Surrogacy can be complex and no two journeys are the same. Between the location of the intended parents and where you live, whether the parents are using an egg or sperm donor, multiple third-party professionals to juggle (lawyers, doctors, insurance agents etc), and laws that vary by state, the process can certainly get a bit confusing! One important decision potential surrogates must make early on is whether to navigate the journey solo via an independent surrogacy or with the help of a surrogacy agency. To assist with this choice, let’s explore how these approaches differ, as well as the pros and cons of each.
Independent vs. Agency
Let’s start with how each journey type is defined.
Agency-assisted surrogacy is where a surrogacy agency acts as a liaison between all parties and offers education and guidance throughout every step of the entire process. From educating you and the intended parents on the surrogacy process, the initial screenings for both parties, helping you choose the right match, coordinating the legal process, and supporting you through the medical procedures, the agency oversees and is there for you through the entire experience. This option is the most common type of surrogacy and is typically preferred by those who don’t have prior surrogacy experience or who feel reassured knowing the experience and direction of an agency can be a safety net and source of comfort during such an important journey.
Independent surrogacy, also known as private surrogacy, is where a surrogate and intended parents pursue surrogacy without the assistance of a surrogacy agency. Instead of using the agency’s guidance, they typically rely heavily on a surrogacy attorney to navigate the legal side of the journey, and handle coordinating everything else on their own. The choice to go independent could be to lower the overall cost of the journey, a personal preference from either the surrogate or intended parents, or sometimes when the intended parents and surrogate already know each other and therefore feel more comfortable moving forward together without guidance.
The Pros and Cons
Surrogates-to-be should weigh the two journey types based on their pros and cons to help determine which works best for them.
First, we’ll discuss the pros of using an agency for your surrogacy journey. On top of offering professional guidance every step of the way and handling all the details for you, an agency offers the specialized support needed when situations arise that need experienced assistance. Stepping in to coordinate between parties, doing research and legwork on behalf of the surrogate, and guiding the process from years of experience with other cases is a huge reason many people are attracted to using the help of a surrogacy agency. Another advantage is surrogacy agencies should have thoroughly screened intended parents criminally and psychologically, coached them on how to interact in a positive manner with their surrogate, and ensure sufficient funds are maintained to cover your compensation, making this a safer way to match with intended parents. A third pro to using an agency is that surrogacy agencies should offer after-hours or around-the-clock support for urgent matters and emergencies. This can be extremely beneficial in cases where your intended parents live far away from you, if there is a language barrier, or if you go into labor before the parents have arrived for the birth (to name a few common scenarios!). Having someone to call when an emergency arises, or to reach out to when you have questions along the way can be incredibly comforting and take extra stress off your shoulders during your surrogacy journey, leaving you to focus on your own well-being.
The drawbacks to surrogacy with an agency include having no option for a traditional surrogacy arrangement (where the surrogate’s egg is used to conceive), as most agencies only allow gestational surrogacy (where the surrogate’s egg is not used to conceive). Intended parents also have much less control as agencies must follow specific guidelines for the safety and wellbeing of the surrogate and baby. Therefore, the agency needs to handle the particulars of most steps of the journey from beginning to end to protect all parties.
Now let’s examine the pros to an independent journey. One benefit of private surrogacy is a potentially closer relationship with your IPs due to the necessity of working through things directly together. Other pros of independent journeys typically benefit the intended parents, such as allowing the intended parents more direct control, and potential cost effectiveness if they don’t have to pay an agency fee.
What are the cons? Although independent surrogacy may offer the intended parents more control, it comes with added responsibility to the surrogate in terms of the need for timely communication, coordination between parties, scheduling appointments, and requesting monetary disbursements and reimbursements, which are all responsibilities agencies typically handle. As a surrogate, you want to feel your best interests are kept in mind and the intended parents don’t have the capability of delaying or negotiating your payments, asking you to do something you are not comfortable with, or even something as simple as being able to reach your intended parents with questions when you need them, for example. Another potential drawback is that there is limited guidance and support readily available during a solo journey. At times, there could be a challenging situation that arises (think disputing a medical bill that was improperly coded due to your doctor not submitting the proper referral) that causes the surrogate time and stress to navigate successfully. Or, an intricate interpersonal conflict may arise between you and your intended parents (what if your IPs want you to get the flu shot but you are uncomfortable with receiving it?) that needs to be delicately addressed to ensure the continuation of a smooth relationship between everyone. Those opting for independent journeys may only have their attorney to turn to in times of crisis instead of a team of surrogacy specialists at an agency for support.
Turn to the Experts at ISC for Help
At International Surrogacy Center, we understand the choices involved in any given surrogacy journey can be complicated and nuanced. Let us help by explaining all the ins and outs of the process and get you started on the right path, emphasizing your well-being, protection, and support. After all, with more than 80% of our staff members having been gestational carriers ourselves, we have the first-hand knowledge and years of experience to guide you along this remarkable journey that we ourselves have experienced.
For answers to common questions, check out our FAQ page. If you’re concerned about the surrogacy laws in your area, we also have a helpful search by state breakdown detailing states regulations. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us with any questions or concerns when starting on your surrogacy journey. We look forward to hearing from you soon!