If you follow The Moms At Odds on Facebook (which, by the way, you should!), you’ll know that Jo is pregnant for the third time. This pregnancy, however, is a little different than her previous two since she is a gestational carrier for a friend.
We’ve gotten tons of comments and inquiries on the subject. This has ranged from questions regarding gestational carrier requirements, compensation, the comparison to a surrogate, and even the common question of ‘what IS a gestational carrier?’.
With all this interest, I figured it was a good idea to help explain some of the details in a post on the subject. Maybe you’re just curious about gestational surrogacy, maybe you’re struggling with fertility and are contemplating your options, or maybe you’re even considering becoming a gestational carrier yourself.
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What Is a Gestational Carrier?
Let’s start with the basics. What IS a gestational carrier anyway?
A gestational carrier volunteers her uterus for an embryo to grow for 9 months. This of course also includes any medical procedures, tests, and medications associated with implanting the fertilized egg into her womb.
The fertilized embryo is derived either from the intended parents, donor(s) of egg/sperm, or a combination of the two. Fertilization occurs in a lab and the embryo is placed into the uterus of the gestation carrier via the in vitro fertilization process.
What Is the Difference Between Surrogate and Gestational Carrier?
Many are curious about the differences of a gestational carrier vs surrogate.
There’s really one difference, which is the baby’s biological parents. The term “surrogate” technically refers to a woman who donates her egg and then carries the child to term. In these cases, the carrier has a genetic link to the baby.
So is a gestational carrier the biological mother? No, in the cases of gestational carriers they have no biological link to the baby she carries. Both the egg and sperm are provided from others, such as the parents themselves or donors.
What is the Average Gestational Carrier Compensation?
One of the most common questions people ask me about gestational carrier compensation! So how much does a gestational carrier make?
This is a very complicated question to answer as it can vary greatly.
A common factor in pretty much all gestational carrier cases is that medical and pregnancy-related expenses are completely covered by the intended parents. This includes car mileage to appointments, medications, doctor visits, maternity clothes, time missed from work, and more.
Some gestational carriers receive additional monthly allowances for small, extra expenses such as increased grocery bills, over-the-counter supplements, or midnight fast food cravings (not that I’m speaking from personal experience). According to our lawyer, the average stipend amount is $200-500/month, and this is commonly the compensation method when a friend or family member is the gestational carrier.
Women who are matched with intended parents through an agency receive significantly higher amounts of gestational carrier compensation. The number varies greatly based on the agency, location, and parents – but reports suggest it ranges from $25,000 – $80,000 total. This total amount is generally paid out as monthly stipends.
How Do You Become a Gestational Carrier?
It’s a good idea to look at some general gestational carrier requirements before you contact an agency or a friend about volunteering to carry a child.
Here were the gestational carrier requirements through Shady Grove Fertility (the center we used):
- 21-39 years of age
- Delivered one or more children
- Past pregnancy without complication
- Generally done having own children
- Stable and responsible lifestyle
- Healthy and financially sound
- Non-smoker in smoke free home
- No history of substance abuse, arrest, mental illness, etc.
- U.S. Citizen
While not necessarily required, I would also encourage you to talk to your partner, parents, friends and children before you begin the process. A supportive network is essential for your own mental health and well-being.
How Do Intended Parents Find a Carrier?
I’ve heard both sides of this question multiple times. The gist is how I connected with the intended parents – both how they found me and how I found them.
While this may be a better question for the parents, I’ll give it a go from my perspective.
Gestational carriers can be found either from personal connections or through agencies. Women who are interested in becoming a carrier sign up with the agencies and are matched with potential parents. There is a high demand for gestational carriers, so many intended parents have to wait months to years to find someone willing and able to carry their child to term through this method.
Because of the long wait time, many intended parents first reach out to friends and family to see if there is interest in providing an oven for their bun. This is exactly how the intended parents for the girl I’m carrying first contacted me!
Back in December of 2017, my husband received an email from a long time friend and colleague. This message explained that the couple was unable to carry their “ice babies” to term due to some medical conditions.
They asked us to please think about friends who may be interested in becoming a gestational carrier, also explaining that finding a candidate through a shared connection not only would be more personal but also would provide comfort as opposed to soliciting a stranger with an unknown background.
This isn’t something to rush. My husband and I discussed the possibility for months. I also talked to my mom, my grandmother, and my closest friend (Rachel!) to make sure I was 100% confident in my decision. Five months later we contacted our friends and told them we were officially interested in my becoming a gestational carrier, starting the process.
Why Would Someone Want to Do This?
“What would you ever do something like this?”
“How are you going to be able to give up the baby?”
“Is your family/husband/children okay with you being a carrier?”
You would NOT believe all the extremely personal questions I have gotten over the past few months.
I find it very difficult to explain why I was interested in becoming a gestational carrier. It’s hard to put into words and I’m not even sure I understand it myself.
For some reason becoming a gestational carrier or surrogate was always something I had considered. My husband will tell anyone who asks that I used to tell people during my second pregnancy this would be my last as we didn’t want any more children, “unless a friend needed a surrogate”.
Pregnancy is no walk in the park, but there are also aspects about it that I really enjoy. I love the feeling of baby kicking and wiggling, my growing belly, and the knowledge and feeling that I am bringing life into the world.
More deeply, I know the joy my children have brought to my life, and the thought of allowing another couple to find a similar happiness brings my such warmth.
Finally, another aspect that made me believe I was a good candidate was my history (or lack thereof) of bonding with my children in utero. Bonding with baby occurs at different times for all mothers. I wrote a guest post for Mommy Enlightened about bonding with baby where I admitted that I didn’t immediately form a strong connection with either of my children directly after they were born.
The bond with my children, rather, formed over the following weeks to months. This made me realize I could emotionally handle carrying a child and then giving it to the biological parents with no issues.
I think a combination of all the above factors contribute to my interest in becoming a gestational carrier. It’s been a journey for sure!