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Why is Surrogacy for Same-Sex Couples So Expensive?

September 8th, 2021 | 9 min. read

By Emma Lott


Surrogacy allows those in a same-sex relationship to do something that wasn’t possible 40 years ago – have their own children. You've likely already explored the surrogacy process, and now you’ve ended up here, trying to determine why the surrogacy process costs so much. 

Finding a way to meet the steep financial commitment of surrogacy can seem daunting. That’s where we come in! From decoding the various costs involved to finding ways to lower your surrogacy expenses, we’ll guide you through the ins and outs of surrogacy fees.

What Can I Expect from a Surrogacy Journey?

You’ve made (or almost made) the big decision to use a surrogate — more widely known as a gestational carrier. Now what?

First, you’ll have to decide between the two types of surrogacy:

  • Traditional Surrogacy – the surrogate is also the egg donor, meaning she’s genetically linked to the child. Legally, it’s very complicated, which is why this method is rarely used, and not supported by most fertility clinics. 
  • Gestational Surrogacy – the gestational carrier is inseminated via IVF using donor eggs fertilized by sperm from one of the intended parents or a sperm donor.

Next, you’ll choose whether you’d like to go it alone by finding your own gestational carrier and organizing the IVF, medical tests, counselors, and legal fees. Financially, this can sometimes be a cheaper alternative, but it can also be very emotionally and physically taxing.

Your other option is to choose a surrogacy agency, which is basically a one-stop shop for all your surrogacy needs. With so many moving parts and people involved in a surrogacy journey, most intended parents find it easier to outsource the managerial and organizational grunt work to an agency. 

Wondering what to look for in an agency?

How to Choose a Surrogacy Agency

How Much Does Surrogacy Cost?

The average cost of surrogacy in the US is about $140,000. We know that number likely seems daunting, but take a deep breath and let's explore where all of that money goes. 

Each of the costs involved with a surrogacy journey (i.e. IVF treatment, gestational carrier supplementation, and legal fees) vary by clinic, location, and situation, so there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to the financial aspects of surrogacy. You can find cheaper alternatives, mainly outside of the United States, but these come with risks you’ll learn more about below.

Why Does Surrogacy Cost So Much?

Surrogacy is made up of many important parts. In addition to paying for IVF (either out of pocket or with some help from insurance) you’ll be responsible for other essential surrogacy costs outlined in the chart.

Before you balk at the idea of financing so many factors remember: these are all valuable pieces of the fertility puzzle, and are important in helping ensure you have a smooth (and healthy) surrogacy journey. If you choose to go with a surrogacy agency, many of these fees may be included.

What’s Included in the Cost of Surrogacy?

While each family's situation is unique, here is a list of the most common costs you'll have to plan for as intended parents embarking on a surrogacy journey, and what's typically included in that big $140,000 number. 

  • IVF clinic
  • Egg (or sperm) donor compensation
  • Gestational carrier compensation
  • Surrogacy agency fees
  • Legal fees (both for you and the gestational carrier)
  • Medications for your egg donor and gestational carrier
  • Travel costs for intended parents and gestational carrier
  • Pregnancy expenses (i.e. maternity clothes, prenatal vitamins, etc.)
  • Health insurance for gestational carrier

Why Do I Need Both an IVF Clinic and a Surrogacy Agency?

A surrogacy agency removes much stress from the surrogacy process. They do not, however, perform IVF treatment with you and your gestational carrier.

An agency is responsible for screening gestational carriers, determining their (and the intended parents’) mental, physical and emotional readiness, coordinating services with the fertility clinic, and organizing counseling, travel and legal details.

The actual medical and laboratory procedures, as well as medical and genetic screening and specimen (egg, sperm, and embryo) storage, are conducted at a fertility center, or IVF clinic.

How Much Does IVF Cost?

As with all things fertility-related, the cost of IVF varies per case. The final price will depend on certain factors such as your location (country and state), employer benefits, and insurance coverage. In general, though, an intended parent can expect to pay between $25,000 and $45,000 for the IVF associated with a surrogacy journey.

There are many variables to these costs, including whether you opt-in to a guarantee plan with your clinic, so this number will be specific to your individual preferences and circumstances. 

Can I Pursue a Surrogacy Journey Without Using an Agency?

The short answer is yes – although much more of your time will go into coordinating screenings, the tremendous legal legwork, and the many other moving parts of a surrogacy journey. It is also important to note that many fertility centers will only work with intended parents who use a surrogacy agency– that’s how much an agency contributes to the process!

