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Surrogates – Extraordinary Generosity Provides Family to Hundreds

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Hannah Bailey

There have been huge changes in surrogacy availability in recent years. UK couples have in the past engaged in Thailand, India, Nepal and Cambodia. But these countries have now closed their doors to foreign surrogacy, pushing renewed interest in surrogacy in the UK.

Deanne Hart has a condition which meant she was born without a uterus. Nonetheless she has working ovaries allowing her to produce eggs. After four years with her partner they were keen to start a family and joined Surrogacy UK.. Ultimately a UK surrogate expressed interest and they spent three months getting to know each other and their respective families. Putting together an ‘agreement’ (surrogacy contracts are not legal in Britain) with their surrogate, they were lucky to achieve a positive result on the first attempt.

Surrogacy for Brits is also increasing in the US and Canada. The key is selecting reliable providers.

Hannah Bailey lives in the Bath district. She has MRKH, a condition which affects one in five thousand woman. It means she was born without a womb. Hannah was diagnosed aged 17, so had some time to plan her options. Hannah considered a number of options to have a family such as adoption, but decided upon surrogacy. She joined Surrogacy UK and meet a potential surrogate. Surrogacy UK enforces a three month getting-to-know-you period, which proved beneficial as the partnership was not right. Hannah admits she and her partner became impatient with the poor Surrogacy UK ratio of surrogates to intended parents at the time (although this has now been rectified).

They felt that for them, the US was unaffordable, so they looked at Ukraine. It was a country which has laws recognising foreigners as the legal parents via surrogacy. However their UK lawyer advised that obtaining UK citizenship for children born via Ukraine was going to require many months abroad and much red tape. Canada also allows foreigners to engage in surrogacy, but unlike Ukraine, awards Canadian citizenship. It meant Hannah could bring a newborn back to the UK on a Canadian passport within three weeks, then apply for UK documents once home.

Their UK lawyer introduced them to Canadian professionals and within three months they had met a network of Canadians ready to support them and matched with a surrogate. Soon they were shipping their precious embryos from the UK to Canada.

It was a relief Hannah recalls, that they never had to have a conversation with their surrogate about expenses and re-imbursements. Like in the US, a third party managed this for them. Their son Zachary was born in August 2017 and already their surrogate has offered to help with a ‘sibling journey’ if she is medically cleared to do so. Hannah is hoping they won’t have to find a new surrogate. Wait times have increased in Canada and all prospective parents are now advised that matching is so competitive, they need to record a ‘video biography’ to sell themselves to prospective surrogates.

Cathy HuntBack in the UK, lesbian mums are also more commonly offering their reproductive potential to both gay and heterosexual intended parents, often using their own eggs in what is known as traditional surrogacy. Tricia Hunt and her wife Cathy have four children of their own – two boys aged 13 & 6 (Trish carried) & twin girls aged 2 1/2 (Cathy carried) with the help of IVF and a sperm donor. In recent years though, Tricia has carried children for several other couples.

Tricia & Hannah are just two of some fifteen UK surrogates and parents who will share the ins and outs of local and cross-border surrogacy, at Families Through Surrogacy’s fifth annual UK consumer conference on Saturday 10 March, at 155 Bishopsgate, London.

Focused on the information needs of intended parents and surrogates, the events’ popularity lies in its honesty – putting parents and surrogates front and centre, sharing their real-life journeys.

This year’s conference has a focus on best practice in UK & US surrogacy, with leading professionals exploring the complexities of surrogacy arrangements and how best to lay the groundwork for successful journeys. Sessions will address some of the tough questions about trust, logistics, sourcing donors, matching with surrogates and legal parentage. New sessions will explore surrogate-intended parent relationships, outcomes for children, and how surrogacy is operating in Canada, Russia & Kenya. Tickets from £55 including lunch, morning & afternoon tea.

