Find out more about what surrogacy involves and if it might be right for you
Surrogacy is when a woman carries and gives birth to a baby for another person or couple. Find out more about what surrogacy involves and if it might be right for you.
Who might have surrogacy?
Surrogacy may be appropriate for women with a medical condition that makes it impossible or dangerous for them to get pregnant and give birth. These include:
- absence or malformation of the womb
- recurrent pregnancy loss
- repeated in vitro fertilisation (IVF) implantation failures.
It’s also a popular option for male same-sex couples who want to have a family and can be used by people who are single.
How does surrogacy work?
There are two types of surrogacy:
Full surrogacy (also known as host or gestational surrogacy) is when the eggs of the intended mother or a donor are used and there is therefore no genetic connection between the baby and the surrogate.
Partial surrogacy (also known as straight or traditional surrogacy) involves the surrogate’s egg being fertilised with the sperm of the intended father. If you go down this route, we recommend you have treatment at a licensed UK fertility clinic.
How can I find a surrogate?
Some people ask a family member or friend to be a surrogate. This can be a good solution as there should already be a lot of trust between you.
If using a friend or family member isn’t an option, or you’d prefer to use someone you don’t know, you’ll need to do your research. Fertility clinics aren’t allowed to find a surrogate for you, however there may be other organisations who can help. A good place to start would be:
- Surrogacy UK
- Brilliant Beginnings
- Childlessness Overcome Through Surrogacy (COTS)
- My Surrogacy Journey®
Either way, it’s really important that you’re clear about how things will work in the future.
How much contact will you have with the surrogate before, during and after pregnancy? At what point will you talk to your child about their origins?
You might find it helpful to draw up an agreement beforehand (although it won’t be legally binding) for clarity. If you go through an organisation, this is something they can help you with.
When looking for a surrogate, you’ll want to make sure she is able to have a safe, healthy pregnancy and birth. You’ll also want someone you can build a close, trusting relationship with.
How successful is surrogacy?
Success rates for surrogacy depend on many factors, including:
- the surrogate’s ability to get pregnant
- the age of the woman whose eggs are being used
- the success of the treatment you’re having (ie, IUI, IVF or ICSI)
- the quality of the father’s or donor’s sperm.
The age of the woman who provides the egg is the most important factor that affects chances of pregnancy.
Does the age of the surrogate matter?
If you’re using the surrogate’s eggs, your chances of having a baby will depend on how old she is.
Women over 35 can be at greater risk of health problems or complications during pregnancy, which is something else to consider.
How much does it cost to have a surrogate?
You’re not allowed to pay a surrogate in the UK. However, you are responsible for reimbursing any reasonable expenses that the surrogate incurs such as maternity clothes, travel expenses and loss of earnings.
Expenses vary. According to a report by Surrogacy UK, surrogates typically receive £10,000-£15,000, although this will depend on your circumstances. For example, extra expenses may apply if your surrogate has twins.
You’ll also need to pay for your clinic treatment. Costs for this vary depending on what you’re having. If you’re planning on using the surrogate’s own eggs and fertilising with your sperm, you’ll probably have intrauterine insemination (IUI) treatment if the sperm is good quality.
If you’re using your own eggs and sperm, or donated eggs from someone who isn’t the surrogate, you’ll need to have in vitro fertilisation (IVF), which is more expensive than IUI.
If you’re using sperm that isn’t of the highest quality you may need to have intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) treatment, which is an additional cost on top of IVF.
Are there any risks I should be aware of?
If you’re having fertility treatment such as IVF or IUI then there are some risks you should be aware of.
There’s also a risk of transferring infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis to the surrogate, so the egg and sperm provider must be screened before treatment can begin. If you’re using sperm or eggs from a donor from a licensed UK clinic, they’ll automatically be screened for infections.
Also, until you have a parental order, the surrogate can change her mind about the arrangement at any time.
Are there any legal issues to consider?
Yes. Surrogacy involves a lot of complicated legal issues which is why you should seek independent legal advice, especially if you’re having treatment overseas.
The most important thing to know is that, in the UK, the surrogate is the legal mother of the child unless you get a parental order from the court; even if the eggs and sperm used are yours or donated (ie, she’s not genetically related to the child). Once you have a parental order for the baby, the surrogate will have no further rights or obligations to the child.
Who the second legal parent is at birth will depend on your circumstances. If the surrogate is married or in a civil partnership, her partner will automatically be the second legal parent (until a parental order is granted), unless it can be shown that her partner did not consent to her treatment. If the surrogate is single, then the man providing the sperm (if he wants to be the father) will automatically be the second legal parent at birth. However, it is possible for the surrogate to nominate a second legal parent such as the intended mother or non-biological father if you’d all prefer. To do this, both the intended second parent and the surrogate will need to give their consent before the sperm, egg or embryo are transferred:
- The surrogate must complete: SWP - Your consent (as a surrogate) nominating an intended parent to be the legal parent form
- The intended second parent must complete: SPP - Your consent to being the legal parent in surrogacy form
The law previously only allowed two people to apply for a parental order, however, it has recently been changed and it is now possible for one person to apply for a parental order if you are a biological parent of the child (ie, your eggs or sperm were used to create the baby).
This is a complicated area so you should talk to your clinic early on about nominating a second legal parent so they can support you through the process.
What about if we want to go abroad?
More and more hopeful parents are having surrogacy treatment overseas. In UK law, surrogacy is treated as an altruistic act so paying a surrogate anything more than reasonable expenses is illegal. However, commercial surrogacy is permitted in some other countries.
Many people who have treatment abroad are very happy with the quality of care they receive, but it’s important you do your research first.
Legal arrangements differ from country to country and actually getting a passport and getting your child back to Britain can be a very difficult and time-consuming process.
You should also know that even if you’re named on a foreign birth certificate as the legal parents of your child, you’ll still need to apply for a parental order when you return to the UK. This is because UK law recognises the surrogate as the legal parent(s) until you have a parental order.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office have produced guidance for people considering having surrogacy treatment abroad.
Where can I go for further advice or support?
Whatever your situation, it’s important you’re getting enough support during what can be a long and emotionally draining process.
Pregnancy can have its ups and downs and there’s a real risk of your surrogate having a miscarriage or the treatment simply not working.
If you do have a baby, there will be lots of questions for you to think about, particularly as your child grows up.
If you have treatment at a licensed fertility clinic, you should be offered counselling as standard to talk through these issues, but if you’re not then it’s really worth considering getting counselling separately.