As you’re considering becoming a surrogate in South Carolina, it’s natural for you to have questions about the process. You’re not alone; many prospective surrogates wonder the same things as they begin to learn more about surrogacy and what it will mean for them.

At  James Fletcher Thompson LLC, we can always answer any questions you have about the surrogacy process, what to expect from being a surrogate and how to get started today. If you’re seriously considering surrogacy, it’s important that you talk to a knowledgeable surrogacy professional to get the most accurate answers to your questions. You can speak to us at any time by calling 864-573-5533.

Below, we’ve answered some of the questions that we hear most often from prospective surrogates.

What is surrogacy?

Surrogacy is a way for parents who cannot carry a child to term to still have a child, who may be genetically related to them, by using another woman’s uterus. Becoming a surrogate is a choice that many women make after they’ve completed their own families but still have a healthy uterus they can use to help intended parents realize their dreams of having a baby.

A surrogate becomes pregnant through an embryo transfer and is typically compensated for her services. After the baby is born, the parents assume full legal parentage of the child.

What are the benefits of surrogacy?

Surrogacy is an incredibly selfless act for women who choose to carry a child for another person, but there are also benefits for her. Not only is a surrogate financially compensated for her decision, but she also receives the satisfaction and knowledge that she helped to grow a family.

What is the difference between being a “traditional surrogate” or a “gestational surrogate/carrier”?

In a gestational surrogacy, the surrogate is NOT genetically related to the child she is carrying. Instead, the embryo(s) transferred to her uterus through in vitro fertilization is typically composed of the intended parents’ eggs and sperm (although donor egg and/or sperm may be used). In a traditional surrogacy, the surrogate is artificially inseminated with the intended father’s sperm (or donated sperm), which fertilizes her own egg(s). As a result, she is the genetic mother of the child.

For our program, we only handle gestational surrogacy matters. As a result, if you are matched with intended parents through our Gestational Carrier Program, you would not be genetically related to any child that you gestate on their behalf.

What makes your Gestational Carrier Program different from other programs?

All of the gestational surrogates we work with reside in South Carolina (or close to the border). As a result, this allows us to provide a support system for the gestational surrogates, as well as our clients, the intended parents. Whether you live in the Lowcountry, Midlands or Upstate, we have a social worker who will be able to come and meet you in person, as well as be available to help at the hospital. You and the intended parents will not be navigating this process on your own. Additionally, our intended parents reside in the Southeast, so travel is usually very minimal.

What are the requirements to be a surrogate?

Before you contact us about becoming a surrogate, you should meet these requirements:

  • Be between the ages of 21 and 38 (older than 38 may be considered if you’ve had a recent pregnancy)
  • Be raising a child that you’ve given birth to yourself
  • Be financially stable and not on any form of government assistance
  • Have a healthy pregnancy history and lifestyle
  • Be smoke- and drug-free
  • Be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and speak fluent English
  • Have a vehicle and a valid driver’s license
  • Reside in South Carolina or within one hour of the border

If you meet these requirements, you can submit your information through our preliminary questionnaire. Keep in mind that you will have to meet additional medical requirements once you begin the surrogacy screening process.

What kinds of people become parents through surrogacy?

Intended parents come from all backgrounds; some are heterosexual couples, while others are single men, same-sex couples, and or women who cannot safely carry a child on their own. You can choose what kind of intended parents you’re comfortable with, and you are never obligated to work with a particular family until you sign a legal contract.

How are the intended parents and gestational surrogates matched?

Although some programs will assign a gestational surrogate to the intended parents, we feel that it is important that the match be a mutual decision between the gestational surrogate and the intended parents. As a result, you will actively participate in the matching process.

Prior to matching, we will discuss with you what you are looking for in prospective intended parents so as to determine your personal preferences. If it appears that you and the intended parents are a potential match, then we will present your profile to the intended parents for review. If they agree that you are a good possible match, then we will present their profile letter to you. This is a personal letter written by the intended parents where they describe themselves to you and which includes some photos of them.

Once you have had a chance to review their profile letter, if you are interested in the intended parents, then we will schedule a match meeting in one of our offices. After that meeting, we will ask everyone if they felt that it was a good match and if they want to proceed.

Although we are hopeful that the match meeting will result in a confirmed match, you are under no obligation to match with any particular intended parent. Because of this process, sometime a match will happen very quickly, while other times it can take longer. However, it is important that the match be a good one, even if it takes a bit longer to find a good fit.

Do the intended parents undergo a background investigation?

Besides having to meet with us, all intended parents undergo the same criminal background check as the gestational surrogates. Just like we do with your background investigations, we ensure that all intended parents properly understand the surrogacy process and are prepared for the challenges that could arise.

