Surrogacy

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Surrogacy may be suitable for those who cannot carry a child due to absence or disease of the uterus, or where assisted conception has failed. A surrogate mother is a woman who bears a child on behalf of another.

Full surrogacy is where a surrogate mother conceives and carries the child of an infertile woman’s partner, using his sperm. This can be performed in an IVF clinic but more often or not artificial insemination can take place at home using an insemination kit. Although this is the simplest type of insemination it can also be the most problematic because the baby is half the father's and half the surrogate mothers. This means the surrogate mother may experience feelings towards the baby growing inside her and be unwilling to give it up once the baby is born. It is also hard for the intended mother to bring up a child which is half her partners and half from the surrogate mother.

Partial surrogacy is when an egg and sperm from the couple is implanted into the surrogate woman’s uterus. This process always has to be carried out in an IVF clinic and can sometimes take up to six months to complete. Although the procedure is more complicated, the surrogate mother has no biological ties to the baby she is carrying, so many couples prefer this method.

Surrogacy can be problematic mainly because the ‘host’ mother has problems parting with the child after she has carried it for nine months, especially if she is the genetic mother.

Where do we stand legally?

Surrogacy is legal in the United Kingdom, but you are not allowed to advertise yourself as a surrogate mother (although you can advertise yourself as an egg donor). Surrogacy arrangments are not legally enforceable so you have to enter into an agreement with caution and make sure that all parties are comfortable with the agreement. You may have to pay (or be paid if you are the surrogate mother) the surrogate mother's expenses during the pregnancy. There is no strict definition to what a mother's expenses during pregnancy are, it is left up to the couple and surrogate mother to decide. It may involve food expenses, maternity clothing, financial help if the surrogate mother has to stop work towards the end and also travel expenses to and from antenatal appointments.

At present the law does not recognise surrogacy as a binding agreement, so there isn't anything the intended parents can do to secure their position before the birth. This is also the case for partial surrogacy where the baby is genetically related to both intended parents and not the surrogate mother. For this reason, a surrogacy agreement should be entered into with extreme caution.

Once the baby is born, the intended father's name goes on the birth cetificate and he has equal rights over the child with the surrogate mother. After six weeks the parents can apply for 'parental order' that will give them full and permanent rights over the child and the surrogate mother must relinquish all responsibility.

Although surrogacy is complicated politically and legally, lots of parents have a happy outcome from this arrangement as long as they enter into it with care and caution.

The information in this feature is intended for educational purposes only. If you have any concerns about your health, the health of your child or the health of someone you know, please consult with a doctor or other healthcare professional.

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