically less than 18.5) can lead to other issues, including low birth weight and preterm birth.
Pass a Complete Medical Evaluation
Before you can become a surrogate, a medical care provider will need to review your full medical history to evaluate your readiness for surrogacy, including:
- Past pregnancies and their outcomes
- Gynecological history
- Previous surgeries
- Chronic illnesses or conditions
- Family history of medical issues
You will likely need to undergo fertility testing as part of your medical evaluation. These tests may include an ovarian reserve test to assess egg quality and quantity, hormone level checks and a uterine exam to ensure your reproductive system is healthy.
Finally, a mental health screening is usually required to determine whether a potential surrogate is psychologically ready for surrogacy. This usually consists of an interview with a psychologist, who will ask about your motivations for becoming a surrogate, your mental health history and how you plan to approach any challenges and important decisions you’ll face during your surrogacy journey.
Lifestyle Requirements To Be a Surrogate
Abstain from Tobacco, Alcohol and Substance Abuse
Smoking and substance abuse are two factors that can significantly jeopardize the health of a pregnancy. Smoking can lead to complications such as preterm birth, low birth weight and respiratory issues in the newborn. For this reason, surrogacy agencies generally require candidates to be non-smokers.
The use of illicit drugs is another serious concern, as it can result in various complications ranging from neonatal abstinence syndrome — a withdrawal condition in newborns — to congenital disabilities and developmental issues. To limit these risks, surrogates are typically required to pass drug screenings and commit to living drug-free both before and during the pregnancy.
In addition, surrogates must abstain from alcohol throughout the pregnancy to ensure the best possible health outcomes for the child.
Demonstrate Financially Stability
Pregnancy inherently comes with its own set of stressors, and financial instability can exacerbate this stress, potentially leading to complications. Surrogacy is a long-term commitment, often extending over a year when factoring in preparations and postpartum recovery. A stable financial situation outside of your surrogate compensation allows you to fully commit to this timeframe without disruptions.
Have a Strong Support Systems at Home and Beyond
A supportive home environment is essential for a successful surrogacy journey. Emotional backing from family and friends can be invaluable, given the emotional complexities of surrogacy. Physical assistance at home can also be important during pregnancy, from having help getting to and from medical appointments to managing daily chores.
A stable home positively impacts mental health, benefiting both the surrogate and the baby. Outside the home, additional layers of support can be crucial. Online forums and specialized surrogacy groups provide a space for peer advice and shared experiences. Surrogacy agencies like Joy of Life® often offer counseling services and community-building events designed to foster supportive connections between former and current surrogates.
Legal Requirements To Be a Surrogate
Be a U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident
To participate in a surrogacy arrangement, you must either be a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident. This helps avoid potential legal complications that could arise if the surrogate is not legally allowed to be in the United States for an extended period.
Live in a Surrogacy-Friendly State
Not all states have favorable laws regarding surrogacy. Residing in a state where surrogacy is legally permitted is crucial to ensuring the process can proceed without any legal hindrances. State laws can vary, affecting parental rights and contract enforceability, so it’s essential to understand the legal landscape of your particular state.
Below is a map of U.S. states where surrogacy is permitted, regulated or prohibited. At Joy of Life®, we work with surrogates nationwide in states labeled ‘permitted’ or ‘proceed with caution.’
Sign a Legal Contract and Have Counsel
Entering into a surrogacy arrangement isn’t just an emotional or medical commitment; it’s also a legal one. Both parties must sign a comprehensive legal contract outlining various terms, including:
- Responsibilities of the surrogate: This outlines what is expected of you throughout the pregnancy.
- Compensation: This section details any financial arrangements, including compensation and reimbursement for medical expenses.
- Health and well-being of the baby: This includes provisions that safeguard the health of the unborn child, like prenatal care.
Legal counsel is highly recommended for all parties involved to ensure everyone is fully aware of their obligations and rights, reducing the risk of misunderstandings or disputes down the line. Most surrogacy agencies will provide legal counsel to surrogates free of charge.
Related Surrogate Mother FAQs
Can I become a surrogate if I’ve had trouble getting pregnant?
While facing fertility challenges doesn’t automatically disqualify you from surrogacy, it does depend on the nature of the issue. If your struggles are not related to your overall health or the condition of your uterus, you may still be a suitable candidate for surrogacy. However, if you’ve experienced multiple pregnancy losses or had severe pregnancy complications, you are not likely to be approved as a surrogate..
Can I be a surrogate if I’ve had a miscarriage in the past?
Having a previous miscarriage doesn’t necessarily exclude you from becoming a surrogate. The causes of miscarriages vary, and many don’t affect subsequent pregnancies. If your miscarriage wasn’t due to a persistent health problem or uterine issues and you’ve had other healthy, full-term pregnancies, you might still be eligible for surrogacy.
Can I be a surrogate if I’ve previously had a high-risk pregnancy?
While a prior high-risk pregnancy doesn’t automatically exclude you from surrogacy, it does require careful evaluation. Issues from past pregnancies, such as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, or elevated blood pressure, could influence your suitability.
Can I be a surrogate if I’ve had a C-section before?
A prior C-section doesn’t necessarily prevent you from being a surrogate. Many surrogates have had C-section deliveries and gone on to have successful surrogacy experiences. That said, for safety reasons, physicians often prefer that surrogates have had two or fewer C-sections.
Can I be a surrogate if I’ve had my tubes tied?
Yes, you can! Having your tubes tied, or undergoing a tubal ligation, doesn’t impact your potential to be a surrogate. Surrogacy uses in-vitro fertilization (IVF), where the embryo is developed outside the body and then implanted into your uterus. So, a previous tubal ligation won’t hinder your surrogacy journey.
Can I be a surrogate if I’ve had an abortion in the past?
A past abortion doesn’t automatically rule out the possibility of becoming a surrogate. What’s crucial is the overall health and condition of your uterus. So long as the abortion didn’t cause any long-term effects on your uterine lining, you may still qualify as a surrogate.
Can I be a surrogate regardless of my relationship status?
Absolutely! Whether you’re married, in a relationship or single, you can become a surrogate. However, it’s important to inform your surrogacy team about your current relationship status, as it can influence specific aspects of the surrogacy contracts and legal procedures.
Are You Ready To Become a Surrogate?
Becoming a surrogate is a significant decision that requires careful consideration and preparation. It’s a commitment that requires specific criteria to ensure the well-being of all parties involved. If you’ve read this far, you’re likely serious about embarking on a surrogacy journey. You have the opportunity to bring immense joy and completeness to a family by offering them the chance to welcome a new baby into the world.
As always, you can contact the Joy of Life® team for more information and answers to any of your questions!
*The information on this page was written or reviewed for accuracy by Joy Millan, Founder and CEO of Joy of Life Surrogacy. Learn more about Joy and the team!