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What is surrogacy?

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What is surrogacy?

Surrogacy is a method of assisted reproduction where a woman carries and gives birth to a baby for a couple when otherwise they could not. The most frequent reasons why intended parents choose this way of starting a family include contiguous miscarriages, repeated failure of IVF treatment, premature menopause, severe heart disease and uterus medical problems. Surrogacy is also a solution for same-sex couples or single parents.

In the UK, surrogacy became legal in 1985 but it stays illegal to advertise for a surrogate, or to advertise to be a surrogat. The only way to become a surrogate or search for a surrogate in UK is through surrogacy organisations.


There are two types of surrogacy.

Traditional surrogate: A traditional surrogate is the baby’s biological mother. That’s because the baby has been created using one of her own eggs and was fertilized by the intended father’s sperm. Donor sperm can also be used.

Gestational surrogate: The surrogate carries a baby that she has no genetic link to. Eggs are gathered from the intended mother and are fertilized with sperm from the father. Then, the embryo is placed into the uterus of the surrogate, using the IVF method.


What’s the difference between surrogacy in the US and in the UK?

In the UK, paying a surrogate is illegal, except for their “reasonable expenses”. However in the US, a surrogate is expected to receive what is known as an ‘inconvenience fee’ (typically valued between $20,000 and $35,000) in addition to expenses.

The “reasonable expenses” are the money spent for travel costs, treatment costs, maternity clothes, counselling or professional support in connection with surrogacy, childcare costs and any loss of earnings.

If the costs exceed the reasonable expenses, then the court must consider whether to authorise the payment, while intended parents must also account for fertility treatment costs and any other legal fees.

The average cost for the reasonable expenses is estimated around £7,000 and £15,000, but it always depends on the case.


The requirements for surrogates

It is strongly recommended that surrogates have given birth before the procedure, since the risks of illness and complications are much higher in a first pregnancy. As for the age of the surrogate, while there is no age limit, applications are usually accepted from women aged 21 and over. However, there are some considerations because of the fact that the risks of pregnancy increase with age. The successful surrogate applicant should also have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of no higher than 33, and should not use illegal drugs, smoke cigarettes or abuse alcohol.

Who is the legal mother?

In the UK, the surrogate is the legal mother and has the right to keep the child even if they’re not genetically related. The intended parents take the parenthood by a parental order or adoption, but until this is signed, the surrogate can keep the baby if she wants.

The parental order is given if the intended parents are genetically related to the child and in a relationship where the couple are married or living as partners. On the other hand, adoption is the only way to become the child’s legal parent in a traditional surrogacy or if the parent is single.


What if the surrogate decides to keep the baby?

Even though it is not often for a surrogate to change her mind about handing over the child, if that happens, the intended parents can ask the family courts to get involved and decide who the baby should live with, taking under consideration what is in the best interest of the child in the particular circumstance.


Child visits from the surrogate

The rule is that once the parental order is made, the legal rights of the surrogate are extinguished. However, it is up to the parents to stay in touch with the surrogate, if they wish.


gettyimages-97530915-568838ac3df78ccc151ca0a2Surrogacy outside of a registered surrogacy organisation

The presence of an organisation in the process of a surrogacy is advised for the benefit of both sides; however it isn’t illegal to proceed without its help. Some families prefer to enter into private arrangements without the involvement of an organisation.





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