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Who Makes a Good Surrogate

Back in February of 2011, we ran a webinar about What Qualities Make a Good Surrogate. Even after a 30 minute webinar, we still had more to say about it!

But rather than just qualities, we decided to take a broader view to think about who we think are our best surrogates, what are their motivations, and where do we find them?

Does Age Really Matter?

We all like to think that you’re as young as you feel. When it comes to surrogacy, however, a Surrogate’s age plays a huge factor towards a successful birth. Why? Because biologically and physiologically speaking (and through lots of experience), our program shows that age does matter.

Building Families, Inc.’s age criteria for Surrogates is from 21 to 41 years old, for health reasons. This age range is widely accepted by professionals in the infertility field.

You’ve probably seen headlines about women having babies at age 65 and even older. With technology, namely Assisted Reproductive Technology, a woman’s ability to become pregnant far exceeds what we consider to be a safe age to carry a healthy pregnancy to term. Women as young as 35 can still have age related medical concerns, including as hypertension, preexisting or gestational diabetes, and high blood pressure. Simply stated, the older you are, the higher the risk.

As an aside, we’ve found that Independent Arrangements (that is, arrangements without a third party agency such as Building Families, Inc.) have no limit really, but most women are between 18-45. If you are looking for a surrogate in an independent arrangement, it is important that you request proof of age.

Working vs Stay-at-home Mothers

There’s a lot of talk about whether working moms or a stay-at-home moms are better suited to be Surrogate. We have and continue to have success with both!

Working Moms as Surrogates

Both Intended Parents and potential Surrogates worry that a being a working mom makes them too busy to take care of the pregnancy. We don’t see this at all. These are some of the advantages that Surrogates have:

  • Good health insurance benefits. Working moms tend to have health insurance benefits that ensure that they have been and continue to be healthy
  • Usually have childcare covered. Working moms tend to already have child care solutions in place. Their kids typically have a place to be during long doctor visits or other appointments.
  • Work ethic. Working moms understand the responsibilities of arriving to appointments on time and promptly responding to correspondence or phone calls.

Stay-at-home Moms as Surrogates

Just because stay-at-home moms aren’t in the work force doesn’t mean that they’re not busy! It just means that they oftentimes have more flexibility than their work-force counterparts.

  • Generally more flexible with availability. Some Intended Parents would like to see their Surrogate often and have lots of communication. Stay-at-home moms tend to be more available to her Couple.
  • No time off work issues. If a Surrogate requires extensive bed rest during pregnancy or after pregnancy ( for example, after a C-section delivery), there’s no anxiety to be had about being away from the job, nor is there an extra financial burden.

One thing to consider for stay-at-home moms, however, is that they are usually the primary caretaker for their own kids. Stay-at-home moms need to consider looking into childcare options in their area ahead of time so they know what’s available during the duration of their surrogacy.

  • Can I be a Surrogate if I don’t have health insurance? Will my personal health insurance be used?
    The short answer is that a health insurance policy is required. The long answer is that if you do not have one, no worries, we will purchase one for you! An insurance specialist determines if your policy can be used for the surrogacy process and if not, or if you do not have one, they find a policy that works with your local doctor and hospital. You will never be out of pocket for medical costs relating to the pregnancy.

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Marital Status

Both married and single Surrogates have been successful in our program, but there are differences and potential issues that should be addressed in either case.


When paired with a supportive spouse in a surrogacy journey, married women make exceptional Surrogates for many reasons, including the following:

  • Built-in Support. The Surrogate’s spouse provides incredible emotional support. Additionally, we require that the potential Surrogate provide us with at least 2 caregivers for her children, besides her spouse, as part of the application process.
  • Male bonding. When both Intended Parents and Surrogate have male partners, oftentimes a unique and fun relationship develops between the Intended Father and the Surrogate’s husband. This relationship gives the Surrogate’s husband an opportunity to feel more included in the journey.

It is important to mention that the spouse needs to be supportive in the surrogacy journey. We do an in-home study that gives us the opportunity to meet the spouse and kids. The surrogacy journey is a wonderful gift and affects the Surrogate’s entire immediate family. Everyone needs to be on board to ensure the success of the journey.


Simply because a potential Surrogate isn’t married, doesn’t mean that they are disqualified from our program. Single moms that are qualified for our program tend to have very good support systems and typically live close to family members. We find that their support system is as good if not better than married women.

However, single mothers do have a couple of things to consider.

  • Relationships. Woman who are qualified for our program are either in a relationship already or avoid one during time with us. Life happens, though, so we make sure to keep counsel with Surrogate’s during the journey.
  • Possible Limited Availability. Not only does the single mom work, but if the father of the children is not involved in their lives on a daily basis, then she has to wear the hat of both mother and father, which this takes incredible effort and time.

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Support System

We mentioned support system in regards to whether the Surrogate is married or single. But the bottom line is that all of our Surrogates have children and a home that needs to be cared for. We recommend that a Surrogate have at least 2 childcare providers available to them. Other domestic assistance, such as house cleaning, can be found much more easily.

