Modern FamiliesIn search of a Womb

In search of a Womb

The Families Thru Surrogacy fourth annual conference for intended parents and surrogates in London is on the 11th March, followed by Dublin on 12th March 2017. Please visit the website for more information

Surrogacy At Home

In the UK it is estimated that approximately half of the surrogacy arrangements occur domestically. Some intended parents are lucky enough to have a close relative or friend able and psychologically prepared to carry for them. Others pay to join organisations such as Surrogacy UK, COTS or Brilliant Beginnings in the hope that they will find a surrogate that way. Many others look for local surrogates through closed facebook forums such as those run by Families through Surrogacy and several other volunteer groups.

Finding a UK-based surrogate can be a significantly cheaper route to parenthood, but unfortunately, none of the methods above provides guarantees of success. Even the couple of non-profit surrogacy organisations that do exist regularly close their books to new intended parent applicants, such is the shortage of surrogates in the UK.
Some intended parents have engaged privately with surrogates in Eastern Europe, only to become the victims of scams where they were sending monthly payments for bogus pregnancies.

Costs for UK surrogacy arrangements vary hugely and depend on several key factors. Firstly, are you using straight (Traditional) or host (gestational) surrogacy? In the former, IVF costs can sometimes be avoided entirely. Secondly, if you are using IVF, are you using a UK clinic or travelling across the channel to access cheaper IVF in eastern Europe? Costs in countries like the Czech Republic can be a third of those in the UK, where some clinics charge extra for managing surrogacy cases. Keep in mind though that the extra money you pay at some UK clinics can be a good investment psychologically, given some offer ongoing counselling support to you and your surrogate.

A third crucial factor affecting your costs wherever you are engaging is how quickly your surrogate falls pregnant. A key predictor here is the age of the eggs you are using (these may be your own eggs, the surrogate’s eggs or donor eggs). Success rates start to decline when the egg donor is aged 35 years or more, and the decline is drastic when the woman providing eggs is aged 43 or more.

Surrogacy agreements are not required by UK law and in fact UK lawyers are not allowed to charge for preparing contracts. Despite this, there are specialist lawyers who can provide invaluable guidance and advice in relation to both surrogacy and parental orders.

Sourcing an altruistic surrogate is tough. Many intended parents & potential surrogates are reduced to stalking each other in online forums. Some well- intentioned, generous surrogates are discouraged by the need to self-assess intended parents. Some find themselves poorly equipped to deal with the emotional, medical and logistic stresses of carrying someone else’s child. Some are single or have a partner unsupportive of their journey. All parties can struggle to manage the intense emotions inherent in surrogacy arrangements. Relationship breakdowns do occur.

Surrogacy Abroad

Many intended parents are reticent to engage in the emotional complexities of domestic surrogacy, preferring to leave the surrogate matching process to professionals who know what they are doing. This type of intended parent is often looking for a better chance of success and for a shorter wait time for a surrogate.

However Cambodia is the fourth Asian nation in the last two years to announce a sudden ban on surrogacy arrangements. During 2015, Phnom Penh rapidly became the default Asian surrogacy hub, first for the gay Chinese market and then for predominantly gay westerners locked out of affordable or legal options in their home countries, Thailand, Nepal, India and Eastern Europe. Cambodia’s surrogacy infrastructure was a hastily built rollercoaster with a high risk of collateral damage when it inevitably crashed.

In countries still offering legally sanctioned surrogacy to foreigners (Some US states, Canada, Ukraine, Georgia, & Russia), often wait times to match with a surrogate have shot up in the last year alone,. Most US agencies are now quoting average wait times of around 5-6 months. Of the few companies that attract surrogates in Canada, wait times can be up to 18 months. These delays are likely due to increased demand from countries such as China, and the dwindling availability of South-east Asian surrogacy. Only in Eastern Europe are wait times closer to two months, but even then, Ukraine, Georgia and Russia only accept married heterosexual intended parents.

Unfortunately, neither are there guarantees of success in surrogacy. Pregnancy and childbirth are both wondrous and yet unpredictable. Though there are ways of stacking the odds of success in your favour. For example a number of US IVF clinics will offer repeated embryo transfers and a money-back guarantees if you don’t have a live birth, when you use an egg donor whom they have pre-approved. Many can also offer pre-implantation genetic screening, to weed out any abnormal embryos prior to transfer.

The closure of several surrogacy destinations has been a trigger for agencies to get more creative in how they operate. Increasingly we are seeing surrogates from one country undertaking embryo transfers in another. Often ‘developing country’ surrogates leave their own families to live in surrogate housing or a neighbouring country to escape hostile authorities.

FTS fourth annual conference for intended parents and surrogates in London on 11 March, followed by Dublin on 12 March 2017. These events address the tough issues in surrogacy to ensure that intended parents are well prepared emotionally, financially and in regard to knowledge.

Sam Everingham
Sam is the founder of Growing Families, previously known as Families Through Surrogacy . He and his partner have two girls born via international surrogacy in 2011. Sam has been involved in family formation journeys for over eight years

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