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Go to http://www.familiesthrusurrogacy.com/uk2018/

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Surrogacy

Families Through Surrogacy – The Ukraine Solution

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Families Through Surrogacy

As Families Through Surrogacy’s consumer-led seminar series returns to the UK in October, SAM EVERINGHAM catches up with Stacy Owen, one of a growing number of UK citizens engaging in Ukraine for surrogacy.

Stacy and her Morrocan-born husband Simo live in Sutton, Surrey. Stacy was 41 when she turned to surrogacy after enduring twelve years of infertility grief and loss. Simo, an electrical tester, was ten years younger. None of Stacy’s ten pregnancies had lasted more than nine weeks and her doctors could only say the problem was ‘immune issues’. Surrogacy was the only option left.

Stacy is frank about her needs. “I looked into the UK surrogacy process (but) I didn’t want to have to ….. form a relationship and take the risk (with British law) of not being able to have our baby(s) should the surrogate change her mind.  I wanted it to be a business transaction….. I didn’t want to be forced to be involved with the surrogate, although I remain in contact to this day.”

With US surrogacy being too pricey, Stacy discovered Ukraine – one of the few countries which provide for legal parentage for foreigners using surrogacy.  One clinic offered an all-inclusive package for €30,000 including IVF and birth costs, egg donor if required, medications, legals, surrogate expenses, compensation as well as their own food and accommodation. She Skyped with the clinic a few times and they signed up in April 2017.

Stacy stimulated for one cycle herself and found the hormonal effects a challenge. Their first transfer took but failed at six weeks. Their ‘package’ included an egg donor, who they had to choose online as a backup. The 21-year-old they chose produced enough eggs to create six high quality embryos.

Their clinic substituted a new surrogate. Six weeks post transfer Stacy’s email pinged with the first scan. An ultrasound had arrived clearly showing two healthy embryo sacs. “It was amazing to receive”, Stacy remembers. “We were so excited and over the moon that we had twins”.

Stacey & Owen

Nonetheless, Stacy only told her parents and one friend.  “I didn’t want all the questions and enquiries – the process was a very private one … we had too many past losses to feel comfortable before they were born”

Their clinic had a policy of not introducing intended parents to their surrogate until the end of the first trimester, given pregnancies can often fail prior. So Stacy and Simo had their first face to face contact with their surrogate via Skype at 16 weeks. Until this point letters were exchanged.

Stacy flew to Ukraine to meet her surrogate for the 26-week scan as well as other English couples.

“Legal stuff was the one thing we didn’t know about, we thought the clinic handled all of it’ Stacy confesses. She had assumed the exit process might take three weeks. When they discovered other UK couples have had to stay in Ukraine between 5 and 7 months post-birth, Stacy felt ill. “Oh my god, what have we done”.

But having built a career in educational governance, Stacy was used to project planning and paperwork. So by the time they travelled to Kiev at 37 weeks gestation she had almost two lever arch files in preparation for the application for British Passports and Parental Orders.

The Owens had purchased an economy surrogacy package which gave them a room in a shared villa outside Kiev. It was like a ‘Baby Club’ boarding house, Stacy recalls, full of expectant parents – Chinese, Romanian, Spanish, Belgian. There was no air-conditioning – it was sweltering.

“I cried for two days when I first arrived – it seemed in the middle of nowhere and the thought of living here alone when my husband left was daunting” Stacy admits. However, the experience and meeting parents from around the world was ‘a wonderful one’.

Against all odds, their twins were not premature and Ukraine hospitals do not induce. To their surprise, they had 16 days to kill until the birth at almost 40 weeks.
Their package meant delivery in a cheaper city four hours south of Kiev. They arrived by train. Again their clinic provided transport, interpreters an apartment as well as baby formula, baby clothes, nappies and money for food. When Aleah & Eli were born, strict hospital protocols meant they could visit for an hour daily until discharge on day seven.

Stacy was so organised that she met the UK’s arduous passport paperwork requirements on the first attempt. So ten weeks post birth this family of four was winging it back home to Surrey. The Owens had a family building story they would never forget.

