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If you’re new to the process of surrogacy, you're probably wondering how to choose the woman that will carry your baby. Simply put, next to choosing the right agency, the decision of how to choose a surrogate is one of the most important decisions you will make during this process.
So what criteria should you consider? How do you pick the right surrogate for your journey?
It's important to keep in mind that sadly there are generally far more intended parents in need of help than there are eligible surrogate candidates as you're weighing what qualities are a must, and what preferences are flexible as you navigate this process.
Intended parents can sometimes get a bit overwhelmed with the minutiae of finding a good match, when one of the most important aspects of a great match is actually the social component, and getting too caught up in a checklist might mean missing out on connecting with a very special woman willing to help you on your path to fertility.
However, there are some helpful common factors in choosing a surrogate who meets healthy fertility requirements while also aligning with your desires for the surrogacy process. Here is a quick list of some of the criteria that intended parents typically consider:
The most important consideration when choosing a surrogate is if your surrogate is healthy so she can be medically cleared to proceed. But how do you define this health status? Some of the criteria that medical offices will examine include height, weight, age, pregnancy history and delivery history.
Every medical office will use slightly different criteria, but surrogates can typically have a Body Mass Index (BMI) anywhere between 19 and 33 (in special cases, BMI can be up to 35). BMI is important as a gestational carrier because a too-high BMI has been associated with pregnancy and post-birth complications, and a too-low BMI has been associated with an increased risk for preterm delivery and small-for-gestational-age (SGA) babies.
Additionally, if your surrogate’s BMI is too high or too low, becoming pregnant can take anywhere from twice to four times as long. This means more used embryos, transfers, money, and time spent waiting for news of the outcome.
However, some may be more flexible with regards to the gestational carrier’s BMI, especially if she had healthy pregnancies at a similar BMI in the past. Weight is not always the best indicator of health, and other factors should be taken into consideration.
On average, surrogates are between 21 and 37 years old. Although many intended parents instinctively ask about young surrogates, age is not always the best factor to determine whether a candidate is a great fit.
A younger surrogate in her twenties may live a busier active lifestyle, while an older surrogate in her thirties or even very early forties might be more stable, responsible, and calm. Bear in mind a gestational surrogate does not use her eggs, so her age is not as important as her overall pregnancy history in determining whether she is a good candidate.
Delivery history tends to be the criteria that most intended parents prioritize, and rightfully so. In many cases, you cannot become a surrogate without a previous pregnancy because there is no proof that surrogates can carry a pregnancy safely and successfully to term and give birth to a healthy child.
A good previous pregnancy history is reassuring for future pregnancies, but what does a good pregnancy history look like?
Some surrogate may have had C-sections in the past and are still wonderful medical candidates, assuming they recovered well from the procedure. When selecting a surrogate, discussing their past pregnancies will be an important part of your conversation. It’s important to ask questions around the physical and emotional history of their past pregnancies, and ensure they’re not vulnerable to any pregnancy conditions or complications.
While a healthy pregnancy history is important, there are many varying degrees of normal when it comes to pregnancy and childbirth, so it is best to defer to a doctor to make determinations on whether a candidate is medically suitable, and whether any past concerns are likely to recur.
Intended parents often want to choose a surrogate who resides near to them, or in a major city near an airport for easy travel. Most surrogate candidates are in other surrogacy friendly states, so it’s important to know where surrogacy is legal to ensure Intended Parents have full parental rights to their child (or children) resulting from third-party IVF.
Realistically, when it comes to choosing the location of your potential surrogate, some travel will likely be required. It can be just as easy to fly out of state as it can be to fly to smaller areas of the world that aren’t near major airports.
Technology also enables close contact regardless of distance and helps overcome location barriers. Intended parents enjoy staying connected with their surrogates by text, video conference, phone, and traveling to visit in person for milestone appointments.
Surrogate moms are, after all, moms themselves and their own family dynamics can come in all shapes and sizes. Some gestational carriers are married or in committed relationships, which provides a partner as their support person for the process.
Others may be single moms who rely upon family and friends for their support system. The more important factor when you choose a surrogate is that she has a solid support system for the process and that the people she surrounds herself with offer positivity for her fertility journey.
Some intended parents feel very open about the surrogate’s lifestyle with the understanding that they are committed to living a healthy lifestyle that is conducive to pregnancy.
However, some intended parents have special requests such as eating organic or adding/limiting certain foods to the surrogate’s diet. This can be a possible arrangement as long as the expenses for the requests are covered, such as a food allowance for the costs of eating organic.
Make sure the agency knows your requests upfront, so they can advise if there is a surrogate candidate who is comfortable with making the requested lifestyle changes.
Sometimes, the most important part of identifying your surrogate is the intangible, hard-to-define aspects of someone’s personality. Notice the way each potential surrogate makes you feel, if they remind you of someone else, or carry similar traits to your own.
While difficult to pinpoint, sometimes, a gut feeling or your intuition is the most important element to consider. Make sure you’re engaging with someone you feel comfortable around, enjoy talking to, and feel confident in.
As you can see, there are many factors to consider when you choose a surrogate. However, it’s important to keep sight of the human experience along the way, or you could miss out on connecting with a wonderful human being who has the intention of making your dreams of parenthood come true. That quality is beyond checklists and criteria, and can only be measured with the heart.
To learn about matching with your ideal surrogate candidate please contact us at 818-791-1541 to schedule a consultation free of charge. You can also read more about the surrogate matching process here.