General Information for Intended Parents
What is surrogacy?
Surrogacy is the act of one woman carrying and giving birth to a baby that isn’t hers. Advancements in Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART), including artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization with an embryo transfer (IVF/ET), make it possible for infertile and same-sex couples to use surrogacy to start a family.
What is the difference between a traditional and gestational surrogate?
A genetic (previously known as traditional) surrogate is artificially inseminated with sperm from the intended father or a sperm donor and donates her egg, giving the surrogate a genetic link to the child. The gestational surrogate is more common. In her case, the eggs are harvested from the intended mother or egg donor, fertilized with sperm from the intended father or sperm donor and transferred to the surrogate’s uterus. The gestational surrogate has no genetic link to the baby.
Can I work with a surrogate I already know?
Yes, intended parents sometimes work with a friend or family member as a surrogate. Surrogacy is complex; the experience can put a strain on an existing relationship. An agency that supports both parties dissipates tensions that may occur and protects the relationship.
Why does a woman choose to be a surrogate?
The most common reason is to give the joy of a family to someone who can’t create one on their own. Other surrogates have watched a friend or family member struggle with the loss and disappointment of infertility and feel called to help. Most surrogates also enjoy being pregnant.
Is surrogacy legal in THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST?
Gestational surrogacy is legal in Washington, Oregon and Idaho, and surrogates in these states can be compensated for their services.
Do you work with surrogates outside of The pacific northwest?
Currently we work exclusively with surrogates who reside in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. We like the personal touch and support that being local allows us to provide. We do, however, work with intended parents from all over the world. If you would like to use a surrogate in another state, visit our Bright Futures Families website to see where our other sister surrogacy support areas are!
Why should we choose Pacific Northwest Surrogacy?
We value family and relationships. We’re diligent about creating a good fit between the intended parent(s) and their surrogate, then offer support and guidance to both parties throughout the entire process. We recognize that building a family through surrogacy entails a life-changing experience for everyone involved. We’re passionate about our work, and we’re good at it.
Do you work with gay couples and singles?
Absolutely. We work with infertile and same-sex couples, married or unmarried, as well as single men and women who are ready to grow their family through surrogacy.
Do you work with international intended parents?
Yes, we work with intended parents worldwide. Navigating international surrogacy is sometimes a complex process; we’re familiar with the requirements and accommodate your needs and requests.
If we have our own surrogate, can Pacific Northwest Surrogacy still provide us with agency services?
Pacific Northwest Surrogacy is proud to refer independent matches to LaMothe Surrogacy Consulting. The surrogacy process involves legal, medical and personal concerns; managing the process on your own can be overwhelming. LaMothe Surrogacy Consulting can help address and ease the journey.
What is our first step in retaining your agency?
Simply call, email or schedule a no-charge initial consultation. We look forward to hearing from you!
What if we do not have a fertility clinic or attorney?
We’re happy to recommend fertility clinics all over the United States that may suit your needs.
How do we know our surrogate will take care of herself?
We’re very particular about screening surrogates. The surrogates in our program are all mothers from stable living situations. They feel responsible for the growth and development of the child they’re carrying, even when that child isn’t their own. Our surrogates are invited to attend monthly support meetings hosted by us. If they can’t attend, a licensed social worker checks in at least once every month, at our request, to discuss any issues or concerns. We maintain regular contact with our surrogates before, during and in the six weeks following her pregnancy.
Why do you need my social security number?
We need your social security number to complete your background check.
How are the surrogates screened?
Pacific Northwest Surrogacy is very selective in choosing surrogates. Our surrogate candidates pass medical, psychological and background screenings before we share their profile with an intended parent(s).
Pacific Northwest Surrogacy surrogates meet these qualifications:
Overall good health, with no psychiatric illness or sexually transmitted diseases.
Financially secure and not receiving state or federal government assistance.
Has the support and understanding of a spouse or close family.
Has given birth to at least one child who she is currently raising and has no history of complicated pregnancies.
Preferably 21-35 years of age, up to healthy early 40s.
Does not smoke tobacco or marijuana and is not exposed to second-hand smoke.
Does not use illegal drugs or live with someone who does.
Does not abuse alcohol.
Maintains a healthy height-to-weight ratio (Body Mass Index) as determined by a medical professional.
Has a reliable mode of transportation.
Agrees to a full and thorough review of all official medical records directly obtained from her treating physicians (these records are reviewed only by a medical professional).
She and her spouse or partner (if applicable) consent to a criminal and residential background check.
Enjoys being pregnant and genuinely desires to help others create or add to their family.