Stacy is just one parent who will share her surrogacy advice amongst those who have engaged in the US, Canada, Ukraine or UK at FTS seminar series next month in Dublin (23 Oct), Edinburgh (25 Oct) and London (27 Oct). These will include advice and short talks from surrogates, surrogacy professionals and legal experts. Details at http://www.familiesthrusurrogacy.com/uk-ireland-oct-seminar-series/

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Surrogacy in the UK

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Surrogacy In The UK

With all the recent Newspaper headlines about celebrity couples using surrogacy as a way of creating or extending their families, it is perhaps unsurprising that the number of couples exploring surrogacy as an option in the UK is on the increase. However, it is important for those considering surrogacy to remember that many of these Newspaper headlines are in respect of couples and arrangements which take place abroad, and, as such, do not comply with the law in the UK. Couples should be very wary of using these celebrity couples as a template for their own surrogacy plans.

No matter what the genetic make-up of a child, UK law regards the woman who carries and gives birth to the child as the legal mother. If she is married at the time of insemination or implantation of an embryo, UK law regards her husband as the legal father – unless it can be shown that he did not consent to the procedure.

This is the case wherever the surrogacy arrangement takes place ie. even if the surrogate mother is a foreign national residing abroad and even if the surrogate mother’s own home country regards the commissioning couple as the parents and provides documentation to this effect.

UK law does provide a procedure by which the commissioning couple can then acquire full parental rights for the child born. This necessitates an application to the UK courts for a Parental Order. If made, the Parental Order extinguishes the parental rights of the surrogate (and her husband if necessary) and vests all legal parentage in the commissioning couple. The surrogate mother and the legal father must give full and free consent for the Parental Order to be made. Such consent cannot be given before the child is six weeks old and the application must be made to the Court before the child is six months old.

Surrogacy contracts in the UK are illegal and are unenforceable. Surrogacy arrangements, however, are legal provided strict criteria are complied with. These criteria are designed to protect the altruistic nature of surrogacy and prevent commercial surrogacy taking place in the UK. It is very easy to unwittingly fall foul of these criteria and find yourself in circumstances where there is then doubt as to whether the Court can make a Parental Order. This leaves the intended parents without legal parentage for their child and facing the prospect of alternative legal structures to protect their family eg. adoption – which was never intended for use by parents in these circumstances and thus brings with it complications and unintended consequences.

Parliament has recently acknowledged that the law relating to surrogacy needs to change in the UK. This has been prompted as a result of UK law having been found incompatible with EU law and to be discriminatory. It is envisaged within the next two years a Law Commission Report will make recommendations as to change which will bring surrogacy law up to date with social change, although there is still a strong sense that the altruistic nature of surrogacy should be retained as opposed to there being commercial contracts introduced. In this area of assisted reproduction, it is really important that intended parents take proper legal advice both before and after their child is born as in every case there is a legal process that must be complied with if legal parentage of the child is as intended.

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Liz Bottrill is a Partner in the Family Law Team at Laytons Solicitors with over 25 years’ experience in the field. She has a particular interest and expertise in the law relating to children and fertility. www.laytons.com

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Starting Your Surrogacy Journey… 8 Questions to Ask Yourself to Get Organised

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Craig Reisser, a parent via egg donation and surrogacy in the USA, shares some advice for intended parents who are looking for guidance on how to start their surrogacy journeys.

When my partner and I decided that we were ready to become parents through egg donation and surrogacy in the USA we didn’t really know where to start. We found ourselves somewhat overwhelmed with information and choice. We needed some tools to help us filter through the alternatives so that we could focus on those options which were right for our own plans.

With the benefit of our own experience, and through consulting intended parents nearly every day, I have developed a set of eight simple questions that I ask every intended parent to consider from the outset. While focussed on surrogacy and egg donation in the USA, with some minor tweaks these questions apply to any country.

