Can You Ask Your Gestational Carrier to Follow a Special Diet?

As intended parents, you have a vested interest in everything your gestational carrier eats (or doesn’t eat!) because she’s nourishing not only herself, but your precious baby throughout the nine months of pregnancy. So naturally, you only want her to consume what’s best for her and your baby.

So can you request her to follow a particular diet?

The short answer is:  Yes.

But should you request her to follow a particular diet?

The more complicated answer is: It depends.

Whether or not it’s acceptable to ask your surrogate to eat a certain way often boils down to the reason why you’re making the request. If you’re Jewish and follow a kosher diet, or you’re Mormon and avoid all forms of caffeine, or you’re a strict vegan or vegetarian and don’t want your baby exposed to animal products, it makes sense that you would want your surrogate mother to follow the same dietary guidelines.

In these and similar cases, intended parents should make their requirements part of the initial screening process for any potential gestational carrier match so both parties know from the outset what the expectations are.  If parents are seeking an independent match, they should list their dietary expectations in the ads they place, and if they’re working through an agency, any potential matches should be made aware of the requirement before even meeting for the first time. This ensures that no one wastes the others’ time.

But what about when dietary requests aren’t religious, cultural, or philosophical, but are more preference? Can intended parents request their surrogate mother to eat a certain way or avoid particular foods?

There are widely accepted guidelines for foods any pregnant woman should avoid, such as raw sushi, unpasteurized cheeses, fish that’s high in mercury, alcohol, etc. And seemingly every day there’s new (and not to mention conflicting!) research popping up declaring new additions on the to-be-avoided list for the general population – gluten, soy, artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, nitrates and nitrites, refined sugar, etc.

There are times, of course, when a special diet is medically necessary during pregnancy – in the case of gestational diabetes, for example.  Or there may be other times an OB advises her patient to increase her calcium or protein intake. A gestational carrier should always follow her doctor’s advice.

Absent medical necessity though, can intended parents expect their surrogate mother to follow their own dietary preferences?

If dietary guidelines, expectations or wishes are discussed as part of the contract negotiation process, it’s best to address them in a frank and candid manner so any potential surrogate can make an informed choice about the rules she’s agreeing to abide by for the next year or so. And if she agrees to follow them, she should keep her word.

And as intended parents you should clearly spell out your expectations about various foods or substances. For example, if you want her to avoid caffeine (more than is typically advised for pregnant women), does that mean no decaf coffee or iced tea, or even some sports or soft drinks? What about chocolate? Believe it or not, years ago a fellow surrogate was carrying for a couple who requested that she not ingest any caffeine. While she followed that request to the best of her knowledge, they found out she was eating chocolate chip cookies, which to most people would seem an innocuous treat. But their ban on caffeine included chocolate, and the cookies were made with semi-sweet chocolate chips and the intended parents were very upset.

It was an innocent mistake on the part of the surrogate, and one that could have been avoided with clearer communication at the outset.  The parents assumed that the surrogate knew about caffeine in chocolate, while in actuality it hadn’t occurred to her.

I had a falling out with my first intended father because he was adamant about me consuming more protein during my pregnancy. My doctor felt my weight gain was adequate and the twins I was carrying were growing fine, but my IF was concerned about pre-eclampsia and preterm labor and felt that increased protein on my part could prevent those complications from developing. I was healthy and doing my best with the pregnancy and resented his lack of faith in my judgment, and our relationship never recovered from the strain (nor did I develop any complications and I delivered the twins at 39 weeks).

If a particular diet is important to you, communicate it early and clearly to your gestational carrier and be sure she fully understands everything it entails. And should she require a special diet during the course of the pregnancy, you should expect her full compliance.

Otherwise, it can be tricky to watch your gestational carrier eat foods that you personally might not eat if you were pregnant yourself, but it’s also important to acknowledge that your surrogate mother is experienced with pregnancy. She knows her body best, and most carriers will do their very best to delivery the healthiest possible baby to her intended parents.  And the occasional less-than-ideal treat really is OK once in a while (the only time I’ve ever eaten Pop Tarts is when I’ve been pregnant – I have no desire for them when I’m not pregnant).

If you have concerns, by all means speak directly to your gestational carrier, or speak to her in conjunction with her doctor. But as hard as it may be to do so, it’s most important for you to trust her to do her job and let her know you have faith in her body. Even if her body says a few extra trips to Dairy Queen might be nice.