What Qualities Make a Good Surrogate Mother? – February 1, 2011

Learn what qualities are critical when choosing the woman that will carry your baby.


Hello and welcome to our webinar, “What Qualities Make a Good Surrogate Mother?” My name is Carol Weathers and I am the founder and program director for Building Families, I have been involved in surrogacy arrangements for 20 years now. In that time, I have met hundreds of women who wanted to become Surrogate Mothers and have managed several hundred successful arrangements. I expect that by the end of this webinar, you will have a better understanding of what qualities are important when choosing your Surrogate Mother and also give you some new things to consider that you may not have thought of yet.

I will start with addressing some of the administrative items to help ensure this is a great experience for us all. I want to mention that my computer skills do have their limits, so let me apologize in advance for any slide mix-ups! Fortunately, I do have my IT guy here on hand ready to assist. First, we will be muting everyone during the presentation so only my voice will be heard. As soon as you think of a question, please send it to me via this webinar. You should type your questions in the chat box located in the Go To Meeting Control Panel. I will answer all questions at the end of the webinar.

If for some reason our webinar internet connection is interrupted we will attempt to reconnect for 15 minutes. If after 15 minutes we are unable to reconnect, we will email you with the rescheduled date and time.

And lastly, please understand that my role here today is not to dispense legal, medical or psychological advice as I am neither a lawyer, doctor nor a psychologist. The information I am providing you here today comes from my many years of experience. It may seem like some of these topics are common sense or that it shouldn’t be necessary to even inquire about them, but trust me when I tell you that they are all key to ensuring the Surrogate Mother is a good candidate to bring the arrangement to a successful end.

Now let’s move on to the webinar!


Does Age Really Matter?

Age is definitely a factor that should be considered when choosing a Surrogate Mother.

  • BFI Criteria – ages 21 to 39 for health reasons.
  • Independent Arrangements have no limit really, but most women are between 18-45. It is important to request proof of age.
  • Fertility News – I’m sure you have seen the headlines reading about women having babies at age 65 and even older. So with technology, namely Assisted Reproductive Technology, the woman’s ability to become pregnant far exceeds a safe age to carry a healthy pregnancy to term.
  • Biggest concern should be the health of the woman during the pregnancy and age is a factor when considering health.
  • Age related medical concerns such as hypertension is common in older women
  • If the woman has complications, then inevitably so can the baby

Working Moms

  • Most Couples worry that a working mom will be too busy to take care of the pregnancy. But I don’t see this. These are some of the benefits to choosing a Working Surrogate Mom:
  • Good health insurance benefits
  • Possible savings for childcare and domestic assistance as it may already be in place. These women know what is necessary to care for their children and the home in their absence.
  • A trait that working women have is a work ethic. They understand the responsibilities of arriving to appointments on time and promptly responding to correspondence or phone calls.

Stay-at-home Moms

  • There are Couples who would like to see their Surrogate often and have lots of communication. A stay-at-home mom tends to be more available to her Couple.
  • If this Surrogate becomes disabled during the pregnancy with bedrest or maybe after a C-section delivery for example, there are no additional costs for lost wages. This can be a significant savings depending on how long the Surrogate is out of work.
  • Insurance benefits may be available through her husband’s employer.
  • One negative thing I have encountered is that Stay-at-home moms have more difficulty arranging for long term childcare as they are the primary caretaker so they have not needed to make these arrangements. So, a Couple can expect these costs to be on the higher end as it will be a new enrollment in a daycare facility or fulltime inhome care depending on the situation.

