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 of 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 do gestational carrier services (surrogacy) cost?
Typical gestational carrier costs can vary widely, with the average cost of successful first-attempt GC pregnancy in the U.S. starting at $136,000 (including everything from the agency and legal fees to the in vitro fertilization (IVF) process. 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. Here’s a breakdown of the major costs associated with a gestational carrier journey:
- Agency fees: $20,000 – $40,000
- Gestational carrier compensation: $30,000 – $75,000
- Egg tissue donor fees: ~$16,000 – $20,000
- Legal fees: $15,000 – $20,000
- Medical and insurance expenses: $15,000 – $30,000. Some insurance plans will not cover a GC pregnancy.
- IVF and medication expenses: $8,000 – $30,000
- Fees for GC travel, maternity clothes, childcare costs, and other additional charges that may be reimbursed: $10,000 to $15,000
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.
How do families afford these costs?
Fortunately, over the past few years more options have emerged to help families afford these costs:
- Employer benefits through companies such as Carrot
- Fertility financing: Loans that are specifically available for IVF and GC journeys
- Grant and other discount programs to reduce the overall cost, such as financing plans through GC agencies
How to fund gestational carrier journeys
In recent years, fertility financing has emerged as a flexible option. Typically, it can be difficult to obtain a loan without a recognized form of collateral, like your home or car. But as new lenders have emerged, there are more flexible options, such as loans with no prepayment penalties and the option to use financing for IVF treatments, pharmaceutical benefits, and GC costs.
Where to apply for financing?
There is only one platform, Sunfish, that specifically offers loans for GC journeys, with loans of up to $100,000.
In addition, some intended parents may pursue a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) as an additional lien on their home or a personal line of credit. These are flexible options not specific to fertility financing, but can still give you the flexibility to get started.
When to apply?
It’s never too early to pursue financing for your GC journey. Applications can take as little as 72 hours from start to money in your bank, but can also take several weeks or months, especially for a larger loan amount. In some cases, you can be approved for financing but wait several months to commence the loan, while you start the process of creating embryos and/or waiting for a GC match. So, many intended parents start with a loan application first before beginning their GC journey.
How to apply?
For a loan of this type, lenders will typically look for:
- Strong credit history (no recent bankruptcies, for example)
- Stable income
- A co-signer or guarantor, such as a spouse
- For most U.S. lenders, patients must reside in the U.S.
With some lenders, including Sunfish, you can check if you pre-qualify without impacting your credit score. Once you are ready to apply, your credit will be checked and this may impact your credit score.
How much to apply for?
The myriad costs of building a family can be high, but many lenders will recommend applying for the smallest loan size you might need. This is because, with lenders with variable rates, the larger loan size and longer loan term may lead to a higher interest rate.
Be sure to explore all of your benefits — you may not need to borrow as much as you think. Many companies offer family forming benefits like Carrot, which 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 you’re a Carrot member, your loan can be combined with Carrot benefits to make the full cost of the journey more affordable.
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.
As a Carrot member, you can reach out to our Care Team anytime with questions — sign in to your account to get started. The Sunfish team is also available to offer guidance on financing for Carrot members and anyone considering a GC journey.
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.