Ranking 6 TV Surrogacy Plots from Least to Most Realistic

Good television is all about escapism, entertainment and surprise. Our favorite TV shows ramp up drama and conflict to give us a more heightened story than occurs in our real, everyday lives. After all, nobody wants to watch a story about something that goes smoothly and uneventfully — it wouldn’t be very exciting! But, this means that real occurrences, like growing a family through surrogacy, are often dramatized and fictionalized beyond recognition in order to make a better TV plot twist. 

The problem? Surrogacy is still a relatively new and misunderstood concept in the eyes of many viewers. So, these fictional and sensationalized portrayals could be inadvertently fueling dangerous misconceptions about what surrogacy is really like. How do these shows measure up to the real surrogacy process

Meet the Contenders 

While surrogacy is no stranger to the small screen, “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Roseanne,” “Superstore,” “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” “The Nest,” and “Top of the Lake: China Girl,” have all recently had surrogacy storylines that garnered some buzz. Let’s rank those 6 depictions, from least accurate to most accurate: 

6“The Handmaid’s Tale” 

The winner of the least realistic portrayal of surrogacy, “The Handmaid’s Tale” takes place in a dystopian future, where fertile women are forced into becoming traditional surrogates via rape. Needless to say, it’s devastatingly far from the truth of real and legal gestational surrogacy. Read real stories of gestational carriers and parents here

5. “The Nest” 

A drinking, partying teenage surrogate who lives with the intended parents, a drug-dealing intended father, a swapped embryo, some murder, mystery and general mayhem ensue. This series takes place in the U.K., but this show flies in the face of the requirements of actual surrogacy professionals in the U.S. and the surrogacy contracts that real intended parents and surrogates establish with attorneys.  

4. “Top of the Lake: China Girl” 

Their portrayal of surrogacy is just one of many wildly inaccurate and dangerously dramatized plots throughout the series. The titular “China Girl,” a murdered sex worker and illegal surrogate for intended parents working outside the law in Australia, is one of many outlandish (and at times, offensive) aspects of the show. 

3. “Roseanne”  

Becky decides to pursue surrogacy purely for money — she’s promised a whopping and unrealistic $50,000. She also lies about her age and is faced with unreasonable demands from the intended parent. In real life, base compensation starts at about $35,000 for a first-time surrogate like Becky, who also would have been carefully screened and background-checked prior to her acceptance into a gestational surrogacy program like American Surrogacy. Additionally, the wishes of intended parents and surrogates are talked about with their American Surrogacy specialist long before the process ever begins, to ensure everyone is on the same page and feels comfortable with how things move forward. 

2. “Superstore”  

Dina volunteers to be Glenn’s surrogate, although she’s never been pregnant or given birth before — a requirement for surrogates in real life. At different points, comedic misunderstandings are inserted into the plot, including disagreements about the contract (which would have been discussed with an attorney beforehand in real life), threats to have unprotected sex in the midst of the surrogacy process, shock over what childbirth is like and more. Unsurprisingly, none of this is a realistic depiction of the careful, legal contract between surrogates and intended parents. 

1. “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend 

This is probably the most accurate of these portrayals, although it’s still not realistic by a long shot. After two unsuccessful rounds of IVF, Darryl runs out of the money he’d saved to conceive a child. He is successful once Rebecca donates her egg for free and Heather offers herself as a gestational carrier, also for free.  

But, who is covering the costs of Rebecca’s egg retrieval and Heather’s medical processes? Were the reimbursements of these costs discussed and established in a contract with a licensed attorney? Heather had never given birth before, which is a requirement for surrogates, so she wouldn’t have been a gestational surrogate in the first place.  It’s not a wildly inaccurate portrayal, but it’s not a very clear one, either. 

Red Flags in Fictional Surrogacy 

One common theme in these fictional portrayals: Many of the surrogates had never been pregnant before and they panicked midway through their pregnancies at the thought of childbirth, which they mysteriously had not considered up until that point. In real life, gestational carriers must have given birth at least once before, with no history of complications. Real surrogates have a history of smooth pregnancies and childbirth, and enjoy being pregnant. It’s what draws them to surrogacy in the first place. 

Another fairly common element in TV storylines is the presence of traditional surrogacy, which has been all but fully phased out in favor of gestational surrogacy. In fact, most professionals in the U.S., American Surrogacy included, won’t complete traditional surrogacy journeys. But, traditional surrogacy is more dramatic, so it makes for better television. 

There’s another red flag in most of these stories: Informal agreements without the guidance of a professional. Surrogacy professionals screen and background check the prospective gestational carrier as well as the intended parents. They educate the participants about the highs and lows of the surrogacy process, so everyone knows what to expect — no comedic surprises, unlike TV’s depiction of surrogacy in sitcoms. Professionals help intended parents and surrogate forge supportive, healthy relationships, which often turn into genuine friendships. So, none of the situations in the TV shows mentioned above would have ever happened under the guidance of an actual surrogacy professional. 