There are a few pros to pursuing surrogacy without the help of an agency:
  • Saving money by skipping agency fees.
  • If you have a family member or friend who is willing to act as a compassionate surrogate (someone who is not officially compensated), you can eliminate gestational carrier compensation.
  • Having more personal one-on-one contact with your gestational carrier.
However, the cons associated with going it alone typically outweigh the pros:
  • Being responsible for planning and organizing the entire surrogacy journey from start to finish.
  • Finding an egg donor and potentially coordinating their medical screening.
  • Finding and screening a gestational carrier to ensure she’s a good match, which can be difficult and time-consuming. You may also incur advertising and other costs related to your search.
  • Finding and hiring an attorney for yourself, your partner, and your gestational carrier to ensure legal contracts and parentage documents are in place to protect all parties involved (including your future child).
  • Finding a counselor for you, your partner, and your gestational carrier.
  • Finding a fertility clinic and coordinating all appointments on your own.
  • Certain IVF clinics will only work with intended parents who are using a surrogacy agency – simply because there is too much responsibility on the clinic, and your physician wants to make sure all your legal rights are protected.

As you can see, there are lots of factors to consider when deciding whether or not you will choose to utilize the help of a surrogacy agency or try to do it all on your own, and this is a big decision that merits careful consideration. 

Learn more about the surrogacy process:

6 Common Questions About Surrogacy

How Do I Choose a Surrogacy Agency?

Choosing a surrogacy agency is a decision that shouldn’t be made lightly. The organization you pick will be ultimately responsible for finding the person who will carry your precious child.

They’ll also oversee important aspects such as your surrogacy match, psychological screening, and all legal matters surrounding this experience. Do your research, including interviewing staff members and reading reviews of the company.

And keep in mind, cheaper is not necessarily better! Saving some money in the short term can sometimes mean your surrogacy journey ends up being a lot more stressful, complicated and difficult.  

Is Surrogacy Cheaper in Other Countries?

Yes. As mentioned earlier, the average cost of surrogacy (including agency fees) is about $140,000 in the United States. Outside the country, however, agencies offer comparable services for as low as $39,000.

An online search for “cheap surrogacy” will expose discounted options in countries spanning from Mexico to India. The problem is, you don’t know exactly what you’re going to get in terms of medical care, legal protection, or the legal aftermath after your child’s birth when conducting these matters on international soil.

Is it Best to Stay in the U.S. for Surrogacy?

Overall, it’s safest to stay within the United States. It’s easy to find cheaper surrogacy alternatives internationally, but doing so could jeopardize your legal rights as intended parents. American lawyers are familiar with the laws in each state, which can vary dramatically on topics such as surrogacy, pre-birth orders, and parentage/second-parent adoption.

You don’t want to settle your new family back in the U.S. only to realize that your parental rights are compromised due to a lack of legal protection. Having a surrogacy agency based in the U.S. that's on your side can help ensure a smooth, healthy, and legal ride for everyone throughout the process.

How Can I Make Surrogacy Less Expensive?

The easiest way to cut surrogacy costs is to avoid using an agency. That said, there are risks associated with this decision.

Other ways in which you can lighten surrogacy’s financial impact include:

  • Creating a budget. The earlier you put money aside, the better. Talk to a financial advisor to set up an efficient plan. Also, check with the surrogacy agency to see if they offer payment plans.
  • Checking to see if your employer has a reimbursement plan for surrogacy. Some companies provide discounts or compensations (up to $35,000 in the case of American Express) for adoption or surrogacy. If this has only been offered to heterosexual employees in the past, you can make a case for this benefit being extended to you as an LGBTQ+ parent-to-be as well.
  • Seeing if one of your friends or family members is willing to be an egg donor or gestational carrier. Beware: there are specific requirements and pretty rigorous screening for both of these processes. In addition, both you and your potential known donor/surrogate will both need to be emotionally ready for the effect this major decision can have on your relationship.
  • Finding financial aid through research grants or charities such as the Gay Parenting Assistance Program (GPAP) offered by Men Having Babies.
  • Getting to know your insurance. Call and speak to a representative. There may be more same-sex coverage than you think – for instance, some insurance providers will cover certain costs of IVF, but not surrogacy. It’s always good to know the extent of your fertility coverage.
  • Finding a fertility financing company (i.e. CapexMD) to help you attain needed funds.
  • Checking to see if your employer offers additional benefit plans (i.e. Progyny) that you may take advantage of. As members of the LGBTQ+ community continue to advocate for equal fertility benefits, more and more companies have started to offer a plan for these services.
  • Taking a breath! You don’t need to rush into everything. Start small by getting your semen analysis done. This is a great place to begin and it’s a diagnostic test likely covered by insurance.

The financial aspects of this journey can seem overwhelming, but there are some easy first steps that you can take to get a handle on the process. A semen analysis is a great way to get started with the surrogacy process, and gives you valuable information about your own fertility!

Most importantly, reach out for support from experts and seek out resources for intended parents - there are new tools, articles, and other helpful information popping up every day to help LGBTQ+ parents-to-be make their dreams come true. 

Ready to take the first step?

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Emma Lott

Emma served as Gay Parents To Be's Brand Specialist for many years, 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.