Choosing a Surrogate: Considerations for Gay Men

surrogate for gay men

One of the choices you will navigate during your biological family building journey will be choosing a surrogate. Here at Gay Parents To Be, all intended parents using surrogacy to grow their families are equipped with a team that includes a specific nurse, navigator, financial advocate, as well as Dr. Leondires. Together, this team will counsel you on your journey and will connect you with a vetted surrogacy agency - whose job is to locate, prescreen, and match parents with surrogates, along with a whole host of other legal and administrative tasks.

Despite the fact that you know you have the full support of this highly-qualified team behind you, it can still be difficult to consider your surrogate choice. What questions should you ask her? How do you know she’s truly qualified? What if you meet and you don’t get along? We’ve pulled together our top considerations and questions for dads-to-be to ask when choosing a surrogate.

Before We Get Started: What is a Surrogate?

You may have heard the term “surrogate” from the media, celebrities, and on the world wide web, but it is important to clarify some terms. In case you’re looking for more info, you can also check out our short glossary of family building terms here.

The most basic definition of the word “surrogate” in the context of assisted reproduction is a person who carries a pregnancy to term for another family. Over time, as medical terminology has grown and changed, the community has begun to also use the term “gestational carrier,” or gestational surrogate.

The term gestational carrier is a newer one, but it is essentially synonymous with “surrogate” and “gestational surrogate.” A gestational carrier is not genetically linked to the child that they carry - the intended parents create embryos with the help of an egg donor and an IVF laboratory.

In the past, some families were formed using “traditional surrogacy,” where the surrogate contributed both her eggs and also carried the pregnancy. However, due to the surrogate’s genetic link to the child, this process was legally complex and is now much less commonly practiced.

Your gestational carrier is one of the main players in your family building story. Alongside your egg donor, she will help you to bring your future child into the world. Many intended parents find their bond with their carrier is so strong, that they continue their relationship for long after the birth of their child.

Surrogacy is a two-way street, and is a relationship based on trust. Ideally, you will only be connected with a potential surrogate match after the potential carrier has been prescreened by both your surrogacy agency and your IVF clinic - they do their jobs so you don’t have to worry, and can focus on building the best relationship possible!

How are Surrogates Screened?

Intended fathers (dads to be) should be aware that gestational carriers/surrogates are screened on multiple levels. These tests are completed by a surrogacy agency and IVF clinic, and include:

  • Financial background checks
  • Psychological background checks
  • Criminal background checks
  • Psychological screening
  • Infectious disease screening
  • Preconception screening (to make sure she is prepared to be pregnant)
  • Medical history & personal health history screening

We evaluate the gestational carrier’s history of previous pregnancies to ensure that the likelihood of complications is minimized - the ideal surrogacy candidate has a history of easy pregnancies and deliveries with few complications. Finally, the health of the surrogate’s uterus is evaluated as well. These many factors determine whether or not an individual is a good match for you to attain your goal of building a family.

It is important to note that surrogate candidates who make their way through the screening process are usually people who enjoyed being pregnant, who want to help another family bring a child into the world, and who have the support of their partner or family. Oftentimes they are moms, social workers, teachers, nurses -- goodhearted people who choose to give back with the unbelievable gift of surrogacy. In the words of Nora Bolger, third party nurse here at Gay Parents To Be and RMA of Connecticut, “your surrogate isn’t just doing this for the money, and they don’t want to keep your baby.”

Once a surrogate has been cleared by the surrogacy agency and your medical practice, they will be placed into the matching process.

How do I match with a surrogate?

The “matching” process for surrogates is tailored for you and each potential surrogate. When you sign on with your surrogacy agency, they will ask you if you have specific criteria that you are looking for in a gestational carrier. This is an important step - if you prefer not to travel too far to see your surrogate or prefer that she eat (or not eat) certain foods, your agency needs to know up front. While these additional restrictions may mean that it takes a bit longer for you to “match,” they will help the surrogacy agency to provide you with surrogates who are appropriate.

If you like a surrogate (and they feel comfortable with you), your agency will most likely set up some time for you to connect face-to-face, whether that’s virtually over a video chat, or in person. If that first meeting goes well, you may proceed on to a more formal meeting facilitated by a social worker or counselor. Here at Gay Parents To Be, that meeting happens in our offices and includes your surrogate and her partner (if applicable).

