The popularity in surrogacy is growing. With celebrities like Kim Kardashian opting for pregnancy via surrogate, the often stigmatised and misunderstood moment is getting the attention it deserves. Perhaps once deemed as controversial, new research by Emma’s Diary finds a staggering 81% of British women would consider surrogacy if unable to carry a baby of their own.
When contemplating adoption over surrogacy options, 49% admit they’d explore surrogacy first with 46% choosing to investigate adoption as their preference. Only 5% reveal they’d decide not to have children if they were unable to carry a baby.
Is Surrogacy The Right Option For You?
Surrogacy means something different to everyone. For parents, it can be the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s a chance for them to live out their dreams as parents and grow their family. For surrogates, it’s a chance to give someone the gift of a lifetime. For both, it’s an experience that they won’t forget.
Before diving into the surrogacy process, it’s important to learn as much as you can about it. It can get complicated but the reward at the end of it is extremely rewarding for both parties.
1. Types of Surrogacy
Seeing as there are two types of surrogacy, you and your partner must determine which option is best for you. Surrogacy is made up of traditional surrogacy and gestational surrogacy. Both are completely safe options but have different outcomes.
Traditional surrogacy - In this case, the surrogate is the biological mother of the child that she is carrying. The process involves fertilising the eggs with the sperm of the intended father. This means that the egg is hers and is donated to the future parents but she carries the baby as well. This option may benefit couples of the same gender or for couples who struggle to produce eggs.
Gestational surrogacy - Unlike traditional surrogacy, the child is not related to the surrogate mother. The egg will be from the intended mother or egg donor and will be fertilised by the intended father or donor’s sperm through IVF. Once the egg becomes an embryo, it’s then transferred into the surrogate.
Choosing the type of surrogacy you and your partner would prefer is a vital step to your surrogacy plan. You will be able to find your best-suited surrogate based off of these needs.
2. Finding Your Surrogate
Before evening agreeing to begin the surrogacy process, you have to do your research. Understanding the emotional and financial investment behind surrogacy must be appreciated. It’s a big commitment for both parents-to-be and the surrogate.
As you would with any big decision, if you’re considering surrogacy, your research has to be detailed. Consider the pros and cons, understand the surrogacy laws and even speak with different professionals and people who have gone through the process to make your decision.
Once you and your partner have firmly decided on the surrogate process, you can begin the process. Finding the right surrogate is your number one step. You can either find a surrogate through your fertility clinic or a close family member or friend might be willing.
Interestingly nearly two thirds (61%) of couples said if using a surrogate, they would prefer someone they didn’t know with 23% choosing a family member as their preferred choice and 16% a close friend.
If using a fertility clinic to find your surrogate is your choice, here’s how it works:
Develop your surrogacy plans: First, your surrogacy specialist will help you develop a surrogacy plan. Based on your plan, they will be able to develop a profile for you and your partner. These plans are made in order to find a correct match with the surrogate’s plans
Swap profiles: once a match has been found, your profiles will be given to both parties so that you and your surrogate can learn more about each other.Your profile will include pictures, surrogacy goals, family information and any other key information that you’d like your surrogate to know.
Get to know each other: If both parties are happy, your agency will put you contact with one another. Phone calls, emails and meeting can be conducted to help you get to know each other. If the match is made, it will be made official with a legal contract.
Having a good relationship with your surrogate is key. It’s recommended that you have a lawyer set up a contract between you and your surrogate to establish the way forward.
Drafting the initial contract is a way for both parties to clarify and agree on the way forward. Each party will have their respective lawyer review the legal aspects of the chosen surrogacy process. Once everything is agreed upon, the embryo transfer can start.
3. Surrogacy Process
Now that you’ve established which type of surrogacy you want and found the right surrogate, you can embark on the surrogacy process. The procedure will be conducted in the agreed upon fertility clinic.
For starters, the mother or egg donor will have to develop her eggs. This process is developed through IVF. The mother will be given hormone stimulating medication to help mature the eggs that will be transferred. Once the eggs have reached maturity, they can be retrieved.
Through the retrieval process, the mother or egg donor will have to undergo a light procedure. This is the egg collection aspect of the surrogacy process. The eggs are removed from the mother or donor and then fertilised with the father’s or sperm donor’s sperm.
Sperm will either be donated or given by the intended father. This process is quick and easy with minimal effect on the father or donor. All it takes is for the sperm to be collected by ejaculation. If the sperm is unhealthy or the father or donor is unable to complete the sperm collection, they may be required to undergo surgery. Your doctor will then surgically remove the sperm as needed.
Once fertilised, the eggs will evolve into embryos. The embryos are then transferred into the surrogate.
Before the surrogate can be ripe for embryo transfer, they will have to undergo their own fertility treatments. For the transfer to successful, the surrogate must take fertility medication prior to the transfer.