After meeting these requirements, the surrogate candidate advances to the next screening phase:
Completion of a comprehensive application that includes medical and psychological questions
Thorough review of all official medical records directly obtained from treating physicians (these records are reviewed only by a medical professional)
Psychological evaluation and clearance
Criminal and residential background check
Do I choose the surrogate?
Yes! A surrogacy match is a mutual agreement between the intended parent(s) and the surrogate. We facilitate the initial meeting between the parties (preferably in person, but can be via Skype if geography dictates), then give everyone time to decide if you want to move forward together. If both parties want to proceed, you’re “matched” with your surrogate. Conversely, if the candidate doesn’t feel like a good fit, we go back to the drawing board and create a new match. Matching is key. We’re diligent about finding a surrogate who shares your values and your wishes about the pregnancy experience.
How much contact do I have with the surrogate?
As much as you both agree to. We attempt to match you with a surrogate who meets your needs, which means we like to know how much contact you want with your surrogate. After the legal piece is completed, intended parents and surrogates can arrange to meet at their own discretion.
What kind of support do you provide before, during and after the surrogacy process?
We provide frequent updates to let you know exactly where we are in the process. No worries, you’re never alone on this journey. Because many intended parents work during the day and prefer not to talk from their work place, we make ourselves available for evening and weekend appointments.
Where does our surrogate give birth?
All of our surrogates reside in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. Together you and your gestational surrogate will decide on the birthing location. As you are going through the match process, have an idea of where you will feel safe and comfortable welcoming your child(ren). Finding a surrogate who shares those preferences will help ensure an enjoyable birthing experience for both you as the parent(s), and her as a birthing person. Many surrogates choose to birth where they delivered their own children and often with the same provider. If this arrangement won’t work, we will help her locate additional options close to her home.
What happens after the baby is born?
The birth of the baby is one of the most exciting and rewarding steps of the entire surrogacy process. Most surrogates involve the intended parents in the labor and delivery process and celebrate with you as you welcome your new baby into the world. You assume full parental rights of your child at birth. In Washington and Oregon your name goes on the birth certificate right away, and in all three states the baby leaves the hospital with you. The surrogate goes home to her family to rest and recover. For most, the bond and the experience you’ve shared with your surrogate stays with you forever.
Are surrogates medically and psychologically screened?
Surrogates, like intended parents, are required to go through background checks and medical and psychological screening.
How are we matched?
Pacific Northwest Surrogacy conducts extensive interviews with surrogates and with our intended parents. Based on what we learn in the interviews, we propose a match based on similarities in beliefs and expectations and specific needs and desires. We present profiles to the intended parents and to the surrogate; each party decides if they want to move forward together, or not. If yes, the introduction process begins. If not, we go back to the drawing board better informed and create a new match.
Is there any wait to be matched with a surrogate?
This is a difficult question to answer without knowing you or your specific needs. The matching process can require patience as we wait for your “just right” match to complete the screening process. This is an emotional journey. We do our best to tread the thin line between rushing (we know you’re ready to be a parent) and taking our time to make sure everything is right for you and your surrogate. Some matches are made in a few days or weeks while others require a few months.
Do we pick the surrogate or does the surrogate pick us?
You both pick—this is a mutual decision. You’re provided with a profile of a surrogate who most closely matches your stated preferences. Once you select a potential surrogate based on her profile, we send the surrogate your profile (no confidential information is included in either profile) and give her the opportunity to decide if she wants to meet you.
Do you have a database?
No, we do not use a database to match our surrogates. Each surrogate is hand-picked based on your preferences and those of your surrogate. Our process focuses on personal preferences; we aim for a good fit.
Where does the initial meeting with the surrogate take place?
This depends on where you live, where the surrogate lives and what each of you desires. The initial meeting can be held at our Washington office or via Skype.
What happens if our match doesn’t “work”?
The golden rule of surrogacy is to work with a woman you get along with. If you’re uncomfortable with your surrogate, notify your case manager and ask to be matched with another surrogate. We do not believe in forcing the relationship; better to wait a short time longer for a match that works than to continue with someone who’s not a good fit.
What happens if we don’t get along during the pregnancy?
The pregnancy is emotional for everyone. Stay calm and contact your case worker at Pacific Northwest Surrogacy if an issue arises; don’t let it fester. Every relationship has bumps; that’s to be expected. Luckily, participants in a surrogacy arrangement are invested in fulfilling one another’s wishes. Typically, there’s goodwill on both sides. In our experience, most intended parents and their surrogates get along famously and work well as a team.
How quickly can our surrogate become pregnant after we meet her?
