Can Someone Break Down the Costs of Surrogacy?

If you’re thinking that a surrogate might be the answer to your “how will I become a parent” question, you’ve probably already started doing some math in your head to figure out how you’re going to cover all those surrogacy costs.

But just how much does a surrogate cost? You’ll likely be using a gestational carrier — that’s the term you’ll hear thrown around a lot to describe a woman who gets pregnant to help someone else fulfill their dreams of parenthood but is not biologically related to the baby. She is impregnated via in vitro fertilization (IVF) and carries an embryo made up of someone else’s sperm and someone else’s egg.

But does she get compensated? And what about the surrogacy costs after the baby is born?

How much does a surrogate cost?

Let’s just get the averages out of the way, shall we? The cost of surrogacy can run you anywhere from $100,000 to $200,000 in the United States — depending on where you live, who your gestational carrier is, and just exactly what fertility services you need along the way. It’s a pretty big range — and you’re probably wondering what’s included in that figure.

According to Amira Hasenbush, a California lawyer and founder of All Family Legal who specializes in surrogacy, it can totally vary depending on the individual or couple’s needs and decisions.

What do surrogacy costs include?

Even if the costs are still a question mark, by now you’re probably familiar with the basics of the surrogacy process. A gestational carrier becomes pregnant, and after 40 weeks (give or take), a baby is born. But it’s the lead-up to the day that you get to hold your sweet little bundle of joy that will determine which end of that price range you’ll end up on.

You’ll likely need to pay for IVF in some capacity, whether its to fertilize an embryo from you and your partner or via donor eggs or sperm. IVF costs can totally vary between ~$8,000 – $30,000, but can have varying degrees of insurance coverage depending on where you live. In addition to those fees, here’s what other surrogacy costs could include.

Agency fees

First things first! You’ll need to find a surrogate, and you may need to engage an agency to help you find the perfect person. Or maybe you’re lucky, and you’ve already got someone in your life who’s more than happy to help make your parenting dreams come true by carrying the baby.. If that’s so, you can likely strike the surrogacy agency fee from your list. Next, however, you’ll have to consider whose eggs will provide half of baby’s DNA. If you need to find an egg donor, you may need to engage an agency to find the perfect donor.

Egg donor compensation and medical coverage

Opted to go the egg donor route? In addition to the agency fees to connect you with the right person, you will be expected to pay her a fee for her services as well as:

  • Covering her travel to and from doctor’s visits
  • Any fertility prescriptions she might take to induce egg production
  • Fertility doctor/clinic costs of the egg retrieval process (from initial doctor visits through retrieval of the eggs)
  • In vitro fertilization
  • Genetic testing — for the donor prior to egg retrieval, but also of any resulting embryos
  • Embryo transfer to your gestational carrier
  • Cryopreservation of any eggs or additional embryos
  • Any wages she stands to lose for time off work to undergo the egg retrieval process, travel, etc.

In total, expect to pay anywhere from $20,000 to $40,000 for an egg donor.

Sperm donation

Maybe you need donated sperm to help this process along. If you don’t have a friend or family member on board (which, hey, most of us don’t), expect to pay somewhere around $700 to $1,000 to get frozen sperm from a sperm donation bank.

Embryo donation

For parents-to-be who opt for an already fertilized egg, there can be costs savings — many embryo donations are handled by religious non-profits that will match unused embryos to would-be parents for free. You’ll still need to consider the costs of the IVF procedure, however, just as you will with sperm and egg donations or even transferring your own embryo into your gestational carrier’s uterus.

Legal fees

Agreements will need to be made with the egg donor if you have one, as well as the surrogate herself. Intended parents pay not only their own legal fees but those of their donor or surrogate, Hasenbush says. These fees vary by location, and again by what a parent- or parent-to-be needs in the process, but overall the lawyer and court costs could cost as much as $10,000.

Insurance

Yup, your surrogate is going to need insurance, and that’s probably going to come out of your pocket. “The medical/insurance often surprises folks,” Hasenbush warns. “The insurance coverage needs professional review to make sure it covers surrogacy. Premiums can be very high, and if they buy surrogacy-specific insurance, it is particularly expensive.”
Some surrogates have health plans that will cover her costs once she starts getting treated by an OB, but it’s important to get this all evaluated up front, and to have it re-evaluated every fall to make sure that it hasn’t changed from one year to the next, Hasenbush says. Some other insurance stuff to keep in mind, because we’ve got your back:

  • Out-of-pocket maximums start over each calendar year.
  • Some insurance companies have a lien policy where they can put a lien on the surrogate’s compensation to recoup their costs. This doesn’t mean that the surrogate loses her compensation, Hasenbush says, but it does mean the intended parents have to set aside the maximum amount that the lien could be as an additional amount in escrow for if/when the insurance company requests it.
  • Some surrogacy contracts require other insurances for the surrogate including life insurance and loss of reproductive organs insurance (should something happen during the pregnancy).
  • Egg donor and IVF complications insurance may also be recommended.