Because most everything in a surrogacy journey is interconnected, the answers to some of these questions will have an impact on others. However, once all the questions are answered, I find that it can be easier for intended parents to filter through all the alternatives and make the necessary decisions for organising their surrogacy journeys.

1. By when do you ideally want to be a parent?

18 months is a good benchmark for the duration of a US surrogacy journey. This timing starts from the date that you sign-up with a surrogacy agency and get in the queue to be matched with a surrogate. Half of this time is the pregnancy. The other half is comprised of waiting time to be matched with a surrogate and the legal and medical processes before an embryo transfer.

An 18 month timeframe assumes that you’re successful on the first embryo transfer and there are no delays. If a second embryo transfer is required to be successful then this can add between 2-4 months to the timetable. It is easier for the timing to stretch-out say to 20-24 months than to be shortened.

So you really need to work backwards in time from when you ideally want to be a parent. This will tell you by when you need to have signed-up with a surrogacy agency. If your answer is that you want to be a parent within the next two years, then the time to start making decisions and signing-up with a surrogacy agency is now.

2. What does my ideal family look like?

It’s easy to be focussed on simply getting started. Having sight of your overall ideal family plan is essential for helping you plan timing and budget, as well as making key decisions when it comes to the IVF portion of your process and choice of egg donor, if you need one for your journey.

Answer for yourself, “How many children do you ideally want to have?” “How close in age would you like them to be if it’s more than one?” “Who will be providing the sperm and the egg?”

If there is a desire for a family of more than one child then having a sufficient number of embryos is key. This will be an important consideration when thinking about your egg retrievals or selection of egg donor. This may also play a role in deciding whether to pursue a single or a dual embryo transfer, which has several knock-on implications.

For some, the question of who is to provide sperm and egg may be straightforward, say in the case of a single individual or a heterosexual couple.

For same sex male couples it’s important to decide if there is a desire for each partner to be a genetic parent, which can have implications when it comes to the choice of an egg donor. Some couples may decide to have different donors for each partner, for example in cases of mixed ethnicity couples. Most however wish to have one egg donor, and in this case selecting a donor who is suitable for a “split” donation becomes relevant to minimise the risk of needing more than one egg donation procedure.

3. Do you care where in the USA your surrogate lives and gives birth?

Where in the USA your surrogate lives and gives birth is important for a few reasons: the legal process needs to work for you; it can impact your budget; and it’s where you will travel most during your journey.

There are currently 45 US states where compensated surrogacy is legal, so there are many places in the US where you can potentially be matched with a surrogate.

Some US states are more expensive for surrogacy than others. Differing levels of surrogate compensation; the general level of costs for items you will be paying for in your journey; and the availability of insurance all contribute to this.

Moreover you can expect to travel most to wherever your surrogate lives – you will certainly be there for a period of time around the birth and many people travel to visit their surrogate at least one or two other times during the pregnancy. Bear in mind that where your surrogate lives may have no relation to where your surrogacy agency, IVF clinic or egg donor, if you have one, are located.

Knowing that your surrogacy agency will match you with a surrogate in a US state where surrogacy is both legal and the legal process for securing your parental rights works for you, then with these points in mind, “Do you have a preference? And, if so where and why?”

4. What are your priorities when it comes to your surrogate?

While there is a waiting period to be matched with a surrogate in the USA, the right surrogate is out there for every intended parent. Your surrogacy agency will match you with a surrogate who is right for you, but this requires you determining your own priorities.

Apart from where your surrogate lives, you’ll want to consider whether you: envision an ongoing relationship with your surrogate after your journey; need to work with an unmarried surrogate given your own legal requirements, say for the future nationality of your child; have a preference for working with a surrogate who has already been a surrogate and been through this process; intend to try for a dual embryo transfer; or would like to work with a surrogate who may be able to work with you for again for a sibling journey.

These considerations, in addition to your overall personality fit and your views on key aspects that may arise during the pregnancy will play a big role in your matching with a surrogate.

