Part 1: Essential criteria and the psychological screening

By Mary Ellen McLaughlin

One is a 25-year-old single mom of two. Another is a 32-year-old married mother of three. A third is a 36-year-old lesbian mother of one. They are stay-at-home moms, nurses, part-time teachers. Who are these women?

They are the demographic of gestational surrogates I have worked with over the past 10 years. These women are smart, mature, well-rounded individuals who just want to help someone create a family.

These surrogates also have a few things in common: Most have finished creating their own families, they had easy, uncomplicated pregnancies, and they loved being pregnant!

Not just anyone can be a surrogate. As these women found, before starting the surrogacy journey, there are a lot of questions to answer and specific criteria to meet. So you have a better understand what a gestational surrogate goes through, let me take you through the first stages of the process. Next week, I’ll look at the medical aspects.

When a potential surrogate calls our agency, they must first answer a series of “deal breaker” questions to make sure they fit the criteria. Most who make the initial call are not, in fact, eligible to be a surrogate. Our vetting process ensures that potential surrogates are psychologically and medically fit for the journey.

All surrogates are required to be in strict compliance of each criterion, including that they:

  • Are between the ages of 21 and 38.
  • Have given birth to one healthy child, and are the parent to that child.
  • Had no complications with a previous pregnancy.
  • Had no more then two cesarean sections.
  • Do not smoke/are on no medications.
  • Have no current/chronic medical conditions.
  • Have private health insurance and not on government assistance.

1 out of 50 women pass this criterion.

Women who meet those standards, fill out an 18-page questionnaire. It asks very personal and descriptive questions about, for example, candidates’ personal support system, their delivery experience, and their personal strengths and weaknesses. It also asks for an in-depth OB history.

This questionnaire is reviewed by the agency. Once approved, the surrogate and her partner are then scheduled to meet with a licensed psychologist, which can take up to four hours. Surrogates also take the MMPI2 test, which explores motivation, attitude and commitment to the surrogacy process.

We have to ensure that the gestational surrogate is mentally prepared to handle this arduous journey.  If all goes well, she and her partner sign a commitment agreement with the agency (terms and compensation). Then they will be introduced with potential intended parents.

After the psychological screening is complete and the surrogate chooses her intended parent, we ask the surrogate to take a physical exam.

If she passes her physical exam, she meets with a lawyer to get into legal contracts and agreements with the intended parents.  If all goes well, she is then ready to start the fertility treatments to get pregnant.

Next week: The medical side to surrogacy, which discusses fertility drugs, synchronizing the cycles, pregnancy and after the baby is born.

Mary Ellen is the Surrogacy Spotlight’s featured expert of the month! If you have questions or are looking for more information about surrogacy, visit