Sunshine Hanson, 41, earned more than $200,000 with surrogacy as a side hustle. If you’re a healthy biological woman of child-bearing age, you potentially could too.
Having babies for people who can’t — or prefer not to — is a rapidly-growing and extremely lucrative side hustle. Indeed, People Magazine recently wrote a story about some 47 celebrities who used surrogates, from Anderson Cooper to two of the Kardashian sisters. And while not all of the prospective parents enlisting surrogates are rich and famous, the pay to surrogates is universally generous.
Base pay ranges from about $40,000 to $75,000 per pregnancy, says Hanson. And surrogates get reimbursed for a wide array of expenses, from health insurance and lost wages to maternity clothing and “inconvenience” fees. Hanson bore three children for other families, as well as one of her own.
Her base pay for the three surrogate pregnancies was $183,000. But she earned tens of thousands in additional payments, including a $3,500 gift that the prospective parents asked her to spend on anything, with their thanks.
“I’d probably get talked into doing it again, if I wasn’t too old and already had three C-sections,” says Hanson. “It’s such a rewarding experience. I thoroughly recommend it.”
Surrogacy as a side hustle
What are the pros, cons, and requirements of a surrogacy side hustle? And where would you find these opportunities? Here’s everything you need to know, in a question and answer format.
It’s when a biological female agrees to carry a child that has no relation to her. Generally, a fertilized egg comes from another source before being surgically implanted in the surrogate’s uterus.
When the child is born, the surrogate relinquishes the baby to the parent (or parents), who paid the surrogate and who supplied the fertilized egg.
What’s required to participate?
There is a long list of requirements. You must:
- be a healthy biological female between the ages of 21 and 40.
- be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
- have a BMI between 18 and 34
- have given birth in the past, with an uncomplicated pregnancy, and kept the child
- have had no more than two C-sections and no more than six live births
- be financially stable
- have no history of mental illness or cancer
- no illegal drug use, tobacco use, or use of prescription drugs that are contraindicated for pregnancy.
- have reliable transportation
- no one in the household can have a felony record
- if married, your spouse must be supportive of the surrogacy arrangement
Why so many requirements?
The short version is that there is a lot at stake. All parties involved want this arrangement to result in a healthy birth without the complications of lawsuits or disputes. Thus, the people who arrange these deals try to reduce risks for both the surrogate and the intended parents.
Complicated interpersonal relationships are impossible to completely manage, of course. But it’s important to know that the surrogate doesn’t feel coerced into doing this because of financial strain. And, surrogates must be physically and psychological healthy — and have the personal support they need to manage nine months of pregnancy.
Is surrogacy really a side hustle?
It can be an ideal side hustle, since nothing about being pregnant requires you to quit your day job.
To be sure, you will have more medical appointments and procedures, which can sometimes interrupt your work day. And you’ll need to schedule some significant time off of work to have the baby, too.
But the same laws that protect pregnant women from being discriminated against in the workplace apply regardless of whether the pregnancy is to add to your family or someone else’s.
Moreover, if you need to take unpaid time off for bed rest or any other pregnancy-related complication, that time off should be compensated by the prospective parents, too. (Make sure this is stipulated in your surrogacy contract.) So, economically speaking, there’s nothing to lose and a great deal to gain.
How is pay determined and paid?
These are contractual relationships that are negotiated on a case-by-case basis. However, the going base rate is typically between $40,000 and $75,000. But Hanson, who works as a surrogacy advocate and has helped arrange about 1,500 of these deals, says she’s seen base pay as high as $125,000 and as low as $25,000.
Normally, payments are made on a regular schedule, with the first payments starting when the surrogate goes on medication to facilitate the IVF procedure. Final payments are usually made within 10 days of the birth.
Who pays the expenses involved?
This is also governed by contract, however it’s typically the intended parents and the agencies that represent them. But, since these expenses are substantial and can start even before you strike a legally-binding deal, it’s important to ask financial questions upfront.
For instance, women typically need to go through a doctor’s examination and blood tests before they can be qualified to be a surrogate. These expenses — and a stipend to compensate the potential surrogate for the inconvenience — are usually shouldered by the agency seeking surrogate services.
Other expenses include travel to meet the intended parents — and the intended parents’ In Vitro Fertilization doctor. Surrogates are also compensated for lost wages both during and after the pregnancy, as well as for incidentals, such as maternity wear, as well as for the cost of health insurance and deductibles.
Notably, because the surrogacy agreement is a legal contract, both surrogates and intended parents are typically represented by attorneys. This expense is also shouldered by the prospective parents.
What if the surrogate miscarries?
Normally, payments will stop at miscarriage. But all the payments made until that point are the surrogate’s to keep.
In some cases, the prospective parents will ask the surrogate to try again and the agreement will be updated.
What’s the downside to being a surrogate?
Pregnancy can be uncomfortable under the best of circumstances. However, IVF pregnancies are even more so, requiring regular shots, surgical implantation of the egg, as well as additional medical monitoring. Some women also suffer with hormonal and emotional swings both during and after pregnancy.
This is one of the reasons that most agencies will disqualify you from surrogacy, if you have never been a mother. Having been through the experience before prepares you, at least to a degree, for the surrogate experience ahead.
How do I find prospective parents to become a surrogate?
There are literally dozens of agencies operating all over the country that actively seek women willing and able to be surrogates. Some worth considering are:
ConceiveAbilities, one of the oldest surrogacy agencies, is our top choice. (This site also arranges egg donations for prospective parents. Pay to egg donors starts at $10,000.) What makes ConceiveAbilities stand out is that the site is extremely transparent about the process and even offers an estimated pay calculator for surrogates. The pay calculator takes into account where you live, whether you’ve done this before, and what you earn from your day job. When we tested the tool, it projected pay ranging from $67,000 to $80,000.
Pinnacle Surrogacy arranges for surrogates for parents from around the world. The site says pay packages for first-time surrogates typically range from $50,000 to $60,000. Seasoned surrogates earn more.
Hanson also offers an advocacy service called Surrogacy.is, where she helps potential surrogates find an agency that will suit them.
What else should I consider before becoming a surrogate?
Once you’re qualified to become a surrogate, you’re likely to get multiple offers from prospective parents. It’s tempting to take the offer that provides the most compensation. But make sure you consider the chemistry between you and the intended parents. Also talk about your expectations — and theirs — to make sure you agree on how you’d like things to go.
Nine months can be a very long time, if the surrogate and the intended parents don’t see eye to eye, Hanson says.