Instead of perpetuating myths about real surrogacy experiences, we encourage anyone and everyone to read the stories of our real-life gestational surrogates and families created through surrogacy. Their stories may not be shown on the small screen, but they’re far more meaningful! 

The Fascination with the ‘Surrogacy Gone Wrong’ Narrative

You’ve heard it before in the news, on TV shows and from acquaintances who “heard about this one surrogate who…” The surrogacy horror stories are louder and spread farther than the countless positive stories.

There are stories of surrogates accidentally becoming pregnant with their own biological baby, of “doctors” who used their own gametes instead of donors’ and of surrogates who decide to keep the baby. So, with instances of such unimaginable outcomes for everyone involved, why would anyone want to pursue surrogacy?

Because: There are actually laws and very thorough safety measures specifically in place to prevent all of those situations. But only reputable agencies like American Surrogacy enforce those safety measures. It’s only when the intended parents and surrogates work outside of the laws and the professionals that a surrogacy situation can “go wrong.”

What the “Surrogacy Gone Wrong” Situations All Had in Common

Those extremely rare nightmare surrogacy situations consistently had the same factors in common:

Likewise, the intended parents and surrogates who have overwhelmingly positive experiences have these factors in common:

  • They are gestational surrogacy situations — meaning the surrogate is not the biological mother of the child.
  • The surrogate and intended parents are carefully screened by a surrogacy agency to ensure that they are all physically, mentally and emotionally ready for surrogacy.
  • The surrogate and intended parents create a formal, legal contract with the help of a licensed Assisted Reproduction Technology (ART) attorney.
  • They partner with reputable professionals, like American Surrogacy.

If you’ve considered surrogacy, either as a potential gestational surrogate or as hopeful parents, we understand if you’ve been put off by those horrifying negative surrogacy stories. But, we’re here to explain that, unless you’re considering a traditional surrogacy within your family or surrogacy without a professional, your experience will likely be incredibly positive as well as life-changing in all the best ways.

Avoiding a “Surrogacy Gone Wrong” Scenario is Surprisingly Simple

There are always some risks involved in surrogacy — primarily the physical risks that are always associated with pregnancy, and the financial risk of the IVF process requiring several cycles. Any professional who tells you otherwise is not being transparent with you.

However, there are simple, but incredibly important, ways you can all but prevent becoming a “surrogacy horror story”:

  • Do not attempt to “DIY” your surrogacy journey. Always work with experienced and reputable professionals like American Surrogacy from start to finish!
  • Do not attempt to find a surrogate or intended parents online or without the help of a professional who can screen your surrogacy match. Intended parents and surrogates trust American Surrogacy to find them a safe and positive match.
  • Avoid traditional surrogacy. Most professionals (American Surrogacy included) will not even complete traditional surrogacies.
  • Even if the intended parents and surrogate already know and trust one another, they must still work with a licensed professional like American Surrogacy.
  • Establish a legally binding contract with a surrogacy attorney! When you create that contract together, intended parents and surrogates talk about a wide range of “what if” scenarios and ensure that everyone is in agreement on important aspects of the surrogacy journey.

The #1 Way to Prevent a Surrogacy Horror Story

Work with a surrogacy agency that has a track record of success.

In surrogacy, “success” means a number of things. We define “success” by:

  • Our high numbers of intended parents who have successfully welcomed a child by working with our agency.
  • Our surrogates and intended parents who sing our praises, feel safe and comfortable throughout the journey, form genuine friendships and report nothing but positive, happy experiences.
  • The healthy and happy children, who have been brought into the world by incredible surrogates and who are raised by amazing intended parents.

If a gestational surrogate and intended parents look back on their surrogacy journey and feel that it was a positive experience in their lives, and perhaps even want to repeat that experience with us, we consider that a success.

To ensure success and safety for our surrogates and intended parents, American Surrogacy:

  • Screens the prospective surrogate and intended parents to ensure that everyone is physically, mentally and emotionally ready and committed.
  • Educates the prospective surrogate and intended parents, so they know what to expect and to ensure they understand and are truly ready for the surrogacy process.
  • Counsels and supports the surrogate and intended parents throughout the process.
  • Connects the surrogate and intended parents to licensed, experienced and reputable doctors and attorneys to help with the legal and medical steps of the process.
  • Provides financial and legal protection to the intended parents and surrogates.
  • Makes sure that the entire process is legal, ethical, smooth and is a positive experience for everyone involved.

As a result, none of our intended parents or gestational surrogates has ever had to worry about the “surrogacy gone wrong” fears that are given center stage in the media. When a surrogacy journey is completed correctly and legally with the help of a professional like American Surrogacy, there’s no need to worry about your surrogacy experience “going wrong.” Our goal is to fill the world with positive surrogacy stories so that the narrative can be shifted toward all the ways in which surrogacy has benefitted people’s lives.


Want to learn more about becoming a gestational surrogate with American Surrogacy? Considering growing your family through surrogacy? Contact us now for more information.