It typically takes at least three months from the initial meeting to the first IVF (in vitro fertilization) attempt. Before an embryo transfer occurs, additional screenings are conducted and legal contracts drafted. Your surrogate undergoes approximately six weeks of medications to prepare for the embryo transfer.
How many embryos are transferred?
The number of embryos to be transferred is predetermined in your surrogacy agreement. The contract specifies the number of embryo transfer attempts to be completed and the number of embryos to be transferred during each attempt.
What if our surrogate doesn’t become pregnant?
We work with highly successful fertility clinics. It’s rare for a surrogate not to become pregnant during the agreed-upon number of embryo transfers. In the unlikely event that your fertility clinic determines that your surrogate is no longer a good candidate for IVF, Pacific Northwest Surrogacy re-matches you with a second surrogate for half of the original match fee.
Do we meet our surrogate’s spouse or partner?
If the surrogate you select is married or has a live-in partner, yes, you meet that person unless there is a very good reason they can’t attend the meeting (i.e., in the military and on deployment). The spouse or partner is definitely involved in surrogacy experience; life goes more smoothly if they participate in the decision.
What are the next steps following the matching process?
Once a match is confirmed, you can expect the following things to happen:
Establishment of an escrow account
Full medical evaluation of the surrogate and the intended parents
Psychological consult for the intended parents
Health insurance review for the surrogate
Legal contract process
Commencement of the IVF cycle
Pre-birth order process and judgment (Washington and Oregon)
Preparation for your child’s birth
Preparation for your child’s departure home for our international clients
Why do we need a psychological counselor to assist us?
Talking with a psychologist helps to ensure that you have given your decision a lot of thought and answered some important questions. For you, the intended parent(s), this is not a screening but rather an informational session.
How do we begin the process?
The first step is a no-charge consultation. You hear about our program offerings, we learn more about your experience and answer your questions. Go here to schedule your consultation, give us a call or send an email.
Working With a Surrogacy Agency
Why work with an agency instead of handling this independently?
There’s nothing wrong with you handling the surrogacy process. Independent scenarios can work well, with joyous outcomes. That said, there are advantages to using an agency. If you go independent, you generally list yourself as an intended parent in an online ad or search those same ads for surrogates—and potentially expose yourself to a dangerous or fraudulent situation. An agency protects you by screening all parties. Coordinating the necessary medical, legal and financial details of a surrogacy is time consuming, overwhelming and risky. Handling the process yourself can jeopardize and even cripple your relationship with your surrogate. We’re experts at handling the legal, medical and financial details. We provide the essential element of support. You and your surrogate can relax, enjoy the pregnancy and prepare for the arrival of your baby.
Does your agency work with all types of couples?
Yes, Pacific Northwest Surrogacy does not discriminate against age, ethnic background, marital status or sexual orientation.
Do you work with intended parents who live outside of the pacific northwest?
Yes. Pacific Northwest Surrogacy works with intended parents throughout the U.S. and abroad. We encourage you to involve yourself in the pregnancy as much as you can by attending medical appointments and, of course, being here for the birth of your child. Spend time in beautiful Pacific Northwest, visit with your surrogate and her family and enjoy this great area, home of some of the best outdoor activities you’ll find anywhere.
How is the pregnancy managed?
After your surrogate’s pregnancy is confirmed, she receives care from the IVF doctor during her first trimester. At approximately the 12-week mark in the pregnancy, the fertility doctor releases your surrogate to her selected OB/GYN, whose care is covered by the surrogate’s medical insurance (or insurance you have purchased for her). Your surrogate is seen by her OB/GYN until she delivers the baby, generally at the hospital; however, if you and your surrogate are in agreement, the delivery may occur at a birthing center. Decisions regarding the pregnancy are a joint effort between you and your surrogate; most decisions are discussed and agreed upon before the legal agreements are signed.
How much contact do I have with pacific northwest surrogacy
As much as you want. We’re here to help you through the entire surrogacy journey, from big issues to small concerns, like which stroller to buy or diapers to use. If you need a friendly ear, we’re available to listen, to answer your questions and to calm any anxieties about this exciting adventure.
Why should I choose pacific northwest Surrogacy over other agencies?
We value family and relationships. We’re diligent about creating a good fit between the intended parent(s) and their surrogate, then offer support and guidance throughout the entire process. We recognize that building a family through surrogacy entails a life-changing experience for everyone involved. We’re passionate about our work, and we’re good at it.
How do I know I’m choosing the right surrogate agency for me?
