Once you start researching into becoming a surrogate, you will come across numerous requirements for going ahead with the process. But there's no need to get intimidated; the reason why the process is so thorough is to safeguard the rights of the surrogate as well as the intended parents from some of the potential risks that the surrogacy process carries.
Similarly, a surrogacy candidate is required to meet certain strict physical prerequisites in order to qualify successfully to be a gestational carrier. A healthy body mass index (BMI) is one of them.
What is BMI?
BMI is a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters. BMI is an inexpensive and easy screening method for weight category—underweight, healthy weight, overweight, and obesity.
For adults 20 years old and older, BMI is interpreted using standard weight status categories. These categories are the same for men and women of all body types and ages.
If your BMI is:
Below 18.5, you are considered underweight
18.5 – 24.9 you are considered of healthy weight
25.0 – 29.9 Overweight
30.0 and Above Obesity
How important is the BMI?
Surrogacy candidates must have a healthy BMI in order to successfully carry a healthy, normal pregnancy to term. Although, weight is not the sole determining factor for good health, but it certainly plays a key role in pregnancy.
Having said that, it's important to consider that surrogacy requirements can vary greatly from situation to situation and eventually the responsibility lies with the fertility specialist handling a particular case as to what they deem desirable in terms of weight requirements for a surrogacy candidate.
In general, most fertility health practitioners have BMI requirements ranging between 19 to 32, which clearly excludes women who are medically considered underweight or obese as both these conditions are particularly risky for carrying a pregnancy.
Risks of pregnancy with a higher than normal BMI
Higher risk of miscarriage, stillbirth and recurrent miscarriage
Likelihood of 2x longer wait time for conception
Higher chances of high blood pressure and preeclampsia
Increased need for birth by C-section
Higher chances of complications for the baby such as fetal macrosomia and childhood obesity.
Risks of pregnancy with a lower than normal BMI
Higher risk of premature birth
Likelihood of 4x longer wait time for conception
low birth weight for the baby
gastroschisis (when the baby’s stomach doesn’t develop properly).
Becoming a surrogate with a high BMI
In conclusion, having a healthy BMI is essential for qualifying to be a gestational carrier as the risks with carrying a pregnancy with a higher or lower than normal BMI are far too great for an intended parent to compromise on.
However, if your BMI is only slightly above or below the desirable range, speak with a surrogacy professional as you would be required to undergo medical screening prior to becoming a surrogate regardless.
At times, during these screenings, women who may not meet all requirements to be a surrogate are approved for the surrogacy process. So, if your BMI is slightly higher or lower than the average requirement, you may still be approved by a fertility clinic and allowed to continue with your surrogacy journey.