This longer meeting is led by a counselor with experience working in assisted reproduction so they can help you ask important questions and allow all parties to feel heard. We’ve included some questions below that dads to be may want to consider. Yes, these are questions for you (or a licensed counselor) to ask a potential surrogate, but they are important for you and your partner to talk about as well! It’s a long road to surrogacy, so it’s good to know what’s up ahead.

What questions should I ask a potential surrogate?

  • What made you decide to become a surrogate?

  • How does your partner feel about you becoming a surrogate?

  • How do you envision communication before/during/after pregnancy?What is your communication style?

  • Are you open to..?

    • Taking supplements?

    • Certain medical procedures or protocols - or are there things that you are not open to?

      • Amniocentesis

      • Prenatal testing

      • Reduction or termination

Although some of these may be very uncomfortable topics to cover, it is important to speak about them with your gestational carrier before you complete a match. Although we hope that scenarios like this never happen, those decisions would not be made lightly, and would need to be made as a matter of safety for either your child or your surrogate.

    • Eating a specific diet? Eating all organic foods? Cutting out caffeine? Cutting out even foods that involve caffeine?

    • Travel restrictions? Exercise or heavy-duty chore restrictions? All special requests may incur additional costs for intended parents in order to accomodate any of the list items below:

      • Organic diet

      • Weekly cleaning service

      • Travel restriction notice in advance

All such requests would be discussed with your social worker before a contract is signed and would be built into your personalized plan for pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum relationship.

  • What is your work schedule? Do you have childcare?

    • How would this be affected by regular doctor’s appointments?

Your surrogate will have her own children (remember, one of the prerequisites for becoming a gestational carrier is that you’ve had a successful pregnancy, with few complications), and childcare fees during scheduled doctor’s appointments will most likely be built into your contract. However, if your surrogate had to go on bedrest, how would she and her family navigate that situation? What will they do during labor and delivery, as well as the weeks postpartum?

  • Are you willing to pump and provide us with breast milk?

    • Post-labor colostrum

    • Breast milk for the weeks/months postpartum

If breastfeeding is important to you, it is an important conversation to have with your surrogate. There is, of course, compensation expected for the time and effort included with pumping - especially if your surrogate does not live in your local area. This is an important figure to include in your surrogacy budget, if you feel strongly about breastfeeding.

  • What do your kids think about surrogacy?

    • While surrogacy can be easier for “big kids” to understand than little ones, oftentimes surrogates report that their children are excited that their mom is growing another baby in her tummy, and helping another family have a child.

What if I want to have more than one child through surrogacy?

While it is easy to get excited about the entire future of your family, try to focus on each surrogacy journey as a special bond that you get to form with your carrier, your future child, and even your carrier’s family! Your relationship will likely outlast the 9 months that she is pregnant - many gestational carriers continue to stay in contact with intended parents after the birth of a child.

Your relationship may take the form of pictures exchanged, holiday cards, birthday gifts, or phone calls from time to time. Some carriers and their families even go on vacations with their intended parents! You will build this relationship together over time, and it can take many forms.

If you are truly set on using the same gestational carrier for multiple surrogacy journeys, this is an important criteria to indicate to your surrogacy agency. Many agencies and IVF clinics will limit the number of pregnancies/deliveries they will allow a carrier to have (usually 6) for her safety. If you hope to complete multiple journeys with the same carrier, your agency should look to match you a surrogate whose medical history will allow this -- and doing so may increase your match time.

It’s also important to know that many women make the decision to be a repeat surrogate after delivery and seeing the intended parents with their newborn for the first time. Being a repeat surrogate is a personal decision - some women may feel that one journey is perfect, while others may enjoy being pregnant and want to give that gift a second or third time.

What’s the next step to matching with a surrogate?

If everything goes well and you and your potential carrier are on the same page, the next step would be for your surrogacy agency or legal team to draw up your contracts and all the necessary paperwork. You’re well on your way to building your family!


If you’re still considering a surrogacy journey but are wondering about the different steps in the process, read more about egg donor testing and choosing your egg donor here.

Learn More about Egg Donors



 

Emma Lott

Emma Lott

As the Brand Specialist, Emma is the marketing lead for Gay Parents To Be, helping to build awareness of the brand not only as a direct path to parenthood, but also as a general resource for fertility information in the LGBTQ community. She loves the chance to attend conferences on LGBTQ health and family building, and meet prospective patients.

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