Maternity Leave for Surrogate Mothers

November 21, 2022

Posted In: Surrogacy

Surrogacy and maternity leave

In the United States, when a mom welcomes their new baby into the world, they are often thrilled to enjoy maternity leave—protected time off work—to enjoy their little one and bond as a family through the postpartum phase. But what about maternity leave in case of surrogacy? For the women who selflessly become pregnant to help someone grow their family, is there such thing as maternity leave for surrogate mothers? Let’s explore the ins and outs of surrogacy and maternity leave.

What is maternity leave?

Maternity leave is where an employee is given a certain amount of time after the birth of their baby to recover during the postpartum period, to bond with their new little one, and of course to take care of their newborn through many (many, many!) feedings and diaper changes. During this time period the employee’s job is protected, and they may also receive paid leave time through their work or through state disability insurance or a short-term disability insurance policy. Sometimes maternity leave is activated towards the end of the pregnancy, or if a medical complication arises requiring the employee to be out of work. While surrogates also have a need for some of the maternity leave benefits, they won’t be taking care of a newborn, so many people wonder if there is even such a thing as surrogacy leave. The great news is, there most certainly is!

What is surrogacy maternity leave?

Recovering from birth following any pregnancy is a qualifying event for maternity leave, meaning surrogates are covered by maternity leave just like any other pregnancy would be. The difference here is that surrogates are not entitled to the additional time that is allotted for bonding with a baby (up to 12 weeks). Therefor, the standard for maternity leave for surrogacy typically covers the physical healing time needed during the postpartum recovery time—6 weeks following a vaginal delivery, or 8 weeks following a C-Section delivery. Typically the surrogate’s obstetrician will take them out of work during this time frame to allow their body time to heal, and will clear the surrogate to go back to work following their postpartum checkup.

What about maternity pay for surrogate mothers?

There is no universal standard on how much of a surrogate’s lost wages will be covered by the intended parents. Some agencies require the intended parents to cover a surrogate’s full lost wage rate during maternity leave, while others only allow the surrogate to claim what she is entitled to through state disability insurance (if there is one, as this varies by state), or any short-term disability policy she may have and don’t require the intended parents to cover the remaining amount. We find this to be unfair to the surrogate, as she has already sacrificed so much to help bring a baby into the world for the intended parents, and therefore should be entitled to her full lost wage rate following the birth of the baby.

International Surrogacy Center’s stance on maternity pay for surrogate mothers

At ISC, we help the surrogate calculate her actual pay rate so intended parents can see up-front how much they will need to cover for lost wages during maternity leave for the surrogate. If the surrogate qualifies for state disability or a short-term disability policy, it typically only covers a portion of her lost wage rate. In these cases, we ask the intended parents to be responsible for covering the amount that SDI or the disability policy does not cover, to ensure the surrogate is not sacrificing more while recovering from delivering the pregnancy. For example, if a surrogate has a lost wage rate of $15 per hour and her state disability insurance will cover $10 per hour, we would ask the intended parents to cover the remaining $5 per hour to make up her full lost wage rate. There are also cases where a surrogate does not receive regular pay (she is self-employed or works seasonally, for example). In these scenarios, we work with the surrogate to determine what a reasonable flat weekly rate would be for her lost wages to ensure she is still covered while on maternity leave for a surrogate pregnancy.

It is important to the staff at ISC (most of us having been surrogates ourselves!) that surrogates are taken care of during their postpartum recovery period. Let us help get you started on a surrogacy journey that is set up for success—from the big things like finding the right match, to the small things like ensuring your lost wage rate is appropriately covered for this amazing journey.