In general, potential surrogates must be physically and mentally healthy, have a stable home life with at least one child and be financially secure enough to carry private health insurance.

Surrogates and intended parents sign detailed contracts. They will likely negotiate specific issues, including how many embryos the surrogate is willing to carry or whether she will receive a stipend for maternity clothes or lost wages.

Intended couples pay roughly $40,000 for the agency's services. Surrogates receive about half of that. Couples typically must provide the entire sum, which is saved in an escrow account and allocated to the surrogate over 10 months.

Before committing to any arrangement, couples should first meet with a fertility coach or therapist to help clarify goals and needs. For example: Do you want to bond with a surrogate whose primary motive is to give another couple the joy of parenthood? Or, would you rather keep the relationship at a more businesslike level?

Next, find a surrogacy agency, an attorney who specializes in fertility matters and a reproductive endocrinologist.

Finally, be prepared to commit a great deal of your own time during the surrogate's gestation. From finding obstetricians to negotiating insurance, and from having the correct legal documents to ensuring a supportive relationship with their surrogate, the intended couple must ensure all the details are in order before their child is born.

Read one woman's journey from infertility to motherhood through surrogacy

After working a dozen years as a newspaper reporter, Lisa Applegate served as a communications consultant in South Africa before becoming a freelance writer in Chicago. A regular writer for Chicago Parent magazine and contributor to Parents , she investigates changes in healthcare policy and captures personal stories of challenge and triumph.


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