Bill Houghton receives about 8 enquiries every day from couples considering surrogacy. But of those thousands of couples, less than 2 percent continue past the initial price sheet. Most simply abandon the possibility and hope for more affordable alternatives.
Houghton is the founder of the surrogacy consultancy Sensible Surrogacy, and he spends most of his day fielding questions from would-be parents about surrogacy programs worldwide.
“Most couples learn about surrogacy from the popular media. They want to follow the footsteps of celebrities that have paraded their babies across social media,” said Houghton. “But they soon realize that a surrogacy journey in Los Angeles really is the sole purview of celebrities. Ordinary couples simply can’t afford the process.”
In response to the inaccessibility of surrogacy for ordinary families, Houghton created the Surrogacy Cost Guide. Since 2012, The Guide has become one of the Internet’s most complete online resources for couples considering gestational surrogacy. This week the consultancy released its updated 2020 edition.
The well-known Sensible Surrogacy Cost Guide helps would-be couples navigate the financial aspects of surrogacy worldwide, and assists them to bring surrogacy programs within reach.
A typical surrogacy journey in the United States costs about $150,000 USD. A quarter of that fee is likely paid to a lucrative Surrogacy Agency. Intrepid couples may opt for an “Independent Surrogacy” journey, hoping to manage the entire program without an agency. But even the most aggressive Independent program will still cost around $80,000 USD.
Most of the surrogacy budget covers the surrogate mother’s compensation and benefits. On average a surrogate mother will receive $35,000 USD as a cash payment, with an additional $15,000 USD in various benefits, including a monthly living stipend, housekeeping and childcare services, lost wages and maternity clothes.
Among the updated Cost Guide, articles instruct couples how to anticipate and manage a budget for the entire journey. The Guide then offers tips about where money may be saved, and financing options from loan institutions that specifically serve fertility procedures.
Lower-cost surrogacy options are also available outside the United States for a fraction of the cost. But Houghton is quick to advise couples that not all surrogacy destinations are safe and reliable. Most have stringent restrictions on surrogacy, others have outright banned the practice.
A quick Internet search uncovers an avalanche of cheap surrogacy programs in countries that offer no protections, and often conservative attitudes that could pose risks for foreign couples.
Fortunately there also are a few destinations worldwide that are both legally secure and affordable. Houghton advice couples to consider programs in Ukraine, Canada, Greece and Georgia, which have explicit laws enforcing surrogacy contracts and providing protections for both parents and surrogates.
“Infertility wrecks families both finically and emotionally,” Houghton said. “By the time couples consider a surrogate, they’ve already been through countless expensive fertility treatments and failed IVF cycles. These are couples that need to know how they can reach their goal of being parents. They need some practical information about how they’re going to afford this.”
Renee Michaels had her first baby via surrogacy in 2013. She agrees that managing the costs of a journey as their biggest concern. “After seven long years trying to conceive a family, my husband and I had little left to lose,” she said. “Failed fertility treatments and IVF cycles had left us emotionally and financially exhausted. International surrogacy seemed like a last-ditch effort.”
“Of course this was long before surrogacy had become so popular in the media. What we knew about surrogacy was that it was obscure and expensive. We never considered hiring a ‘gestational carrier’ because, having spent nearly all our savings trying on IVF, we assumed it was financially out of our reach.”
Michaels found the Surrogacy Guide, and realized the option could be within reach. “I’ll never forget that first video call we had with Sensible Surrogacy. Bill told us about his own experience with surrogacy, and we could hear his babies in the background…. We somehow knew we had found the way to complete our family.”