Surrogacy is a common path to parenthood for many LGBTQ+ people. Like every path to parenthood, it comes with a set of important considerations — especially concerning finances. Erica Horton, President and Partner at Growing Generations, shares how you can offset these costs.
What is surrogacy, anyway?
This resource’s guest contributor, Erica Horton, says, “It’s a collaboration between fully informed, consenting adults,” wherein a person who can carry a pregnancy offers to help expand another person’s family. Surrogacy is a path to parenthood for LGBTQ+ couples who don’t have uteruses or do not want to become pregnant, people with infertility issues, and people who work in careers that would limit their ability to advance if they were to become pregnant.
The most common reason why LGBTQ+ prospective parents pursue surrogacy is that it provides them with the opportunity to be biologically connected to their child, even if they can’t carry a pregnancy.
It’s a journey
It’s important for anyone considering this path to parenthood to know that surrogacy is a process. Because it involves the hard work of a whole team of people, the journey won’t always be perfect or smooth. That’s okay!
Of course, reputable surrogacy agencies will have measures to ensure a high probability of success. However, even with those screening and support mechanisms, not everything can be controlled or predicted. That can be challenging for any parent! Once you’ve decided to expand your family, you usually dive right into imagining the good stuff. With surrogacy, one has to accept that it could take time, even years, to hold your baby. In fact, Growing Generations estimates that the surrogacy process takes an average of two to two and a half years “from the moment you begin the process to the time of delivery.”
Another challenge that many prospective parents face when pursuing surrogacy is the cost. Let’s talk about why that is, and what strategies you can use to control and supplement the expense.
The Costs of Surrogacy
How much does surrogacy cost?
Many LGBTQ+ couples pursuing surrogacy need both an egg donor and a surrogate. In this case, Horton estimates that the entire process will cost between $200,000 and $250,000. While this is certainly a high figure, Horton reminds us that this estimate often covers a wide variety of costs, including:
- Compensation and expenses for your gestational carrier (the person who is carrying the fetus)
- Agency fees
- Legal fees
- Costs of in-vitro fertilization (to create the embryo)
- Health insurance for your gestational carrier
- Travel expenses
- Egg and sperm donations
Proceed with caution
Be sure to clearly understand the cost when you’re budgeting and researching which agency to use. Because some costs, like IVF and legal fees, aren’t always paid to the agency, some agencies will leave out these line items in their final figure. So, if an agency suggests that they can expand your family via surrogacy with an egg donor in the United States for less than $125,000, dig deeper and ask more questions. As Horton says, “If it seems too good to be true, it might be too good to be true.”
Note: Prospective parents may be able to pursue surrogacy for a bit less than the estimate above, but that will depend on your family’s needs or it could mean restricting certain choices. For example, you can reduce the cost by about $50,000 if you don’t need an egg donor.
You won’t spend it all at once
Importantly, you won’t owe the total sum of these costs at once. For example, Horton tells us that clients at Growing Generations make three payments. First, the retainer fee of around $25,000 to begin the process of matching you with a surrogate (which can take anywhere from twelve to eighteen months, depending on wait periods).
Second, a deposit of around $60,000 – $80,000 when it’s time to make the embryos, a process that often occurs while the agency is waiting for their surrogate to match (around one to six months after the first payment). Then, the final payment occurs when the parents are matched with their surrogate, to ensure that the surrogate is compensated before any pregnancy is attempted. This payment is typically made anywhere from six to 18 months after the initial payment.
Offsetting the costs
Fortunately, there are ways to offset the costs of surrogacy.
Talk to your employer.
In the past five years, there’s been a huge increase in employers offering “family creation benefits.” These benefits can help employees with expenses related to surrogacy, egg donation, assisted reproduction (ART), adoption, and more. These benefits often come from unique fertility providers such as Carrot, Win, and Progyny.
Talk to your Human Resources department to find out if your employer offers fertility and family creation benefits.
If your HR team responds and says they don’t offer these benefits, don’t let the conversation end there.
- Share your story. Tell your team why you need these benefits and how they would impact you.
- Share trusted sources. Business publications like Forbes discuss how family creation benefits are the number one competitive benefit for employers to offer.
- Look at others. In the last three years, the number of companies offering family creation benefits has grown exponentially. Horton anticipates that this trend will continue. In fact, some of her clients switched jobs to find employers with generous fertility benefits!
You might be surprised at what you can accomplish if you advocate for yourself!