Surrogate base compensation

Unless you have a family member or friend who will be acting as gestational carrier, one of the biggest costs will be compensating the surrogate herself — anywhere from $35,000 to $55,000 or even more, according to Victoria T. Ferrara, founder of surrogacy matching agency Worldwide Surrogacy. This is the portion of pay to the surrogate that acts as a salary for the service she’s providing, but it’s not all she gets.

Multiples compensation

Expecting twins or triplets? Expect to pay an extra $5,000 to $10,000 as part of your surrogate’s base fee.

Additional surrogate fees

Typically, surrogacy contracts include an itemized list of compensations that come on top of that base, Ferrara says, so that your gestational carrier will be covered for other difficulties and expenses she’ll incur while pregnant. That can include things such as:

  • Lost wages for surrogate when she is on bed rest or traveling for the surrogacy
  • Lost wages for a surrogate’s partner while she’s on bed rest or traveling for the surrogacy
  • Surrogate (often and a companion) travel for medical visits, including visits for embryo transfers, regular check-ups, and any other pregnancy-related doctor visits
  • A monthly allowance to cover odds and ends such as parking at doctor’s offices, postage, etc.
  • Clothing allowance for maternity clothes
  • Additional compensation if delivery has to happen via C-section instead of via a vaginal birth
  • Childcare and housekeeping costs if the surrogate is placed on bed rest
  • Therapy coverage for the surrogate to work with a counselor during the pregnancy if she wishes to

Escrow fees

Surrogate and egg donor fees are typically held in an escrow account so the donors know the money is there before they start the process. The money is put up front by the parent- or parents-to-be and held in a special, locked account from which the donor is paid according to the agreement outlined in the contract. Many surrogates are paid in monthly installments after pregnancy is confirmed.

Any medical out-of-pocket surrogacy costs not covered by insurance

From over-the-counter medications to medications and procedures the insurance company decides not to cover, there may be additional costs that add up.

Surrogacy costs after baby is born

Once the big day arrives and your baby is born, you’re going to have a ton of diapers to buy. But before you start thinking about all the costs of getting a kiddo to 18, you’ve still got some surrogacy-related bills you’ll need to pay.

  • Legal fees: Yup, there are more of them after the baby’s born. Because your baby was delivered by a gestational carrier — even if the baby is biologically related to you — you may have to establish parenthood in the eyes of the court, which means attorney fees and court costs. If you traveled internationally to find a surrogate, you may also have to pay to establish your child’s citizenship.
  • Breast milk: You may want your surrogate to pump her breast milk for your baby. If she’s amenable, you’ll need to compensate her as well as paying for her supplies such as the breast pump and bottles. If she isn’t local, you’ll also need to factor in shipping costs for the milk.
  • Lost wages: Maternity leaves aren’t just for moms to bond with baby — they’re also for a woman to recover from delivery. You can expect to pay your surrogate for the time she may be out of commission after the baby comes — anywhere from four to 8 weeks, Ferrara says.
  • Health costs for the surrogate: As her body heals, you’ll likely still be paying for your surrogate’s medical care. Health and life insurance premiums are typically paid by the parents for at least three months after the delivery, but it could be extended to six months if there were complications during the pregnancy or delivery, Hasenbush notes.

Wait, is that everything?

While there are no guarantees, Ferrara recommends getting everything in writing up front so you don’t have any hidden fees on the back end.

“Reputable medical clinics, surrogacy agencies and lawyers should be transparent and should be able to provide comprehensive details about costs and fees,” she says.

One thing to keep in mind? The fertility journey can be a bumpy road, and sometimes Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate. If a surrogate does not get pregnant after three rounds of IVF or if she suffers a miscarriage, you may need to find an alternate surrogate and incur more fees.

“[Parents] will not have to ‘start over,’ as their agency will find them another surrogate,” Ferrara says, “but they will not recoup the money they paid to or on behalf of the first surrogate.”

Is there any way to save on surrogacy costs?

If the price tag of surrogacy looks daunting, we feel you. There are some ways to cut down the costs here:

  • Ask a friend or family member: Whether they’re donating their eggs or offering to act as a gestational carrier without compensation, this can represent a substantial savings. You’ll definitely still need to work with a lawyer, though, as working with a known carrier comes with its own set of complexities and ethical concerns. We also recommend everyone consults with a psychologist to discuss family/friend dynamics to ensure a good fit.
  • Check with your employer: Some employers offer fertility benefits through companies such as Carrot, which cover egg donation fees, as well as some gestational surrogacy costs.
  • Find a grant or discounted services: Yes, they are out there! Check out our Find a Grant tool for additional help here.

Anything else?

At the end of the day, surrogacy does cost money. There’s just no way around that. But Ferrarra recommends you take advantage of the resources out there — talk to the doctors and lawyers in the business and form your team to make it happen. You just might be able to find a way to make it work. Fingers crossed for you.

Jeanne Sager

Jeanne Sager is a writer and photographer from upstate New York. She's strung words together for The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, and more.