Marital Status

When considering the marital status of the Surrogate Mom, there are some things to consider:

Married:

  • For married SMs, Husbands are a built-in support system, but I am speaking emotionally. They do work and can’t become the caregivers for the children or the home. We require that the potential Surrogate Mother provide us with at least 2 caregivers for her children besides her husband as part of the application process.
  • A neat thing that happens, is the relationship that develops between the Intended Father and the Husband of the SM. This gives the Surrogate’s husband an opportunity to feel a part of the process.
  • Now, it is important to mention that I am speaking in general terms. We at BFI realize that not all husbands are supportive. It is one thing to not understand why his wife would want to do this, it is another to not agree to support her during this process. We do an in-home study where we see the environment that the Couple’s baby will be growing in and it gives us the opportunity to meet the husband and kids. If the husband has no interest in our visit or the process, then this Surrogate is disqualified. If they are so naïve to think that this process is not going to affect not only the family but especially the husband, then they have not thought this through enough.

Single:

Now in regards to the single surrogate mom:

  • They tend to have good support systems and typically live close to family members. I find that their support system is as good if not better than married women.
  • The second item is their relationship status. They are either in a relationship already or avoid one during time with us. But we understand that life continues to happen so she may meet someone who is important to her. So we always counsel them about having her new partner tested before having sex.
  • Something else to consider is the possibility of limited availability. Not only does the single mom work, but if the father of the children are not involved in their lives on a daily basis, then she has to wear the hat of both mother and father. So this takes incredible effort and time. So her time may be less available for the Intended Parents.

Support System

I mentioned support system in regards to whether the Surrogate is married or single. But the bottom line is that all Surrogate Mothers have children and a home that needs to be cared for. I recommend that a list be prepared with at least 2 childcare providers. The domestic assistance such as house cleaning can be found much more easily.

The worse case scenario should be addressed. Which is what? For us, the one case that comes to my mind is Monica’s story. You can find her story on my website under Success Stories for the year 2000. (tell Monica’s story) Granted it rarely happens, but it can happen to anyone. There is child care to consider, but other things such as her job if she’s employed, housekeeping and similar. Although she is being paid to be your Surrogate Mother, the compensation she receives is not for these types of expenses. The Couple will be expected to cover these expenses with some limitation of course. The contract terms are key in these instances as it outlines the financial responsibilities of the Couple before a crisis actually occurs. This is best as it is impossible to negotiate fairly anytime after the contract stage.


Pregnancy & Health History

This is another area of super importance, the SMs pregnancy and health history.

  • Some worry that one pregnancy is not enough of a test to know if the woman is a good candidate for surrogacy. But it really is if no complications were present.
  • Multiple C-Sections can be a complication waiting to happen. We have a current 40% twin rate and a pregnancy with multiple fetuses puts great stress on the uterus and the risk of rupture increases significantly. So, we do not accept anyone with more than 2 C-sections.
  • In addition, we look for a healthy height and weight ratio. There is a chart called (BMI) Body Mass Index that we refer to. We do get inquiries from women who are overweight and we explain the health risks to them and the baby. We do offer to support them through a healthy weight loss program such as Weight Watchers if they are serious about getting healthy.
  • Overall Good health is key. A healthy lifestyle promotes this. The obvious things are no smoking or drinking. We know of some husbands that smoke but they do that outside as they don’t want their children or their wife around it. When we go to their home we can tell if someone in the house smokes. We also believe that someone who takes depression or anti-anxiety medications is not a good candidate for surrogacy.
  • Allowable medical conditions should be determined by the fertility doctor and an obstetrician. You can’t know the Surrogate mother’s true condition, so it is always best to get a recommendation from her doctor that pregnancy would not be harmful to her or the baby. We have accepted candidates with conditions such as thyroid disorder that is under control. We never accept any applicant who has ever had problems with high blood pressure or insulin treated diabetes even if they claim their condition is under control. The risks are too high to her and to the baby.

Motivation

  • It is critical that the Surrogate Mother be primarily motivated for altruistic reasons. Yes, everyone can use an extra dollar, but there isn’t enough money in this to make that the primary reason or focus. If it is clear that the SM is primarily motivated by money I assure you that it will be a difficult journey and in the end may cost the Intended Parents more financially and emotionally than they could have ever imagined.
  • I have had Surrogate Moms who choose to help an infertile Couple because their family budget requires that she have an income. One could say that she is motivated by money, but she’s really not. She feels it is a great trade; she is helping someone have their family and they are affording her to stay home with hers a while longer.
  • As most know, fertility treatments are expensive and many times outside the reach of many Couples. For different reasons, such as a tubal ligation, the Surrogate Mom can no longer have children naturally. She is now remarried and wants to have children with her new husband but cannot afford the medical procedures. Again, on the surface this seems like a financial motive, but it really isn’t. She understood what it was to have a child when she wanted one and now she understands wanting a child and being unable to have one. This arrangement helps both the Surrogate Mom and the Couple in achieving their goals.

