For most couples, the decision to go with surrogacy is not the first choice, but an alternative to adoption or childlessness. It’s only if a couple is biologically incapable of natural childbirth—such as with a same-sex male relationship—or medically advised not to undergo pregnancy due to health concerns, that surrogacy enters the equation.
One of the reasons for this is that surrogacy is not cheap. Deciding to start a family is never cheap, but surrogacy adds in new expenses “right out of the gate,” since now, even the act of conception requires some financial investment. So what’s a fair price for surrogacy? Much of the answer to this question depends on what type of surrogacy a couple is thinking about.
Altruistic vs. Compensated
Altruistic surrogacy is one where a surrogate mother agrees to take on the role on an essentially voluntary basis. She may receive financial support for living and medical expenses, especially as the pregnancy progresses and she needs extra care and attention, but that is only to ensure both her welfare and that of the baby.
A compensated surrogacy is much more expensive. In addition to the coverage of living expenses and medical care during the pregnancy, a surrogate mother also receives direct, personal financial recognition as “services rendered” for her participation. In other words, this is more like an actual financial transaction of money for service. In the USA, a typical compensated surrogacy can range from anywhere between $20000-$50000 depending on the arrangement. However, countries that permit compensated surrogacies also have a much wider pool of quality surrogate mother candidates to choose from, since there is now a financial incentive, rather than asking for an exceptional level of compassion, generosity, and empathy, that fewer women may be willing to make such a substantial sacrifice for.
Artificial Insemination vs. IVF
The type of fertilization used in surrogacy will also play a major role in determining the cost. If a couple is willing to use the egg of the surrogate mother herself, then this means that artificial insemination is the more conventional form of fertilization used. Actual sexual intercourse between a surrogate mother and intended father hasn’t been the norm since the 19th century, though, from a financial perspective, it does cost less money than artificial insemination.
However, some couples hoping to start a family would like a child that is, for all intents and purposes, a direct genetic descendant of both intended parents. Modern medical science does make this choice possible, though more expensive, through a technique known as In Vitro Fertilization, or IVF. IVF is a lab-intensive procedure that takes sperm and egg from different donors and carefully fertilizes them in a lab-supervised setting. Upon confirmation that the fertilization is successful, the egg is then implanted in the surrogate mother, and normal pregnancy proceeds from there. In this way, a couple can have a “traditional” genetic child that is 50% of the mother and 50% of the father genetically, exactly as in natural conception, with the only difference being the child is carried to term and birthed by a surrogate mother. The cost of the IVF procedure is, however, quite substantial and can quickly go from $50000 to over $100000 depending on the needs of the intended family.
Additional IVF Charges
Beyond the actual IVF procedure itself, more charges can accumulate based on the needs of the intended parents. In conventional situations, the egg and sperm of the intended parents would be collected as “fresh” samples. However, in some cases, the man, woman, or even both may have had surgery in earlier years that affected their reproductive system. To avoid never having genetic descendants, these couples may choose to have sperm or egg harvested ahead of time and then cryogenically stored. If these samples are now used for IVF, there is an additional cost for safe retrieval and transport to the facilities for IVF so they can be safely revived for use.
In addition, some intended families may have concerns about hereditary diseases being passed on to children, such as Down’s Syndrome or muscular dystrophy. Preimplantation Genetic Testing (PGT) is a procedure where, if there is a hereditary disorder concern, multiple eggs are fertilized. The PGT technique is then applied to the eggs and can detect which ones have resulted in a genetic disorder being passed on, allowing parents to pick the healthy or viable fertilized egg instead. The PGT and multiple IVF process can, again, dramatically increase the cost.
A final expense that can affect the final cost of surrogacy is the need for travel. In some cases, engaging in compensated surrogacy, with IVF, for example, may not be possible in a couple’s country of residence. This necessitates adding in a travel budget to another country, possibly even legal counsel while there, to ensure that the surrogate child born can be safely issued citizenship status to the country of residence, rather than return be declared “stateless.”
In terms of a “fair price” for surrogacy, much of the final cost will depend on the specifics of the surrogacy method that an intended family wants to use.