Possible variations in gestational carrier agreements
A gestational carrier agreement or contract is a legal document between the intended parents and the surrogate (and the surrogate's partner if she has one). This document states the parties expectations, obligations, and rights. These agreements can vary widely and take more than a month to complete. There are many things to consider when drawing up this document. This is a good time to consider different scenarios that can come up during the surrogacy journey and how both parties would want to handle them. You need to have open and honest conversations during this process. The more open you are with each other during this time, the smoother your surrogacy journey should go!
The obvious discussion that happens while drawing up the carrier agreement is money. What is the base compensation that the surrogate is asking for? The compensation varies widely among surrogates depending on location of the surrogate, experience, agency or no agency...Second time surrogates usually have a higher base compensation since they have experience, just as if you have experience when applying for a job, your compensation would likely be higher than someone without any experience. The money part of the agreement also lays out how much the IPs will cover for maternity clothes, travel expenses, child care, housekeeping, lost wages for the surrogate and her partner, life insurance costs, health insurance costs and medical bills. The surrogate will get paid more for each invasive procedure she might have to undergo...the list goes on. These expenses differ greatly from contract to contract depending on what the surrogate and her partner do for a living, what life and health insurance they have, where the surrogate lives in relation to the IPs fertility clinic, if the surrogate ends up on bed rest or with a C-section and needs more time off of work. No 2 carrier agreements are alike when it comes to the compensation section.
A not so obvious part of the agreement is stating whether or not pre-implantation genetic testing will be done, what termination boundaries have been decided, and how many embryos have been agreed to be transferred. These are all topics that are usually discussed before matching so the agency can match you with someone with similar views on these things. It's a good idea to discuss them further after matching so all parties are on the same page.
Other parts of the contract are statements that both parties initial, agreeing that they are true, such as the carrier stating that she has had a prior birth, no health issues that could cause problems during the pregnancy, she agrees to relinquish parental rights, she will give the right to name the baby to the IPs, it might state who and when the surrogate will have to notify when she goes into labor,...the list goes on. If the surrogate has a partner, he or she will have to agree and sign the agreement also.
There will be a section about pre-natal care and the birth. The agreement will state what both parties have decided as far as where the surrogate will get perinatal care; a hospital, birth center, midwife or doctor. It will also state the risks and that they all are aware of the possible risks and that they will comply with the instructions from the physician. There is usually a section about who is allowed in the room at appointments and the birth. Does the surrogate want a doula, a birth photographer, are the IPs allowed in the room during the birth? I added a section to my contract stating that if the baby is breech I wanted to see a specific doctor in the Denver area who specializes in vaginal breech births to see if I could vaginally birth the baby before agreeing to a c-section.
As you can see, contracts are a tedious part of the process and can take quite some time to complete. There are a lot of decisions to make during the legal process. The surrogate's and the IP's lawyers will go back and forth with revisions until both parties have decided that the contract is acceptable. Sometimes even after everything has been put in writing, something happens out of everyone's control and flexibility and understanding by both parties is needed. Just like everything surrogacy, every situation is different but communication is key.