From Start to Finish: Understanding the Surrogacy Timeline

All About Surrogacy 

Maybe you, your partner, or someone you know is considering surrogacy, and you want to know how long the process takes from beginning to baby. Before laying out a general timeline, starting this process with realistic expectations is vital. It’s a surrogacy journey for both the intended parents and the surrogate.

So, how long does the surrogacy process take?

Regardless of where you are in your research and even as you begin your journey, it’s natural to wonder, “How long does the surrogacy process take?” It’s a seemingly simple question without a one-size-fits-all answer. Many variables affect the surrogacy timeline, such as: 

  • Matching with the right surrogate- a process that includes interviews and medical screenings.
  • Gestational Carrier Agreement negotiations
  • Financial matters such as setting up the Escrow account and paying agency fees
  • The success of in vitro transfer(s)

So how long does the surrogacy process take? A conservative and realistic timeframe is roughly 12 to 15 months from match to finish if everything goes according to plan. 

The Surrogacy Timeline

Remember, not all surrogacy agencies or journeys are the same. However, on average, the surrogacy timeline has 11 steps or milestones that must be followed for practical and legal reasons. For example, you can’t sign a surrogacy contract before you decide that surrogacy is right for you. Note the timeline below is typical, but some agencies may do things differently. 

Step 1: Deciding that surrogacy is right for you

Deciding if surrogacy is right for you

It may seem obvious, but the first step is conducting research and deciding that surrogacy is right for you, the intended parent. Your focus should be on understanding the process, confirming your financial resources, and finding a reputable surrogacy agency you’ll partner with. Suppose you live in or around the state of Pennsylvania. In that case, you’ll want to note that the Surrogacy Center of Philadelphia has an excellent reputation, and building families is a privilege we take very seriously.

Step 2: Agency consultation

Once you’ve completed your research and determined that surrogacy is the right path to build your family, you’ll want to meet with a surrogacy agency. Typically, the process begins with a comprehensive consultation via phone, in-person, or video conferencing. During this time, you’ll discuss the process in greater detail, the agency representative will answer any questions, and you’ll determine if the agency is the right one for you.

surrogacy agency consultation

Step 3: Application and waitlist placement

Intended parent application and waitlist

Now that you’ve chosen an agency, here comes the paperwork! Your agency will ask you to complete intake and matching profile forms to determine the type of gestational carrier (surrogate) you’re looking for. This profile is quite in-depth and is a chance for you to share your preferences on things like first-time vs. experienced surrogates, your views on abortion/selective reduction, and the amount of contact you’d prefer to have with the surrogate throughout your journey and after the baby is born.

Once you’ve met with the agency, completed your intake paperwork and built your matching profile, you will be notified that you are on the waitlist for a surrogate.  

Step 4: Surrogate Matching (1 Month)

surrogate matching

Intended parents often wait at least six months before they are able to start looking at carrier profiles. This is because the number of qualified surrogates is far less than the number of parents looking for a carrier.  We maintain stringent standards for our surrogates at the Surrogacy Center of Philadelphia. To qualify for the privilege of serving intended parents, they must meet specific medical and psychological criteria. Some of these criteria include:

  • Must be between the ages of 21 and 40
  • Body Mass Index (BMI) cannot exceed 32
  • Must be in good physical and psychological health
  • Must have successfully carried at least one healthy baby to term with no history of pregnancy or delivery complications
  • Must live in a stable living environment – at least one child still at home preferred
  • No criminal or drug addiction history

Once a carrier becomes available, you will be sent a profile to review based on your stated preferences.  The surrogate also looks at your matching profile.  If both parties express an interest in getting to know each other further, a meeting will be set up and facilitated by an agency case manager. Assuming everyone feels comfortable with the match, the process will continue to the next step. If it’s not a match, you’ll continue to look at profiles and meet with candidates until you find “the one.”   Typically, this process takes only a month or so, as everyone is excited about seeing profiles and matching!

Step 5: Agency agreement

Once you’ve found “the one” and are ready to proceed with the matched surrogate, you will be asked to sign an agency agreement. Along with your signature, you will be required to make your first milestone payment. This payment is part of your agency fees. Note: At our agency, you only pay the entire fee with a successfully completed surrogacy journey. If your carrier does not become pregnant, we will coordinate additional cycles for free.

Step 6: Gestational Carrier contract (4-6 Weeks)

To protect your rights and those of the surrogate, you must enter into a contract with your gestational carrier. The agreement will clearly outline the expectations and responsibilities of each party throughout the process, in addition to financial obligations, and helps ensure there are clear understandings throughout the process. The contract will also allow you to establish your surrogate’s future involvement in the baby’s future.

Agencies will arrange for attorneys to work with you and your surrogate to review the contract terms. Our agency wraps attorney fees into the first agency payment, and we do not bill separately for contracts. 

surrogate contract

Step 7: Escrow Account Setup (2 Weeks)

Once the contract is signed, you will make your first deposit into an escrow account. The account will be used throughout your journey and is how you make compensation payments to your gestational carrier. All reputable agencies will work with an independent, licensed, insured escrow agency to ensure your money is well-protected and your surrogate receives her compensation on time.

Step 8: Medical Protocol (2-3 Months)

medical protocol

All of our agency’s gestational carriers have already undergone medical records approval and psychological evaluations. Your fertility clinic will schedule additional medical evaluations to prepare for the transfer. The gestational carrier will be given an embryo transfer cycle protocol. The cycle will be monitored via bloodwork and ultrasounds. Embryo transfers usually occur between 4-6 weeks after starting medications.

Step 9: Pregnancy (9 Months)

Hopefully, the first embryo transfer will result in a successful pregnancy!  About 60 – 65% of first transfers typically do.  Your clinic will perform at least two blood tests to confirm your pregnancy. At four to six weeks gestation, a fetal heart rate is confirmed via ultrasound. 

During the remainder of the pregnancy, there should be as much (or as little) communication as you agreed upon between you, the intended parent(s), and the surrogate. A lot of the communication will come from the surrogate and clinic via pregnancy updates as she attends mandatory (and frequent!) checkups.

surrogate pregnancy

Step 10: Parental Rights

During the fifth month of your pregnancy, an attorney will work with you to complete the necessary paperwork to obtain parental rights. The attorney will file the paperwork with the family court to have a pre-birth order issued. After the baby is born, the birth certificate will show your name(s) on your child’s birth certificate. 

Step 11: Birth


Before the baby’s birth, you will create a birth plan that clearly outlines expectations for all parties involved in the delivery – from doctors and nurses to you, your partner, other family members, and your agency representative. Your surrogacy agency will also work with the hospital to provide any required legal documentation, insurance, and financial information they need.  Your agency representative will ensure that everything goes smoothly, your baby goes home with you, and will check in with all parties in the weeks following delivery to ensure everyone is happy and healthy. 

As you can see, the surrogacy journey has many steps for both you and your surrogate. Partnering with the right agency doesn’t only help take the guesswork out of each step and whether or not you’re doing it right. You also gain a group of trusted advisors who’ve “seen it all” and will be there every step of the way.  

If you’re still considering whether surrogacy is right for you and have any questions, please contact us at the Surrogacy Center of Philadelphia. We would be happy to help you get started on your way to becoming new parents and taking your first step in your surrogacy journey!