Many women who seek to become a surrogate are often ineligible for various reasons. The intended parents and fertility doctors need a surrogate who not only had easy pregnancies, but is also in top health mentally and physically. Surrogacy providers must reduce all possible risks through extensive candidate screenings in order to find potential surrogates who can lead to the best possible outcome for a family-a healthy pregnancy and baby.
The most common reasons for not qualifying to become a surrogate include body mass index, nicotine use, a history of pregnancy complications, receiving government assistance, mental health history, and lack of family support.
Let’s break down why each of these areas is important when it comes to surrogacy, and why you may be denied because of them…
- Body Mass Index is a calculation used to determine healthy weight. Fertility doctors only consider women for surrogacy who have a BMI between 19-32. If underweight or overweight, pregnancy complications are more likely to occur including gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, miscarriage, problems getting pregnant, stillbirth, bleeding and delivery complications. Many fertility clinics seek surrogates with a BMI of 28-30 or less because weight gain is common when the surrogate begins the fertility medication protocol in preparation for the embryo transfer.
- The use of nicotine and vaping products have been found to cause cancer and lung damage in individuals who use these products. Studies have shown nicotine use, inhaling passive smoke and vaping can also cause brain damage, lung damage and even death to babies during pregnancy. For these reasons, surrogates must not engage in any type of smoking or nicotine use, not allow anyone to smoke in the home, and must not have used at all for the year prior to pregnancy as nicotine can remain in the system for up to a year. Fertility clinics regularly screen surrogates for nicotine use.
- Experiencing complications with your previous personal pregnancies can be a sign of what you may experience with a surrogate pregnancy. Complications including preeclampsia, preterm labor, gestational diabetes, placenta previa, or multiple miscarriages during a previous pregnancy increase the chances of similar complications in a second, third, or fourth pregnancy. Your health and safety is a top priority, and we would never want you to put your life at risk during this process. Depending on the nature of the complication, many times the surrogacy coordinator will talk through the noted complications with you to determine their severity, the cause, and if it is something likely to happen again.
- Receiving government assistance in the form of food stamps or SNAP, TANF, cash aid, and/or Medicaid isn’t uncommon and certainly doesn’t make you a bad person or incapable of being a great surrogate! However, if you are receiving these government benefits, it is likely you are not at peak financial stability. The last thing we’d ever want is for a woman to feel like surrogacy is the only option she has to earn money and provide for herself and her children. The use of SNAP or food stamps may indicate an issue with food availability in the home, and balanced nutrition is a critical part of a healthy pregnancy. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) has clear guidelines to protect surrogates from being exploited or put in a negative situation based on economic factors. So while it may seem unfair or irrelevant to be denied based on your receipt of government assistance, the guideline is put in place to protect your best interest and ensure you are making the decision to become a surrogate for the right reasons. Additionally, it is important to consider that the compensation you receive as a surrogate may be considered “income” in your state, making you ineligible for future government assistance.
- Your mental health must be stable, just as your body needs to be its healthiest physically for pregnancy. Applicants who are on medications for mental health issues are screened out. All surrogates and their partners must complete a psychological evaluation to move forward with a surrogacy journey. The surrogacy process requires a lot of time and commitment and can be a stressful and anxiety-inducing. Fertility providers consider surrogates who are mentally stable without the use of medications, cope with life stressors well, and have a safe and stable home life. Surrogates are screened out if they have a criminal record, history of alcohol/drug use, housing or financial instability, or a spouse with a criminal history or history of alcohol/drug use.
- Support from family and friends during pregnancy is critical, whether it is a personal pregnancy or a surrogate pregnancy. Surrogacy may even require more support as the surrogate experiences additional responsibilities and challenges. If the surrogate has family members who will refuse to support her in the journey, she may not be able to proceed with the process. The surrogate’s spouse/partner must be on board with the surrogacy journey from the beginning as he/she must participate in a background check, medical screening, psychological evaluation, and court hearings regarding parentage orders. Women who may have always dreamed of helping a family cannot proceed if their partner does not agree to participate in the journey. For this reason, women who are in the process of a divorce must also wait until the divorce is finalized to start a surrogacy journey.
The good news is that the reasons listed above aren’t stationary – your dreams of becoming a surrogate tomorrow don’t need to die just because you are denied today. As we all know, life can change in the blink of an eye, and your circumstances can always improve. A denial isn’t a firm rejection for life – it just means that at this moment in time, there are areas you need to work on – physically, mentally, financially. Bottom line: if you’ve recently been denied to become a surrogate, don’t be discouraged. It’s totally ok to inquire as to the reasons for your denial, and then work on them! At Family Inceptions, we encourage any woman who has been denied reach out again in 6-12 months.
Myths run rampant in the world of surrogacy. Can I be a surrogate if my tubes are tied? Will the baby look like the surrogate? Will I have to have sex with the intended father?
We lay out all of the qualifications to become a surrogate here. If your application has been denied, a good place to start is carefully reviewing the qualifications listed, and make sure you meet each one. Keep in mind, each agency and clinic may have slight variations on the qualifications.
This guide features everything you need to know to start your surrogacy journey including:
- 9 Awkward Questions You’re Dying to Ask
- Top 10 Surrogacy Myths BUSTED
- How to Talk to Your Husband About Surrogacy
- 7 Questions to Consider Before You Begin