What if I already know the intended parents I want to work with?

It’s not at all uncommon for a woman to carry a child for a close friend or family member, and we’ve had situations like these come through our office as independent matches. We can offer you the same services as any other surrogate (although matching services will obviously not be needed). There are some different challenges to consider when working with intended parents you know, so we’ll discuss what those are and make sure this is the right decision for all involved.

How much contact will I have with the intended parents?

How much or how little contact you share with the intended parents will be agreed upon by both of you when you complete your surrogacy contract. Know that most intended parents are looking to receive updates from you during the pregnancy, and most surrogates invite the intended parents to participate in key moments like doctor’s appointments and the hospital stay. However, your contact with the intended parents will be unique to your own preferences.

Does surrogacy cost me anything?

By choosing to be a surrogate, you are making a significant physical and emotional commitment to another family — but you don’t have to commit any of your finances. Surrogacy will be completely free to you, as the intended parents will pay for all the pregnancy-related expenses you incur. You’ll receive money for things like maternity clothes and travel, and you’ll also receive a base compensation for being their surrogate.

How much do surrogates make?

The base compensation you receive will vary based on your individual situation and your experience as a surrogate. With our office, surrogates are typically compensated $25,000 if they are a first-time gestational carrier and $30,000 or more if they’re an experienced carrier. You may also receive additional compensation for carrying multiple babies, any failed embryo transfers, invasive procedures and other complications you encounter during your pregnancy.

What does my Case Manager do?

During the initial screening process, a social worker from our office will arrange to meet with you and your family in your home. During this meeting, she will talk to you about what you are looking for in prospective intended parents, your expectations regarding contact during the pregnancy and afterwards, what to expect at the hospital, etc.

Once you are matched, that same social worker will become the Case Manager for your match. She will be available 24 hours a day for emergencies. Additionally, she will come to your home to check in and make sure any concerns are being addressed. She will meet with the hospital social worker to make sure that everything is in place with the hospital prior to the birth and will come to the hospital at the time of birth to check in on everyone and help with the completion of the birth certificate paperwork.

Will I have my own attorney?

Yes. Although you will be selecting your own attorney, we know that it can be difficult to find an attorney who is experienced with gestational surrogacy matters in South Carolina. As a result, we will provide you with an attorney-referral list containing the names of South Carolina attorneys who are experienced with gestational surrogacy matters.

Once you have chosen your own attorney, that attorney will represent you during the contract negotiations, as well as for the duration of the contract, including during the legal action to have the intended parents declared as the legal parents (and terminate any presumed legal responsibility you may have toward the child you are gestating). Additionally, that attorney will be available to assist you should any legal questions arise during the pregnancy, at no cost to you.

Can I use my own OB/GYN?

Our goal is for all gestational surrogates to use their current OB/GYNs. However, in rare instances, a new doctor may be required if the doctor does not accept your insurance or if the doctor does not handle gestational surrogacy pregnancies. However, if a change needs to be made, you will be able to select your new OB/GYN.

How long is the surrogacy process?

How long your surrogacy process takes will depend upon many factors, including the preferences you have for your surrogacy experience, the number of cycles needed to achieve a successful pregnancy, how long it takes to match with the perfect intended parents and more. Typically, you can expect the surrogacy process to take 1–2 years after you first contact a surrogacy professional.

What if I don’t get pregnant?

It may take multiple embryo transfer attempts for you to successfully become pregnant. Any medical expenses will be paid during these transfers and you’ll receive any reimbursements that were agreed upon in your surrogacy contract.

It’s rare for a surrogate to never become pregnant in the agreed-upon number of embryo transfer attempts.

What happens after the baby is born?

The procedure you’ll follow after the baby is born will be decided when you complete your surrogacy contract with the intended parents. Usually, the intended parents will assume their full parental rights to the baby and finish paying any residual compensation, and your surrogacy journey will be complete.

You may have conflicting emotions at this time — and that’s completely normal. You’ll be excited to finally meet the baby you’ve been getting to know for the past nine months, but it can be bittersweet to see them leave with the intended parents. However, if you have a solid relationship with the intended parents, this will help you as you see the child grow up in their loving family.

Your Case Worker will be available to you if you experience any unexpected or difficult emotions after birth. While the surrogacy process will legally be complete at this point, we know that it will take time to adjust back to your normal lifestyle, which is why we’ll be there to help.

How can I start the surrogacy process?

The first step to becoming a surrogate is contacting the Law Offices of James Fletcher Thompson at 864-573-5533 or through our online form. We can answer any questions you have about the surrogacy process in more detail, as well as help you get started with the process whenever you’re ready. While surrogacy can be complicated, we’ll make sure you’re prepared for the commitment to make a difference in intended parents’ lives.