If your HR team responds and says they have benefits, figure out what those benefits are and how they apply to your family. Sometimes, we see an inequitable application of fertility benefits. For example, some providers will cover the cost of egg retrieval for a cis-gendered heterosexual couple but not for an LGBTQ+ couple. In some instances, an employer may not even know this distinction exists and can take steps to rectify it.
This is another opportunity for you to share your story with your employer because providers often don’t realize they’re leaving someone out until a person speaks up. Providers also have patient advocates who can help amplify your voice.
Research IVF or surrogacy grants to help supplement some of the costs associated with surrogacy. These grants change by the month, so a simple Google search should provide you with the up-to-date information you need to get started.
There are also credit providers who offer loans related to fertility and family creation. Horton recommends steering clear of this route to start because interest rates are high.
While agencies do what they can to mitigate risk, surrogacy is not a perfect process. But, failed transfers and miscarriages happen.
Statistically, 70-75% of people who pursue surrogacy are pregnant after their first embryo transfer. In the case of failed transfers, the next step will be a second transfer with the same surrogate. Usually, there will be more than one embryo created during the process. This means you will be able to have a second attempt without repeating the egg donor or embryo-creation process. Similarly, because surrogacy involves robust screening, undetected fertility issues with your surrogate are unlikely. This means you probably won’t have to match with someone new.
A second frozen embryo transfer will cost an additional $7,000 – $10,000. But, the good news is that 95% of people pursuing surrogacy are pregnant by their third embryo transfer.
About 20% of pregnancies end in miscarriages in the general population. That number is lower in surrogacy practice because of the tests that agencies perform to ensure that surrogates are good candidates for pregnancy. In cases of miscarriage, the cause is usually an issue with embryo development. So, you will likely not need to match with someone new.
The financial impact of a miscarriage is mostly the same as that of a failed transfer ($7,000-$10,000 for a second frozen embryo transfer). However, additional expenses might be incurred depending on how late or early a miscarriage occurs.
If you’re particularly budget-conscious, consider finding a fixed-cost program that offers a flat rate regardless of failed cycles or miscarriages. Just be aware that these programs often limit choices.
Laws and policies
Surrogacy laws are state-specific. While surrogacy is legal in most places, it’s not legal in every state. Further, there are nuances in state law surrounding issues like genetic connection and establishing legal parentage. To navigate these legalities, you will want to consult with legal professionals.
Fortunately, many agencies have relationships with law firms and can help facilitate these conversations. For example, Growing Generations works with a legal team that specialized in third-party assisted reproduction with attorneys in every state where they work.
In the summer of 2022, the Supreme Court voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, which created a complicated legal landscape around pregnancy.
Horton says that pregnancy termination for fetal abnormalities is rare in the world of surrogacy. In the time that she’s worked for Growing Generations, they’ve seen two terminations arise because of high-risk complications for the surrogate. In most states, there are allowances for these kinds of fatal issues. This is why it’s especially important to consult with legal professionals and work with reputable agencies that understand state laws.
About Growing Generations
Family Equality created this resource in partnership with our National Corporate Sponsor, Growing Generations. Even if you’re still weighing your options, consider reaching out to the team at Growing Generations to get started. They’re there to help you determine what path is right for you, your family, and your finances.
To kick off the conversation, visit their website. From there, you can submit a Contact Us form, chat with a representative, or explore their robust library of resources.
Since 1996, Growing Generations has been bringing people’s dreams of family to life as a full-service surrogacy and egg donation agency. From the moment they started in the 1990s, they were dedicated to helping LGBTQ+ couples expand their families — despite, or perhaps because of, the number of agencies, doctors, and lawyers who didn’t support LGBTQ+ couples on their path to parenthood. While they’ve since expanded their work to support anyone who wants to become a parent, beginning their legacy by supporting the LGBTQ+ community specifically has helped them create competency and expertise where there’s not already a forged path. Growing Generations is a trailblazer in a field that has exploded in the past several years.
President and Partner of Growing Generations; Guest post contributor
Guest post contributor and Growing Generations President & Partner, Erica Horton, began her career at Growing Generations as a college intern in 2003. At the time, she had no direct experience with the fertility world, but she was immediately intrigued when she saw an ad for a marketing internship at a “gay surrogacy agency.” As a queer woman whose dad also came out in the 1990s, she had a passion for LGBTQ+ people and families. She knew at once that she had to be a part of what Growing Generations was doing. Her role has expanded significantly since 2003, and now, as President and Partner, she oversees all departments that manage care for intended parents, surrogates, and donors. Erica also served on Family Equality’s Board of Directors for several years, and she has two children with the help of a sperm donor.