Pacific Northwest Surrogacy respects you, your family and the choices you’ve made. We’re committed to supporting you from the moment you decide to work with us until well after the birth of the baby. Give us a call or make an appointment to meet with us in person or via Skype. This is a no-obligation opportunity to see if you connect with who we are and how we approach the surrogacy parenting experience.
How do I know I’m working with a reputable agency?
Research the agency. Make certain they have ties to the community and to ethics and professional organizations. Members of our staff are members of SEEDS (Society for Ethical Egg Donation and Surrogacy), RESOLVE (a national infertility society), American Bar Association Assisted Reproductive Technology Law Committee and Adoption Committee, Colorado Bar Association Family Law Section, Colorado Bar Association Women’s Section, and the Colorado LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce.
What if surrogacy is illegal in the state in which we live? Can we still use Pacific Northwest Surrogacy?
Yes. Our surrogates live in Washington, Oregon or Idaho—all states with surrogacy-friendly judicial systems—and your baby is born in the state in which your surrogate lives, but you can live in any state (or any country across the globe) and work with us.
What if our surrogate won’t give us the baby following the birth?
Many intended parents worry about this in the early stages of the surrogacy journey. The likelihood of this happening is extremely rare. Typically the cases reported by the media are genetic (previously known as traditional) surrogacy cases (the surrogate uses her own egg and is genetically linked to the child). You and the surrogate enter into a valid and enforceable legal contract with the intent that the child she carries is your child. Every surrogate in our program is a gestational carrier and has no genetic link to the child. Our surrogates are pre-screened to determine their emotional and mental suitability. A woman who wants to become a surrogate feels fortunate to have her own child(ren) and isn’t looking for a baby to fill a void in her life. On the contrary, her decision is about giving the intended parents the opportunity to experience the joy that a family can bring. The majority of our surrogates have completed their family and have no desire for more children of their own.
Do we need a contract?
Yes. When you are matched with a surrogate we refer you to independent legal counsel. Surrogacy should never be done without a contract, even if handled independently. Proceeding without a contract is extremely risky and often leads to legal issues that require years—and money—to resolve.
Who chooses the attorney to prepare and review our legal contracts?
You choose your own attorney. If you don’t have an established relationship with an attorney who specializes in reproductive law, we provide a list of qualified, Pacific Northwest-based and Pacific Northwest-licensed attorneys. We know quite a few excellent ones!
Are my and my spouse/partner’s names on the birth certificate?
In Washington and Oregon, you take the legal steps, with the cooperation of your surrogate and her spouse or partner, to receive a court order. The court order gives you parental rights prior to the baby’s birth and stipulates that your name(s) be on the birth certificate from the start. Idaho is a slightly more intensive process that involves a post-birth order in most cases. We’d love to talk to you about them all!
What happens if one or both of us dies before the baby is born?
We encourage all of our intended parents to have estate planning documents in place that establish legal custody of the baby should something happen to you during the pregnancy.
What happens if we divorce before the baby is born?
In the extremely unlikely and unfortunate situation of a divorce occurring before your surrogate gives birth, custody of the child(ren) would be resolved through court custody proceedings. The child(ren) would never be the responsibility of the surrogate.
Have you ever been sued?
No, our agency has never been sued.
Do you charge for the initial consultation?
No, Pacific Northwest Surrogacy does not charge for consultations or for providing information.
What does Pacific Northwest Surrogacy’s full service fee include?
Our fee covers a range of services, including criminal background checks on the surrogate and her spouse or partner, preliminary medical screening to detect easily discoverable medical problems (your fertility clinic conducts additional screenings) and a complete psychological screening. We conduct the introductory meeting between you and your potential surrogate. If necessary, we assist in contract negotiations. We help to coordinate medical care throughout the pregnancy and check in frequently with you and your surrogate to ensure that things are going well. We also help to resolve your concerns before and during the pregnancy and for six weeks following delivery.
When do I pay Pacific Northwest Surrogacy?
We divide our fee into segments and collect at two distinct times during the surrogacy process. If you decide not to continue at any point, you pay nothing further. We collect the first agency fee when you are matched with your gestational carrier. If there’s no match, no fees are due! The second portion is due when you sign the legal contract with your surrogate.
How much does surrogacy cost?
The cost varies widely. The amount is based on a number of factors, including the possible need of an egg donor, if you’re expecting twins and the circumstances of your surrogate. Our intended parent cost estimate worksheet gives you a ballpark estimate of what to expect. We’re well aware of the financial stress that intended parents possibly experienced before deciding to pursue surrogacy. We strive to keep our expenses in line and designed our program to minimize cost and stress. We have no hidden fees. Our agency fee covers background checks and the pre-medical and psychological screenings.
