August 26, 2020

Surrogacy: What it is, How it Works and How Much it Costs

By Sylvie Tremblay

Are you a hopeful parent considering surrogacy? Here’s what you may need to know before you start your journey. Plus, find out how COVID-19 is affecting surrogacy. 

Planning for a baby can be an exciting and joyful time. Still, it can be stressful for some, like the 16% of Canadians struggling with infertility, or same-sex couples. That’s why many hopeful parents face a difficult road to growing their families.

Thankfully, surrogacy offers another route to parenthood.

Surrogacy is often an arrangement where a woman gives birth to the child for the intended parents. Like any major milestone, there are important legal, financial, emotional, health and COVID-19-related factors to consider. So before you start your journey, here’s how to explore your options.

The difference between traditional and gestational surrogacy

There are two methods of surrogacy in Canada: traditional and gestational surrogacy.

Traditional surrogacy uses the surrogate’s eggs, meaning the surrogate is also the biological mother of the child.

Gestational surrogacy, on the other hand, uses eggs unrelated to the surrogate. They could come from you, your partner or an egg donor. In gestational surrogacy, the surrogate has no biological link to the child.

Traditional surrogacy is typically faster and less pricey than gestational surrogacy. But many couples choose gestational surrogacy as a less-risky option.

“Intuitively, it seems there may be a lower risk of the surrogate changing her mind [if she’s not biologically related to the child],” says Lisa Feldstein, a family health lawyer based in Toronto.

And if she does change her mind, the chances of a court granting her access or custody are much lower than if she’s the biological mother.

Both traditional and gestational surrogacy are considered forms of altruistic surrogacy. That means you only reimburse the surrogate for costs related to the pregnancy.

What’s commercial surrogacy?

Commercial surrogacy happens if you pay the surrogate directly for their services. In this case, the surrogate isn’t simply reimbursed for her costs.

However, it’s important to note that commercial surrogacy is restricted in Canada.

What’s the cost of surrogacy in Canada?

Having a baby is a life-changing and pivotal moment in life, both emotionally and financially. And surrogacy can be a significant financial investment.

Surrogacy in Canada Online (SCO) is an agency that connects intended parents with surrogates. They’re the people you might go to if you need help finding a surrogate. The SCO recommends an average budget of $80,000 for gestational surrogacy.

“However, there’s no true one-size-fits-all budget,” says Feldstein. That’s because the bulk of those costs typically come from medical expenses, which can be hard to predict. A successful first round of IVF could mean your costs are lower than average. If you need multiple rounds of IVF or an egg donor, you may face higher-than-average costs.

Feldstein adds that you’ll also need to plan for expenses related to the surrogate’s pregnancy. That may include supplies like:

  • maternity clothing,
  • medication,
  • prenatal vitamins,
  • travel fees,
  • childcare and
  • compensation for lost wages.

Finally, you’ll want to invest in advisors. A family health lawyer, financial advisor and perhaps a surrogacy agency can help you feel secure through the entire process.

Getting help from a team of professionals can play a significant part of your overall surrogacy budget. But having this team guide you can make all the difference in your surrogacy experience.

At the centre of your team must be an experienced attorney or family health lawyer. In light of delays, restrictions, financial changes and health concerns due to COVID-19, surrogacy agreements have to be re-examined.

For example, if your surrogate contracts COVID-19, would you be obligated to pay their medical bills? Or, what happens if your surrogate’s IVF fees rise due to COVID-19-related delays with an embryo transfer? 

In such cases, an attorney can help you determine:

  • what contractual responsibilities need to be addressed for a new surrogacy agreement or
  • how the COVID-19 situation affects an existing agreement.

“This is your baby, and there’s nothing more important than that,” says Feldstein. “Lawyers not only make sure everyone understands the law, but that they’re on the same page. It’s about making sure everyone has the same vision moving forward, so that [the surrogacy] is a positive experience.”

Your team can also include an advisor who can help you prepare for the financial costs of surrogacy. They can also help you adapt your plan throughout the process. (Most advisors now offer to meet with Clients virtually through video chat.)

An advisor can also help you make a budget for when your baby comes home. That way, you can focus on what matters most: raising your beautiful family.

Start exploring your options:

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