Working with a gestational carrier, also called a surrogate, involves an arrangement in which a woman carries and gives birth to a child for another couple or individual.
Because this family-building option is expensive, would-be parents should aim to save early, tap the correct financial accounts and find ways to trim costs.
Here’s what to know about the cost of a gestational surrogate, and how to make it more affordable.
What Is a Surrogate?
A gestational carrier, or surrogate, is a woman who carries and delivers a child for another couple or individual. She may be a friend, family member or a new acquaintance, located through an agency or independently.
The embryo the surrogate carries isn’t related to her genetically. Instead, it is implanted through a fertility procedure called in vitro fertilization, and may come from the mother who hires her or an egg donor.
More broadly, “surrogates are unicorns,” says Dr. Mark Leondires, medical director for Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut and founder of Gay Parents To Be, a family-building resource for LGBTQ single people and couples. “They want to help someone else have a family.”
How Much Does Surrogacy Cost?
The cost to use a surrogate ranges from $100,000 to $150,000, Leondires says.
Yes, that’s a six-figure price tag.
And that amount can swell to $300,000 or more if initial attempts at fertilization are unsuccessful or the parents decide to finance multiple pregnancies.
With surrogacy, you’ll be paying the expenses of IVF, plus fees for the gestational carrier’s time and services, legal fees and potential agency fees, says Arielle Spiegel, founder of CoFertility, an online platform aimed at uncomplicating the fertility treatment process with resources, tools and content.
Here are some typical surrogacy costs that aspiring parents should anticipate:
- Agency fees.
- Surrogate fee.
- Medical fees.
- Insurance costs.
- Legal fees.
- Miscellaneous expenses.
Read on for more about each cost.
Agency fees. Fertility clinics do not find surrogates, Leondires says. Instead, would-be parents may find a carrier through a personal connection or an agency. These organizations have a network of surrogates who have met certain requirements. A retainer of $15,000 to $30,000 may be required to begin work through an agency, Leondires says.
Surrogate fee. Working with a gestational carrier can be pricey. You’re asking a woman to undergo medical procedures, pregnancy, labor and delivery to help grow your family. The compensation for the surrogate may be $30,000 to $50,000, Leondires says.
Medical fees. The medical procedures involved in surrogacy are intense. They can include medical screenings, IVF procedures, pregnancy checkups, labor and delivery fees. Surrogates will undergo medical screenings, bloodwork, hormone injections and a battery of other tests and procedures. IVF alone can run $8,000 to $30,000, Spiegel says.
Using donor egg or donor sperm can continue to inflate those costs. Your insurance may cover your own costs, such as egg retrieval, but opt not to cover the surrogate.
It’s important to anticipate these fees and research what your health insurance will cover.
Insurance costs. Health insurance for the gestational surrogate is a potential added expense. “Most surrogates’ private insurance does not cover the surrogacy pregnancy,” Leondires says. An additional health insurance plan may be found on the private market or via the options made available by the Affordable Care Act.
Legal fees. Surrogacy is a complex legal process. Laws vary among states, with some not recognizing surrogacy contracts. It’s important to get the legal paperwork done correctly to ensure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to how the pregnancy will progress, especially if unexpected complications arise.
These fees may run $15,000 to $20,000 Leondires says.
Miscellaneous expenses. There are a host of other expenses to anticipate.
One example is travel for the surrogate or the hopeful parents. “I’ve seen a lot of costs associated with traveling,” says Mariam Adams, a Merrill Lynch Wealth Management advisor in New York City who has extensive experience working with LGBTQ clients. Those costs can add up if the gestational carrier lives far away. Others fees may include pregnancy clothing, lost wages, payment for breast milk and counseling fees.
How to Pay for Gestational Surrogacy
Most people don’t have $100,000 sitting in a bank account. But there are some strategies hopeful parents can use to find funds.
Employee benefits and health insurance. It isn’t terribly common, but your employer may have a surrogacy benefit. Corporate benefits are “certainly the first place where everyone should be looking,” Adams says. For example, Bank of America offers a maximum $20,000 family-planning benefit that can be used for processes such as surrogacy.
Keep track of what your health insurance covers as well. While it may not cover the surrogate’s pregnancy, it may cover procedures the aspiring parents undergo.
Personal savings. If you have cash accessible in a savings account or dedicated investment account, that’s a great place to take funds.
Whether those funds are available may depend on the reason you’re considering surrogacy. For example, LGBTQ individuals and couples who want to start a family may have known for years that gestational surrogacy was a likely pathway and started saving early in a diversified investment account, Adams says. They may be in a great position to start tapping savings.
On the other hand, a couple who’s already spent tens of thousands on intrauterine insemination and IVF without success and is coming to surrogacy without years of planning behind them may be less likely to have this option.
Home equity. If you own your home, consider borrowing against it via a home equity line of credit. It may be especially valuable if you’re in a capital-appreciation environment, such as New York City, Adams says.
Retirement accounts. You may opt to borrow money from a company 401(k), Adams says. One major drawback is that it will set back your retirement savings. “It’s not my favorite place,” Adams says. But she likes that you’re required to pay it back out of your monthly paycheck, hopefully replacing the borrowed funds promptly.
Family and friends. Consider asking parents, family and friends for assistance in funding your surrogacy. You may also try a site such as GoFundMe or a fundraiser instead of, say, a baby shower or a wedding reception, Adams says. When pandemic restrictions lift, perhaps friends can pitch in their services and skills to create an event that encourages people to donate to your future family.
Grants. You may find grants available for surrogacy costs, depending on your need and story. CoFertility has a database with grant resources to explore.
Debt. While it’s not ideal, many would-be parents may find that they have to put some of these expenses on a credit card or take on a personal loan. Whenever possible, avoid high-interest debt, and think carefully about your ability to repay.
Tips for Reducing the Cost of Surrogacy
Using a gestational carrier is typically a pricey endeavor, but experts recommend cutting back wherever you can. Finding a surrogate nearby to avoid travel costs can help. Saving early will reduce the cost of interest and borrowing fees. Of course, finding a friend or relative willing to carry a child can result in large cost-savings, although this option is not available to everyone.
Work with your insurance provider, fertility specialists, financial advisor and personal network to find ways to chip away at these costs. “If it’s something that you really want, there’s no shame in any approach,” Spiegel says. “Be creative and resourceful.”
Copyright 2020 U.S. News & World Report