5. What are your priorities when it comes to your donor, if you need one?

For those that need a donor there can often be a concern about being able to find one. In reality, in the USA there is no shortage of donors and no waiting time. One expert in US egg donation has estimated that at any given time there may be some 30,000 women participating in egg donation programs in the USA, and there is certainly no shortage of sperm banks if needed.
Finding an egg donor in the USA, in particular, is therefore more a matter of being clear on your filters and looking in the right place. Unless you have a friend or family member who will be your donor, then you can find a donor either in a clinic’s in-house program, or in a non-clinic egg donor agency.

Some elements of finding the right egg donor may be flexible, such as physical appearance or family medical background. So one way to help filter is to set some concrete priorities, such as whether you: want a donor who is local to your clinic, thereby saving on travel costs; want to find a donor in your clinic’s in-house program, therefore knowing that she has been medically approved by your IVF physician; want to have an open donation rather than an anonymous one; or want a donor who has donated previously so that you may have a higher chance of success, particularly if considering a split donation.

6. What are your priorities when it comes to your surrogacy agency and IVF clinic?

There is for sure a team of surrogacy agency and IVF clinic which is right for every intended parent. Many agencies and clinics work frequently with each other and selecting ones with ongoing relationships can have benefits. In the USA, however you can choose to work with any combination of surrogacy agency and clinic that is right for you. Setting some parameters will help you determine where to focus your discussions.
For surrogacy agencies key criteria may have different levels of importance for you: matching time, cost and service level, years of experience, surrogate screening process and criteria, in-house legal expertise, which states surrogates are recruited from, whether matching for dual embryo transfers is permitted, approach to insurance, and overall relationship feel.
Among IVF clinics, key priorities for you may include: success rates, in-house egg donor program; experience with surrogacy and egg donation, experience with genetic screening including PGS and PGD, medical screening of surrogates and egg donors, cost and service level, location, and overall relationship feel.

7. What is your budget?

Every surrogacy journey has a unique budget. The many choices which you will make to organise and undertake your journey will determine your exact budget, and you will not know the total and final cost until it’s completed.
Knowing your available financial resources for your surrogacy journey is essential, as it will influence all of the choices you need to make. Your budget also needs to contain a buffer to ensure you have the flexibility to deal with potential additional costs.

Because there is an element of financial risk, you will want to understand your tolerance level. Offers of guarantees can sound enticing to help mitigate your financial risk, but it’s important to carefully understand the details of these offers to know which elements of your total potential costs may not be covered.

8. What nationality(ies) to you intend for your child to have and where will you live?

This can be an area that many people don’t focus on till their surrogacy journey is underway or even complete. Any child born in the USA through surrogacy will be a US citizen. Your child will be able, at the age of 18, to decide whether he or she wishes to retain this. Your surrogacy agency and US lawyers will help ensure that you are the legal parents under US law.
Before starting your journey you should ask yourself three questions, and depending on your answers consult lawyers for each country relevant to your situation. “What other nationalities, if any, do you want or need to procure for your child?” “Will my home country, if not the USA, recognise my parental rights under US law and the US birth certificate?” “What do I need to ensure that my child can live with me in my home country, if not the USA?”

The rules are different for every country, and in some cases knowing what you need at the back-end of your surrogacy journey to secure these items may influence some of your choices at the start of your process and your US legal proceedings.

Your Child’s Story

It’s important to remember that in the end this is your child’s story which you are organising, and at some point you will be sharing with him or her the story of how he or she came to be. It’s easy to lose sight of this fact when you are in the middle of all the many decisions that need to be made to organise you surrogacy journey.

With surrogacy in the USA and advance planning, it is possible to organise your journey in a way which is right for you and that you will want to ultimately tell it to your child.

Craig is a regular contributor to Fertility Road on third party reproduction. Look for his upcoming articles on egg donation and surrogacy in future issues of Fertility Road or contact him at oregonreproductivemedicine.com.

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