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What is surrogacy?

Surrogacy is a when a woman agrees to carry and give birth to a baby for another couple. Surrogacy treatment is mainly sought by couples in whom the female partner is unable or unwilling to deliver a baby safely.  This may be because of illness or a problem with the uterus. In recent years, surrogacy has become increasingly popular with gay men wishing to start a family with the help of a surrogate and sometimes an additional egg donor too.

How it works

There are two types of surrogacy available.  Host surrogacy involves the patient-couple (intended parents) providing an embryo by IVF either using the female partner’s eggs, the surrogate’s eggs or the eggs of an egg donor which is then transferred to the surrogate mother for pregnancy and delivery.  The second less common type in which the surrogate herself provides the egg which is fertilised by a semen sample via intrauterine insemination.

How can I find a surrogate?

Many couples may ask a family member or friend to become a surrogate for them as there is already a level of trust and an established relationship. If this is not an option, the couple must then find a surrogate themselves.  Unfortunately, the London Women’s Clinic cannot help you to find a surrogate, however, there are several surrogacy agencies who will be able to do this and facilitate the legal matters concerning all parties involved.

No matter which route you choose to go down it is crucial that you are clear about the process as surrogacy is a very complex process with many legal issues involved.

How successful is surrogacy?

The success of a surrogacy arrangement is dependent on several factors including the surrogate’s ability to carry a pregnancy and the quality of the eggs and sperm that are being used.  The first step is to arrange an initial consultation at your chosen LWC clinic for both the commissioning couple and for the surrogate.  At this point all parties’ medical histories will be discussed and any further investigations will take place.  Following the results of these investigations, a fertility specialist will be able to advise on the various treatment options that available and discuss the individual success rates for each.

Does the age of the surrogate matter?

The possibility of a surrogate being accepted is dependent on several factors including her age.  If the surrogate will be required to use her own eggs, additional tests may be required to assess her egg reserve.  Depending on the surrogates age and her results, a fertility specialist will be able to discuss the success rates you should expect from your treatment.  As with any kind of fertility treatment, success rates decline with the age of the woman providing the eggs, particularly after the age of 35.

How much does surrogacy cost?

The cost of surrogacy depends on the type of treatment required and whether this includes IVF, ICSI or IUI.  In addition, you will be required to pay a fee for the administration, coordination and support throughout the treatment programme. 

It is illegal to formally pay a surrogate in the UK; however, a surrogate can claim expenses including the loss of earnings, travel expenses and maternity clothes for example.  If you are using an agency to source a surrogate for you there may be additional fees that you may need to consider. 

Legal advice

Surrogacy is a very complicated treatment, with so many potential challenges that most arrangements are now coordinated through a surrogate agency.  However, it is important to note that 'commercial' surrogacy in the UK - in which the gestational carrier receives payment - is not allowed.

The treatment is complex, with many potential difficulties over parenthood and citizenship (particularly when the surrogacy arrangement is performed overseas).  Most successful arrangements require the involvement of a lawyer and very strict counselling. All surrogacy cases undertaken at the London Women's Clinic must have the approval of the clinic's ethics committee.

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