I've had people ask me quite frequently why we have the qualifications that we do for gestational carriers and who exactly is making the rules. I think this is a very good question as it allows both potential gestational carriers and intended parents understand who sets the bar and why that bar is set in the first place.
In a nut shell, the "rules" come from the Reproductive Endocrinologist (the fertility doctor in this process), American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) guidelines, and the individual State Laws. These rules are, in fact, NOT coming from the agency themselves. Rather, the agency presents these requirements as they know who will be given the green light to move ahead in this journey. I wanted to talk about a few of the bigger qualifications that can sometimes be confusing and I tend to get the most questions on.
1. Why do I have to be 21?
Well, there are a few reasons for this. First of all, the law in most states sets this age in place. That is the easiest answer. Legally speaking, a surrogate in many states cannot enter into a contractual agreement until the age of 21. Additionally, the main requirement for gestational carriers is to have had a child already and currently be raising your child/children. We want to make sure that you have had time to have your children and preferably already completed your family. While there are women that have gone on to have more children of their own after surrogacy, there are always risks involved and we would hate for you to have helped complete another family and find yourself unable to complete your own.
2. Why are there BMI requirements? I was this weight with my own children and they are perfectly healthy.
We understand that higher weight in pregnancy does not always correlate with complications during pregnancy. However, statistics state that being overweight does increase the chances of complications like gestational diabetes, pregnancy-induced hypertension, and pre-eclampsia, among other things. After the struggles that some intended parents have gone through, we want to give them the BEST chance possible for a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. Additionally, becoming pregnant through IVF (the process of placing the embryo(s) into the gestational carrier), is a completely different process than getting and staying pregnant on your own. This process involves a lot of medications. When your BMI is higher, there is a chance your body won't absorb the medication like it needs to in order to achieve a healthy pregnancy. There is also a higher chance, unfortunately, of miscarriage in IVF pregnancies in overweight/obese women. The good news, however, is that this is a requirement that can be met down the line! So if your BMI is not currently under the limits set forth by the guidelines, it doesn't mean that surrogacy will never be in your future.
3. Why can't a surrogate be on financial assistance? Anyone should be able to help!
This is often a hard one to swallow for some women. Financial stability is extremely important for a gestational carrier for a number of reasons. First, it's always a good idea to have extra funds available to you for items that could come up while waiting for reimbursement or your monthly allowance. While it's rare that you would need to pay out of your own pocket first, it does and can happen from time to time. (i.e. a rental car that requires a credit card on file, last minute prescription that needs filled, etc.) In addition, ALL money you receive must be reported to the benefits office to determine your eligibility. We would never want your compensation to put you over the limits and cause you to lose benefits for both you and your family. Surrogacy is rather short-term in the grand scheme of financial security for your family. Lastly, the courts, when issuing parentage orders to the intended parents, could see the compensation as you receive as financial coercion. This is a BIG one. The courts never want to see a women become a surrogate solely for financial gain or under financial duress. This could look like you felt you HAD to be a surrogate in order to provide for your family. And unfortunately, this could cause the intended parents parentage rights to be at stake.
I hope this clears up why we have these requirements in place. We never want to turn away a woman from surrogacy with a good heart. However, we know that we can't qualify everyone. These rules and laws are in place to protect the gestational carrier, intended parents, and of course, the new baby we are bringing into this world.