So, what’s the worst that can happen? For us, the one case that comes to mind is Monica’s story in 2000: working mom; months of doctor ordered bed rest; husband breaking the sound barrier to arrive in time for the birth. Give it a read 🙂 Of course, this is a rarity, but it can happen to anyone. There is much to consider, including childcare, significant others, work, housekeeping, and the like. These types of expenses are negotiated in contract prior to starting a journey, and would be covered in contract by the Intended Parents.

Previous Pregnancy & Health History

Here at Building Families, only accept women who have previously given birth to at least one child to become a Surrogate. Some may worry that one pregnancy isn’t enough of a test to know if the woman is a good candidate for surrogacy. But as long as that pregnancy had no complications, it really is.

One thing we have found is that women who have had multiple C-Sections are more likely to have complications. Due to the nature of infertility procedures, we oftentimes see twins during a surrogacy journey. A pregnancy with multiples puts greater stress on the uterus and increases the risk of rupture significantly. With this in mind, we do not accept anyone with more than 2 C-sections.

Overall good health with a healthy lifestyle is key for a Surrogate. We know that life can get hectic, but those who make good Surrogate do at least the following:

  • No smoking or drinking. With significant others that smoke, it’s important to us that it doesn’t happen around the potential Surrogate or their children. During our in-home study, we can tell if someone in the house smokes.
  • 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.

Medical Conditions

Allowable medical conditions should be determined by the fertility doctor and an obstetrician. A potential Surrogate should always check with her doctor to make sure that a 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 won’t accept an applicant who has ever had problems with high blood pressure or insulin treated diabetes even if they claim their condition is under control. We also won’t accept candidates currently on depression or anti-anxiety medications. The risks in these cases are too high to the candidate and to the baby.

Altruistic Motivations

It is critical that a Surrogate candidate is primarily motivated by altruistic reasons. Sure, everyone can use an extra dollar, but there isn’t enough money in being a Surrogate in this to make it the primary reason or focus. Great Surrogates want to make a connection to others, that love being pregnant, and the joy and happiness that children bring to create a family. Let’s take a couple of examples:

  • We have had Surrogate Moms who choose to help an infertile Couple because their family budget requires that she have an income. Why weren’t these cases of money motivation? When we got down to the nitty-gritty of things, being a Surrogate Mom gave these women the ability to stay at home with their own kids with the added bonus of helping others have their family. Score!
  • We have also had Surrogate Moms who choose to help an infertile Couple so that they can then afford the process for themselves due their own fertility issues. 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.

All of our potential Surrogate have interviews with a licensed psychologist to ensure that they’re a good match with our program. Our program Psychologist, Dr. Vesna Radojevic, has been in practice for more than 30 years and is considered an expert in these diagnostic evaluations. These diagnostic evaluations are critical in ensuring that a potential Surrogate Mom has the coping skills and ability to manage through a Surrogacy arrangement.

We also require that the Surrogate Mom attend monthly group meetings here in Southern California, with private meetings at the psychologist’s discretion. Even in the best of surrogacy arrangements, there are issues that arise. Issues unrelated to the surrogacy itself: work, children, family, death – everything. We understand that life continues to happen during a surrogacy journey and we believe it is best practice to have a professional on board to help everyone deal with anything that arises.

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Clean Background Check

As a rule, any potential Surrogate we consider (and their significant other/partner) must consent to a background check prior to acceptance into our program. We feel this is an important step, as it provides us with additional validations and peace-of-mind for our Intended Parents. Background checks expose potential speed bumps or roadblocks or may flat-out reject a potential Surrogate Mom. Sometimes, these speed bumps just mean that right now isn’t a good time, but may be at a later time.

Location, Location, Location

I’m sure you’ve read that California is the surrogacy capital of the world. It is here that surrogacy was first tried in the courts where the outcome was favorable for the Intended Parents. Through the years it has gotten only stronger here. In 1998, the Buzzanca vs. Buzzanca case truly clarified the roles of every party (CaseBriefs provides a very good write-up). The resulting rule of law: “When a married couple consent to in vitro fertilization by unknown donors and subsequent implantation into a surrogate, the couple are the legal parents of the offspring.” The relevant consequences of this (specifically in California) is that 1) there is case law regarding surrogacy in California regarding egg donors and surrogacy, 2) the intended parents are indeed the parents, 3) the surrogate is not the mother.

There are other states that are allowing surrogacy, so of course it isn’t absolutely necessary that every surrogate arrangement occur in California. However, California is years ahead of everyone else. There are states that either do not recognize a surrogate contract (meaning it is not enforceable) or where it is flat out illegal.

With all that said, we think that good Surrogates are the ones that are nearby. Technology has brought us very close together, but the physical closeness of our Surrogates to our home base gives us the ability to provide them with the in-face, one-to-one interactions that make our program what it is.


There are a lot of wonderful women out there ready to be Surrogates. Building Families continues to have great success with Working moms, stay-at-home moms, married and single women. What makes them great is their big hearts and drive to provide the joy of family that they currently have.

There’s a lot to think about and consider for potential Surrogates, outside of actually carrying a child. But once you get those ducks all lined up, there’s a beautiful, wonderful, life-long journey ahead for everyone involved!

Ready to Get Started or Need More Info?
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