A surrogacy arrangement involves a woman agreeing to bear a child for a couple and surrendering the baby to them at birth. The process provides an opportunity for men and women who are unable to carry a child themselves to become parents.
What does surrogacy involve?
There are two main types of surrogacy: full and partial. Full surrogacy, also known gestational surrogacy, involves the implantation of an embryo created by either the eggs and sperm of the intended parents, or an embryo created using donor eggs and sperm. Partial surrogacy, also known straight or traditional, involves sperm from the intended father and an egg from the surrogate. In such cases fertilisation is achieved through artificial insemination or intrauterine insemination (IUI).
Surrogate mothers must be in good health and should be able to have the baby with the minimum amount of risk to her own health. Existing medical problems which could lead to complications with the pregnancy would exclude some women from being surrogates.
Heavy smokers, drinkers, substance abusers, and women who are significantly overweight would also not be suitable candidates for surrogate mothers because of the risks posed to the baby and the woman herself.
Age is also a factor due to the increased risk of chromosome abnormalities such as Down’s Syndrome in mothers of advancing years. It is generally accepted that surrogate mothers should be under the age of 35.
Bearing a child for someone else can be a hugely emotional experience. Only those with a strong mental disposition should even consider becoming a surrogate mother. More details about surrogate mothers.
Surrogacy itself is not illegal in the UK but it is heavily restricted by a number of legal rules. The three main laws are as follows:
- it is a crime to advertise that you are either looking for a surrogate, or you are willing to act as a surrogate yourself.
- it is illegal to pay or receive money for the actual act of surrogacy.
- it is illegal to broker a surrogacy arrangement on a commercial basis.
Surrogacy agreements are not enforceable in UK courts, meaning that any contracts created are not legally binding. In most cases, the courts have ruled in favour of parents seeking to uphold a surrogacy arrangement. However, the well-being of the child will always take precedence, so it would be wrong to assume an agreement is fully protected. More information about surrogacy in the UK.
Find a surrogate
Finding a surrogate in the UK isn't always an easy task. Fertility clinics are not allowed to find a surrogate mother for you. However, there are unregulated organisations in the UK that can offer surrogacy assistance. The Infertility Network UK is one of the best places to find out more. Take a look at their website www.infertilitynetworkuk.com or telephone 0800 008 7464.
As previously mentioned, paying for a surrogate in the UK is illegal. However, it is perfectly acceptable to cover the costs of the surrogate's expenses such as travel expenses and loss of earnings. These figures can be manipulated to provide a hidden payment to the surrogate. However, this too is illegal. The expenses must be justifiable in court and receipts may be requested should there be suspicion of illegal payments.
Commercial surrogacy is not illegal in many countries around the world. But the costs can be astronomical. In the US for example, you can expect to pay anything from $20,000 to $80,000. More details about surrogacy costs.
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