Growing your family by using a gestational carrier (or GC, also commonly referred to as a surrogate) is a monumental emotional — and financial — journey. Even when an employer helps cover the costs, for most people, preparing financially for a gestational carrier journey requires years planning and organization. However, like the journey itself, how each person saves for and affords their pursuit of parenthood is personal and unique.
How much does it cost to use a gestational carrier?
Typical gestational carrier costs can vary widely, with the average cost of successful first-attempt GC pregnancy starting at $136,000 (including everything from the agency and legal fees to the in-vitro fertilization process). A GC journey that requires only a GC (but uses an intended parent’s own eggs or existing embryos) will be less expensive than one that requires an egg donor. Because there are so many professionals involved at each step of the process — medical, legal, accounting, and social work — costs can quickly add up. In addition, costs include the care and attention the GC requires throughout pregnancy and childbirth as well the need for management of the entire journey from start to finish.
There are typically four categories of costs for a GC journey:
- Professional fees
- Gestational carrier and tissue donor fees
- Medical and insurance expenses
- IVF and medication expenses
Costs can vary depending on the type of program you choose. Some programs are more comprehensive and include services such as legal services and escrow management. Other programs for intended parents are more a la carte — intended parents can select the services they require for their journey to customize a program. Which program is best for you depends on your specific needs for your journey and how much of the journey you want to manage yourself. Keep in mind that most agency costs do not include in-vitro fertilization (IVF) services, which are usually paid directly to the IVF clinic.
If you do choose to work with an agency, your costs will include an agency fee. The agency fee amount, as well as what’s included in it, varies — some agencies include only the professional management of your journey, while others include the management of the journey as well as legal support. Be sure to read the details closely, especially when comparing costs between agencies.
8 ways to help fund GC journeys
So how exactly does one go about preparing for the costs of a GC journey? No two journeys are the same, and no intended parents are the same, so what works for one individual or set of intended parents may not be the best option for others. Here are a few suggestions to think about.
- Explore your employee benefits. Many companies offer family forming benefits — this can include anything from a set financial amount for reimbursement to specific coverage for elements of the journey, such as IVF cycles or creating embryos with donor eggs. Benefits may also cover broader family forming costs or adoption. If your company doesn’t already offer family building benefits, Carrot can send your employer a note requesting that they add them to your benefits package.
- Consider a loan. Many intended parents look into home equity loans as an option to pay back a portion of their expenses over time. Others investigate taking out a second mortgage or their 401K. And there are even a handful of GC journey-specific loan options out there. Because the medical fees associated with IVF cycles are a significant portion of total expenses, many intended parents also investigate the possibility of secured or unsecured loans from medical financing companies.
- Finance your journey with a payment plan designed for GC journeys. One of our partner agencies, Circle Surrogacy, recently launched a financing plan to allow intended parents to defer $65,000 of their journey and pay back the amount over three or six years. This is the first-ever financial product of its kind and is currently available to qualifying intended parents who reside in select U.S. states.
- Share your story with others. By being open about your intent to pursue a GC journey with others, you may gain the support of family and friends. In some cases, family members of intended parents have contributed to help with some of the expenses. But even if friends and family can’t assist you financially, counting on the emotional support and encouragement of the people who matter to you most can make your journey to parenthood through surrogacy much easier.
- Start saving now. If your current resources won’t cover the full cost, start setting aside money over time. Most intended parents launch their journey after a period of careful thought and research. Some intended parents pay themselves a “GC journey payment” monthly as a means of saving money. The earlier you can start, the more you’ll save over time — and every little bit helps.
- Talk to the agencies and clinics you’re working with. While GC journeys can be unpredictable, remember that the preferences you express and the choices you make can affect your overall expenses. Our Carrot Care Team can offer education and guidance around how to plan and weigh your options.
- Get smart about tax deductions. Speak to a tax specialist about annual medical deductions, and plan your IVF and GC payments around the calendar year that works best for your deductions. You can typically deduct up to 10% of your adjusted gross income for medical expenses.
- Think about timing. Instead of going through your GC journey all at once, spacing it out can help spread the cost over a longer period of time. For example, an intended parent could opt to pay for an agency one year, create embryos the next year, and match with a GC and transfer the following year.
If you have questions about working with GC agencies, Circle Surrogacy is happy to talk to you about your options. As a Carrot member, you can also reach out to our Care Team anytime with questions.
If you’re interested in learning more about Carrot and how we can create a customized benefits plan that includes GC journeys for your organization, let us know.