If you’re having problems conceiving, another increasingly popular option is asking a surrogate to have a baby for you.
In this guide to surrogacy we explain how it works – finding a surrogate, what’s involved and the complex legal situation.
At a glance
- Traditional or ‘straight’ surrogacy – the surrogate mother’s egg is fertilised by the father’s sperm
- Host surrogacy – when a fertilised embryo is implanted into the surrogate mother’s womb
- Agreements between the surrogate and intended parents isn’t regarded as legally binding in the UK
Your biological child
Surrogacy has always been around, but thanks to IVF, a surrogate mother can now carry a baby that is you and your partner’s biological child.
Why use a surrogate?
Surrogacy could suit you if other fertility treatments haven’t worked, if other physical issues are stopping you from getting pregnant, or you’re in a same-sex relationship.
Surrogacy is an emotionally intense and legally complex arrangement that needs a lot of time, money and patience to work well. But done properly, it does bring hundreds of couples every year the unbelievable joy of having their own baby.
How does it work?
Agencies and some fertility centres offer surrogacy services, but it’s not regulated by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFEA) like other fertility treatments. There are two kinds of surrogacy:
- Host surrogacy – when a fertilised embryo is implanted into the surrogate mother’s womb. This means the embryo can be created using the parents’ own sperm and eggs, so the baby is biologically yours. Or you can use donated sperm and/or eggs
- Traditional or ‘straight’ surrogacy – the surrogate mother’s egg is fertilised by the father’s sperm, usually using intrauterine insemination (IUI) . This type of surrogacy is becoming less common - partly because the biological link increases the risk of the surrogate mother forming an attachment to the baby and unfortunately not wanting to let them go
Will we have to pay?
Surrogacy is legal as long as you’re not paying the surrogate mother a fee. That said, expenses for things like travel, maternity clothes and loss of earnings are fine. You need to factor in a few others costs too:
- Fertility procedures, such as IUI or IVF
- The fertility clinic’s usual fees
- Legal advice
- Any fees from the surrogacy agency
How do we find a surrogate?
Fertility clinics aren’t allowed to help you find a surrogate, so you’ll need to do this bit yourself - either privately or through an agency. Finding a healthy, willing and trustworthy surrogate can take a long time. And it’s worth bearing in mind no-one is allowed to advertise, not parents-to-be or surrogates. But the good news is Surrogacy UK or infertility charities, like Infertility Network UK, may be able to help you get started.
Your surrogate will also need to be someone you feel you can build a trusting relationship with. And ideally she will already have completed her own family, as some surrogate mums find it hard to let the baby go when it’s born.
What is the legal situation?
You’ll need to appoint a lawyer who can advise you throughout the process and help you formalise a good arrangement. Although surrogacy is legal in the UK, the agreement between the surrogate and intended parents isn’t regarded as legally binding. So six weeks after the birth, you’ll need to apply for legal parentage via a Parental Order (if you or your partner is genetically related to the baby). Or alternatively, you can apply for adoption.
Talking to your kids
Most parents choose to be open and honest about with their children about their genetic heritage - an approach experts say is best for their emotional development.
For more advice on the issues involved in surrogacy, contact the voluntary organisation Childlessness Overcome Through Surrogacy (COTS).