Psych Eval & Counseling

  • A licensed psychologist should always be used to determine if the potential Surrogate Mom is appropriate. They need to be well trained in diagnostic evaluations. Our program Psychologist, Dr. Vesna Radojevic, has been in practice for more than 25 years and is considered an expert in diagnostic evaluations. This is critical as it is this professional’s role that determines if the Surrogate Mom has the coping skills and ability to manage through a Surrogacy arrangement.
  • We require that the Surrogate Mom attend monthly group meetings and private meetings with at the psychologist’s discretion. Even in the best of surrogacy arrangements, there are issues that arise. Sometimes they are not even related to the surrogacy itself. For example, one of our Surrogate’s Dad was diagnosed with cancer and died within just a few months, all during her surrogacy with us. Even though this was not surrogacy related, she still needed support and of course we gave that to her. Life continues to happen during the surrogacy and it is best to have a professional on board to help everyone deal with anything that arises.

Background Check

As a rule, we always perform background checks on every Surrogate Mom candidate. Obviously we receive a signed release from the Surrogate Mom so this investigation can be performed. A Couple in an independent arrangement does not have this kind of access. We feel it is important as it gives us the ability to cross check her answers on the application and also to know more about her in a short amount of time. We can see if she is about to lose her house, for example. Or if she is being sued by someone. And we can see her driving record to know if she has a history of driving drunk, excessive speeding tickets or similar problems. For us this is always done before the Surrogate Mother is cleared into the program.


Location

I’m sure you have read that California is the surrogacy capital of the world. It is here that surrogacy was first tried in the courts and the outcome was favorable for the Intended Parents. Through the years it has gotten only stronger here. There was a case a few years back that truly clarified the roles of every party and although I am not a lawyer, I am going to tell you some basic facts about this case so you understand why I only do business here in California. Buzzanca vs. Buzzanca

There are other states that are doing surrogacy now so of course it isn’t absolutely necessary that every surrogate arrangement occur in California. It is just that California is years ahead of everyone else. The key is to ensure you are NOT doing your surrogacy in a state that either does not recognize the surrogate contract meaning it is not enforceable or that it is flat out illegal there. I don’t have to tell you how many Couples have had difficulties and even lost their children to Surrogate Mothers because they had no legal leg to stand on. The internet is full of these stories.


Summary

As you can see, these are the items I have outlined for you today. Of course, as an agent, I already do this work for you in ensuring the Surrogate Mom candidate that I propose to my client is appropriate in every way. I have great success with Working Moms, Stay-at-home moms, married and single women. The key is to ensure she understands her obligations and carefully considers her ability to meet those obligations . Her support system is especially critical as it is always best to plan for the worse. The fertility doctor typically requests records especially if a C-Section was performed in her last pregnancy. They are the ones who recommend or reject the Surrogate Mom medically speaking. The psychological component is key in determining the Surrogate’s true motivation and of course her ability to manage a surrogate arrangement. The background check is an extra device that keeps the applicant honest, although I find that most women wanting to be Surrogate Moms for the right reasons are of the highest caliber of people I know. And finally, the state of California, is the birthplace of all of our Surrogate babies who have successfully arrived with the help of their Surrogate Mothers into the arms of their awaiting parents where they go home to their own state or country.


We do have future webinars planned and hope that you will join us. As I mentioned before, please know that you can contact me directly via e-mail anytime. I would be happy to answer any additional questions you have and also send you information specific to our Program. Thank you for attending our presentation.