If you’re thinking about becoming a surrogate, you first need to know that there are two different types of surrogacy: altruistic and commercial. Commercial surrogacy is widely practiced in the U.S. and around the world, though there are locations where it is not permitted. Altruistic surrogacy may be the only option in certain states and countries. 

All surrogacy is altruistic to some extent since every journey requires a level of empathy and sacrifice. But how are commercial surrogacy and altruistic surrogacy different?

Compensation vs. non-compensation

Commercial surrogacy is also known as “compensated surrogacy,” meaning that the surrogate mother is paid (compensated) for her services as a carrier of the baby. The surrogacy arrangement is usually handled by a professional agency specializing in third-party reproduction. The surrogate mother receives payment for the pregnancy, as well as reimbursement of her medical expenses and other costs such as travel, clothing, and any other expenses related to the pregnancy.

In altruistic surrogacy, the surrogate receives no monetary compensation for her pregnancy. She may receive reimbursement for her medical fees, but this depends on the country’s laws and the terms of the agreement. Essentially, an altruistic surrogate agrees to carry a baby for the Intended Parents solely out of her own goodwill. 

Most often, altruistic surrogacy arrangments are between people who already know one another, such as family members or close friends.

Legal issues

Laws regarding commercial and altruistic surrogacy vary between US states and between countries.  

In the U.S., most states permit surrogacy and surrogacy contracts, while few do not permit any form of surrogacy. Some states, such as Michigan, even penalize commercial surrogacy. 

In certain US states, like Louisiana, altruistic surrogacy is legal but commercial surrogacy is not. This means that surrogates cannot receive compensation and that Intended Parents can only have children through a surrogate who is a close family member or friend.

This is also the case in countries such as Canada, where only altruistic surrogacy is allowed by The Assisted Human Reproduction Act (AHRC). Gestational surrogates may be reimbursed for certain expenses, but compensation of any other form is illegal. Countries such as Brazil, The Netherlands, and most states in Australia, only permit altruistic surrogacy. In some cases, intended parents may reimburse gestational carriers for approved expenses, but paying any other consideration or fee is illegal. 

Surrogacy-friendly states such as California, Washington State, and the District of Columbia allow both commercial and altruistic surrogacy contracts. In these states and many others, professional agencies can guide Intended Parents through the surrogacy arrangement and help with legalities. 

Motivation and money

One of the big myths about women who become surrogates is that they are “poor” or low income and need to make money. The truth is that women can only become surrogates if they are financially stable. To be accepted as a surrogate, a woman cannot be receiving any type of federal or state financial assistance for housing, food, or medical care. Potential surrogates also have to provide proof of their financial stability and that they and their family can maintain their lifestyle without depending on surrogate compensation.

A surrogate’s number one motivation should always be the joy of having a baby and helping someone start a family – not cashing in. 

For this reason, every woman who applies to become a surrogate must undergo a strict screening process to ascertain her suitability. The screening includes a psychological evaluation which helps to determine her motives. Only women who are genuinely enthusiastic about carrying someone else’s child will pass this screening. 

Why? It’s quite simple: being a surrogate isn’t about making money! It’s about love and generosity. And it’s absolutely crucial that all Intended Parents know their future son or daughter will be brought into the world by someone who is honest, giving, and ready to go through the intensely demanding physical and emotional process of carrying a pregnancy for someone else. 

Advantages and disadvantages

Between the right surrogate and intended parents, altruistic surrogacy can be an incredible experience for everyone involved. But, while altruistic surrogacy has many advantages, it isn’t failproof. Problems can arise if the friendship between the intended parents and the altruistic surrogate changes or if the arrangement isn’t recognized with a legal contract. In some cases, negative emotions can arise and have a profound effect on the outcome of the journey.

Employing the services of a professional surrogacy agency is often the best option, whether you’re in need of a surrogate or your surrogate is someone you know. Beyond matching you with a surrogate, a surrogacy agency will take care of all the legalities and facilitate the whole journey for everyone involved. As a surrogate, you’ll have peace of mind that your expenses are paid for, along with compensation for the enormous effort it takes to carry a pregnancy. For Intended Parents, knowing that all the details are being managed by someone who fully understands the process can provide peace of mind.

To learn more about commercial surrogacy or whether you’d be suitable as a surrogate, get in touch with Family Source Consultants!

Staci Swiderski, CEO and owner of Family Source Consultants has been involved in the field of reproductive medicine since 2002. Staci has vigorously grown the comprehensive egg donation and gestational surrogacy agency to become a worldwide leader in the third-party reproduction field. Staci is a former intended parent herself. She and her husband welcomed their son via gestational surrogacy in 2005. Additionally, Staci had the experience of assisting an infertile couple (AKA Recipient Parents) build their family through her efforts as an egg donor, with her donation resulting in the births of their son and daughter.