Luckily, the transfer process is, for the most part, quick and painless. It doesn’t require any extra medication or anaesthesia. Once the transfer has been done, the surrogate is recommended to go home and rest as much as possible.
After a few weeks, you and your surrogate will be asked to come in to do a pregnancy test. If the pregnancy is confirmed, your surrogate will be required to go for regular blood tests and scans to track the pregnancy.
4. Surrogacy Benefits
It’s undeniable that surrogacy has endless benefits for both parties. Some may be more obvious than others but taking the time to appreciate each benefit will only make the experience that more special.
For future parents:
Surrogacy encourages growing a family for anyone who wants to be parents. From single people to members of the LGBT community, surrogacy gives those who would not be able to have children otherwise a chance to build a family.
If you choose gestational surrogacy, it allows for one or both parents to be biologically related to their child.
Parents are given the chance to raise their child from birth. This means that they will be there for many milestones like the initial embryo transfer, the positive pregnancy test and ultimately their baby’s birth.
Future parents can enjoy the fewer restrictions that surround surrogacy. Adoption agencies may have restrictions that may hinder the adoption process like age. With surrogacy, you have the freedom to choose to have your baby when it’s best for you.
If you have chosen a surrogate who has already gone through the surrogacy process, the chance of it resulting in childbirth can be higher than fertility treatments.
For surrogate mothers:
The pride and joy that comes with helping a family in need is a feeling that will last a lifetime. Giving the gift of life will bring on a deep personal satisfaction.
Surrogates can help parents live out their pregnancy hopes and dreams. Unlike adoption, the parents will be there alongside you where they’ll enjoy each milestone you go through.
The opportunity to help raise awareness around infertility and be a part of a strong community.
All of the expenses are paid and reimbursed throughout the pregnancy. The surrogate can enjoy top healthcare, counselling, and other services during the pregnancy.
If the legal contract states and both parties have agreed, compensated surrogacy means that the surrogate will receive a base compensation. The base compensation can be put toward the surrogate’s financial goals.
Despite the changes that the surrogate and intended parents go through, the biggest benefit is at the end of the process, a life is delivered into the world. There’s nothing quite as special as welcoming a bouncing baby into the arms of a loving home.
5. The Costs of Surrogacy
According to Sensible Surrogacy, parents in the UK can expect to pay around £50 000 for their surrogacy experience. This amount largely depends on the clinic as well as your agreement with the surrogate. The costs include the compensation to the surrogate, the clinical treatments, and legal fees.
Surrogate compensation is something that must be discussed with both parties’ lawyers and agreed upon in the contract. In the UK, the law does prohibit any payment to the surrogate during or after the surrogacy agreement. However, it is legal to pay for the reasonable expenses that the surrogate may incur.
This expense payment has been approved by the court to be up to £15 000.
When calculating the costs of surrogacy, parents-to-be should consider all of the possible expenses that the surrogate may face. These costs include travel costs, loss of earning, maternity clothing costs, and additional childcare support. On top of these costs, your surrogate may need therapy treatments for both physical and psychological needs.
Lastly, you will also have to take into account the clinic and legal fees. Sensible Surrogacy has calculated that the cost of surrogacy clinics in London are around £25,000. Costs for the surrogacy clinic would include the egg and sperm donation, and the fertilisation and embryo transfer process. You will still need pay for any prenatal care and the final delivery of the baby.
Unfortunately, the bulk of these expenses are not covered by the NHS. Parents should check with their insurance companies for any further expense covers.
When it comes to legal fees, these vary depending on which lawyer you use. More reasonable lawyers will charge below £10 000 while higher-end lawyers may charge up to £50 000. You will have to cover both your and the surrogates legal fees.
6. Who is Surrogacy Best for?
Surrogacy is best for both single and coupled people who wish to become parents. Between traditional and gestational surrogacy, the dream of becoming a parent can become a reality even if you aren’t in a relationship or are facing fertility issues.
People who can benefit from using surrogacy can be:
Couples who are facing infertility
Couples who would like to have a biological child but can’t conceive
Members of the LGBTQ community
Single people who wish to become parents without needing to have a partner
There are many different factors of surrogacy that may appeal to different people. At the end of the day, surrogacy is best for anyone who wants to be a parent.
7. Success Rates of Surrogacy
The rate of success in surrogacy can be compared to that of IVF procedures. As it’s a similar process, the success of the surrogacy process lies mainly on the success of the IVF process.
Sensible Surrogacy states that there are differentiating statistics that depend on gestational and traditional surrogacy. If the IVF process is done through the gestational process where the egg is “self-donated”, the success rate lies at 15% to 20%. Factors such as egg quality and the donor’s age may affect the chance of pregnancy.
For traditional surrogacy where the egg and sperm are of top quality, IVF has a success rate of 65%. This number drops with age to 40% when the surrogate is 35 or older.
Surrogacy is a magical process. Both parties will never forget the experience and will forge a bond that will last a lifetime.