How much is a surrogate paid?
We suggest that intended parents pay our first-time surrogates a base compensation of $40,000, but ultimately that figure is your decision. In the event of mitigating circumstances such as nonexistent or poor health insurance coverage that would increase your costs significantly, the surrogate may be willing to settle for a lower base compensation because you pay her insurance premiums. Experienced surrogates typically receive $45,000. If a surrogate is carrying multiples, she can expect to receive an additional $7,000 per baby. A monthly allowance and housekeeping allowance, which are standard, can add another $5,000 in reimbursements. Other, more variable costs may include reimbursement for child care and lost wages if the surrogate is placed on bed rest or undergoes a caesarean section or other invasive procedure.
How should I determine my surrogate’s compensation?
The level of compensation you agree to is a personal decision. We generally advise intended parents that compensation for our first-time surrogates start at $40,000. In the event of mitigating circumstances such as nonexistent or poor health insurance coverage that would increase your costs significantly, the surrogate may be willing to settle for a lower base compensation because you pay her insurance premiums.
Would our surrogate be paid more for carrying twins or triplets?
Yes. In the case of multiples, our surrogates receive an additional $7,000 per baby.
Does our health insurance cover the surrogacy?
Although your policy may provide coverage for certain fertility-related expenses you incurred for your own fertility-related procedures, insurance policies do not cover third parties (your surrogate). You need to pay the medical expenses your surrogate incurs at the fertility clinic and, if the surrogate’s own insurance does not cover surrogacy-related maternity and delivery costs, a health insurance policy to cover prenatal care and delivery.
Can we use the surrogate’s health insurance?
A number of insurance companies are adding surrogacy exclusions to their policies. As a result, some surrogacy agencies suggest using the surrogate’s insurance even though these exclusions exist, claiming that the insurance company won’t know that this is a surrogate pregnancy. Under these circumstances, you as the intended parent risk a huge financial loss if there are complications with the pregnancy and the insurance company discovers the surrogacy relationship. Worst case, the case is considered insurance fraud. We can refer you to companies who examine the surrogate’s insurance policy to determine if it contains any surrogacy exclusions. With that information in hand, you can determine if her policy will provide coverage for a surrogacy pregnancy or if you need to explore other options.
What if our surrogate doesn’t have health insurance?
Some of our surrogates carry their own health insurance. If your surrogate does not, you provide her with a health insurance policy for the duration of the surrogacy.
How is the surrogate’s compensation paid?
Before a surrogate is cleared to undergo the embryo transfer, our intended parents are required to place sufficient funds to cover the surrogate’s fees and expenses throughout the pregnancy in an escrow trust fund. The escrow company pays your surrogate from this fund.
How are financial issues handled?
All financial issues and discussions are handled through Pacific Northwest Surrogacy or the escrow agency. We believe that you and your surrogate should be free to focus on the pregnancy and your relationship. As your agency, we handle all financial discussions, alleviating you and your surrogate of the burdens they can cause.
What if I do not have a reproductive endocrinologist?
We have relationships with several highly-qualified reproductive endocrinologists (fertility doctors). We’re happy to make a referral on your behalf.
Can I be a parent if I or my partner is HIV-positive?
Yes. Thanks to sperm-washing techniques and a new highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), it is possible for HIV-positive men and women to parent safely.
What happens to any remaining frozen embryos?
Frozen embryos are stored at your IVF clinic. If your family is complete, you are advised about your options for the future of your embryos. If you choose to move your embryos, your IVF clinic assists with that process. You have the option to use cryo-preserved embryos in a future surrogacy.
What is the transfer procedure like for surrogates?
The embryo transfer is a quick and relatively painless procedure. The IVF doctor inserts the embryo(s) into the surrogate’s uterus through a small catheter. An ultrasound may be used to help guide the physician during the transfer. Once the embryologist has ensured that the embryos(s) are safely inserted, your surrogate remains in the recovery room for 30-60 minutes before leaving the clinic. Doctors vary in their protocol, but most require anywhere from 1-5 days of bed rest, which begins as soon as your surrogate is home from the procedure. If she doesn’t live locally, the bed rest begins when she returns to the hotel following the transfer.
Are we required to use a fertility center in the Pacific Northwest?
No, it’s not required. While the Pacific Northwest has many top-ranked fertility centers, intended parents sometimes prefer a center closer to home. If long-distance travel is required, your surrogate is compensated for her travel expenses.
Can I work with my own fertility center for the medical treatment of our chosen surrogate?
Yes, provided your fertility center operates in a surrogacy-friendly state. If that is not the case, we can refer you to several reputable fertility centers.