With Surrogacy on the Rise, Is It Cheaper to Have a Baby, Adopt or Use a Surrogate?

Newborn baby, Child delivery.
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America is currently experiencing “baby fever.” The Atlantic points out that more and more couples are looking to have children (or more children) due to the fact that so many parents are now working from home, making childcare more affordable and doable.

But the “traditional” way of having a baby is not always possible or easy, which has created a boom in the surrogacy industry, in which there is a transactional relationship between a couple looking to become parents and a woman who is paid to carry the fetus through delivery, according to CNBC.

The news agency notes that the “global commercial surrogacy industry was worth an estimated $14 billion in 2022,” citing data from market research consultancy firm Global Market Insights, while explaining exact figures are hard to come by given that many of the situations are private in nature. Furthermore, by 2032, that number could increase to $129 billion, says CNBC, noting that infertility issues, delayed age in wanting to start a family and more same-sex couples and single people wanting children will cause a surge in surrogacy interest.

And it can be good money for women who are able and willing to help couples achieve their dreams of parenthood. The article notes that in the U.S. a payment of $120,000 or more is not uncommon, and as more interest grows internationally, women in the countries of Georgia and Ukraine earn around $40,000-50,000 for becoming a surrogate mother while in Mexico it can be around $60,000-70,000, though some have called into play the ethical nature of working with women in less privileged nations.

Given how expensive surrogacy is, it brings into question which option (when all are available) might be most cost-effective for starting a family — surrogacy, adoption or giving birth.

Make Your Money Work for You

But if you’re considering the costs of adopting, using a surrogate, or birthing a child, it helps to break it down based on the related expenses.  

“Regardless of whether you choose adoption or giving birth, having a baby and adding another child to your family is expensive,” said Deb Meyer, CEO of WorthyNest, a fee-only financial planning firm based in Punta Gorda, Florida, that serves young families. “Even before you give birth or adopt, the cost of diapers, wipes and nursery furnishings start to add up.”

Here’s what you may expect to pay to give birth, adopt a child, or hire a surrogate.

Cost of Giving Birth

According to the Peterson-Kaiser Family Foundation Health System Tracker, the cost to give birth in the U.S. averages $18,865, Forbes reported. A Cesarean section will cost much more than this, according to the data — an average of $26,280. However, if you have health insurance, your out-of-pocket costs could range from an average of $2,655 up to $3,214.

These costs average vary widely by state, as well as whether you have any complications, the length of your hospital stay, or choice to have a home birth or use a birthing center, and several other factors.

The biggest question in planning and budgeting for pregnancy and childbirth is not being able to predict what type of birth you’ll have or whether you will face costly complications.

Let’s look at some of the biggest childbirth expenses and then compare costs for a vaginal birth vs. a c-section birth.

Prenatal Care

An important part of any pregnancy is maintaining good prenatal care, which includes doctor’s visits, prenatal vitamins and a variety of tests to monitor the health of the baby and birthing parent.

Make Your Money Work for You

According to a chart published by BalancingEverything.com, prenatal vitamins should cost between $10 and $20. Doctor’s visits, with a copay, would cost between $15 and $35 out-of-pocket. An ultrasound would cost roughly $686, but insurance should cover most of those costs. An amniocentesis, an invasive test sometimes performed if an ultrasound indicates an anomaly, costs up to $7,000 – again, most likely covered in part by insurance. Glucose screening to test for gestational diabetes costs up to $100. Parents who opt for fetal DNA testing may expect to spend up to $2,000.

In total, you can see pre-natal care can cost thousands of dollars over the course of 40 weeks. Fortunately, insurance should cover most of it for those who carry it.

Birthing Classes

Hospitals and birthing centers provide birth and labor classes, including the Lamaze and Bradley methods. You’ll generally find four- to six-week classes costing between $50 and $200, according to BalancingEverything.com.

Vaginal Birth vs. C-Section

The KFF survey found that the average out-of-pocket cost for a vaginal delivery in a hospital was $2,655. On the other hand, a c-section would cost $3,214 out of pocket. That isn’t a very big difference.

But the actual costs for those without insurance are much higher: $14,768 for a vaginal birth or $26,280 for a c-section.  

Cost of Adopting a Child

How much does it cost to adopt a child? In truth, it varies. Many types of adoptions are available, and each has different costs associated with them. You can adopt a child living in foster care or take in a child who is expected to become available for adoption, for example. Infant adoptions are popular, with more people looking to adopt infants than there are available, according to the National Adoption Center.

Make Your Money Work for You

Creating a Family, an adoption and infertility organization, said a domestic adoption through an agency can cost from $5,000 to over $40,000, with nearly 60 percent of these adoptions falling between $10,000 and $30,000. Other adoption agencies will have a sliding-fee scale that bases costs on your income.

Let’s explore some of the costs related to adoption.

Agency Fee

Your biggest cost will be the price of hiring an agency that matches you with a child. In a June 2022 report, the Child Welfare Information Gateway shared that private adoption fees ranged from $30,000 to $60,000. Adoptive parents will also have to cover costs that include home study, court and legal fees, counseling for the birth parents, birthing parent medical and legal expenses, interim care for the child, and more.

Independent Adoption

An independent adoption arranged through private parties can cost less, according to the report. This option ranges from $25,000 to $45,000. However, there could be added costs if the birth has complications. If you choose to advertise to find a child, you may pay between $500 to $5,000.

Intercountry Adoption

Intercountry adoption is a choice for many adoptive parents-to-be. Average costs could run between $20,000 and $50,000 according to the Child Welfare Information Gateway. However, you will also have to factor in international travel, which can add up – especially in today’s age of costly flights.

Adopting Through the Child Welfare System

If a child meets the criteria, you may be able to adopt through the Child Welfare System, or foster care system. The Federal government may reimburse adoption fees up to $2,000. Other expenses beyond this limit may be tax deductible.

Make Your Money Work for You


Even if you adopt domestically, you might be required to make last-minute travel plans to get your child, especially if you are adopting a newborn and want to be there for the birth. Obviously, travel and lodging costs can add up quickly, so make sure you factor this into your overall expenses.

Costs of Having a Baby through a Surrogate

Surrogacy is not often discussed as an option for couples who can’t or choose not to birth their own child. CDC reports on Assisted Reproductive Technology found that, between 1999 and 2013, nearly 40,000 assisted reproductive technology cycles (roughly 2%) used a surrogate, according to PBS.org.  

Some people may opt to carry a friend’s baby as an altruistic gesture. In that case, the parents would pay the medical and other costs related to pregnancy and childbirth. A commercial surrogacy, where the parents-to-be pay a fee, can cost between $120,000 and $200,000, according to the PBS.org article. Like childbirth and childrearing, these costs vary dramatically by state, the article said.

The surrogate parent could expect to receive between $25,000 and $50,000, as well as having all medical costs paid.

Which Costs More?

Evaluating these costs, it’s easy to see that surrogacy is the priciest option. However, it gives parents an opportunity to have a baby that shares the genetics of one or both parents without the burden of childbirth.

If you have health insurance, giving birth to a child conceived naturally is the least costly option, whether you choose a natural birth or have a c-section. But fostering and then adopting children from the welfare system can also be affordable and emotionally rewarding, since you know you will be giving a child in need a home, family, and, presumably, a better life.

Make Your Money Work for You

Selena Fragassi, Michael Galvis, Barri Segal contributed to the reporting of this article.

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