What is surrogacy?
Surrogacy is a form of assisted reproductive technology (ART) where a woman (the surrogate) offers to carry a baby through pregnancy on behalf of another person or couple and then return the baby to the intended parent(s) once it is born.
Surrogacy is a highly complex process, and there are many important steps to ensure that both parties make the best decisions - including extensive counselling, psychiatric assessment and independent legal advice. IVFAustralia’s surrogacy program can support you throughout this journey.
In surrogacy, an embryo is created using an egg and sperm produced by the intended parent(s) (or donors), and is transferred into the surrogate’s uterus. The surrogate has no genetic link to the child. Her eggs cannot be used to conceive the child.
- Who is involved in surrogacy?
There are a number of individuals who should be considered throughout the process.
The surrogate is the person who agrees to carry and give birth to a baby, with the intention of giving the baby to another person.
The intending parents, or commissioning parents, are the parents of a baby born through surrogacy.
Other people considered throughout the process include the partner of the surrogate and her family, the intending parents’ other children (if any), and of course, the child who will be born via surrogacy.
- Who is eligible for surrogacy?
A person is eligible to commission a surrogate if:
- as a woman she is unlikely to become pregnant, be able to carry a pregnancy or give birth due to a medical condition; or
- as a couple, multiple transfers of a genetically normal embryo have been unsuccessful; or
- the intending parent is a single male or in a same sex male relationship
- Who can be a surrogate?
To reduce the risks of surrogacy to both the intending parents and the proposed surrogate, we have a number of conditions that have to be fulfilled before we offer this treatment. The surrogate must satisfy all of the following requirements:
- She must be older than 25, and younger than the age of natural menopause (52 years of age). This may be increased slightly to 55 in the unique situation of a gestational surrogate who is the mother or mother-in-law of the intended parent
- Must have already given birth to a child of her own
- Have no history of pregnancy-related illnesses or complications
- Have an established relationship with the intending parents for a period of no less than 6 months by the time of embryo transfer
- Neither the surrogate nor intending parents suffer from any significant psychiatric disorder that would impair decision-making or the care of the child
- The surrogate must not use her own eggs although a third party donor is permissible
- How do you find a surrogate?
In Australia, a woman must decide to become a surrogate for altruistic reasons. Altruistic surrogacy is when the birth mother does not receive any payment other than reasonable reimbursement of medical expenses associated with the pregnancy and birth.
As an intending parent, you have to find your own surrogate. It is illegal to advertise for someone to act as a surrogate, and you cannot pay someone to act as your surrogate. It is also illegal for a woman to advertise that she is willing to act as a surrogate mother.
- The surrogacy process explained
- Medical review – the intending couple (or individual) and surrogate attend a consultation with an IVFAustralia fertility specialist.
- Independent assessment – the surrogate and the intending couple may need to have an independent obstetric and psychiatric assessment.
- Counselling – for the intending couple, the surrogate and her partner, including any genetic issues.
- Independent legal advice – we need to see a written certificate confirming both parties have been advised on their rights and obligations.
- IVFAustralia Ethics Committee – reviews all relevant information and approves.
- Assisted reproduction – if the intending parent is using her own eggs, they will be collected after an IVF treatment cycle and fertilised with her partner’s sperm. The embryo will then be inseminated into the surrogate.
- Ongoing pregnancy care – Once pregnancy is confirmed, the clinic counsellor will continue to discuss and confirm plans for delivery.
- Birth – the baby is deemed to be the child of the birth mother until the intending parents’ parentage order legally takes effect, under the Surrogacy Bill 2010.
- The types of surrogacy
There are a few different types of surrogacy.
Gestational surrogacy is when a fertilized embryo is transferred into the surrogate. The embryo in this case is a result of in vitro fertilization (IVF), using the egg and sperm of the intending parents or a third party donor. There is no genetic contribution from the surrogate in this instance.
Traditional surrogacy, which is less common, is when the surrogate uses her own eggs and sperm of the intended father, often via insemination. This means that the surrogate does have a genetic link to the child she is carrying. Traditional surrogacy is not performed at IVFAustralia.
- What are the costs associated with surrogacy?
Treatment costs associated with surrogacy will vary, depending on the individual arrangement. We will discuss these with you during your first medical consultation.
- Surrogacy laws
Under the Surrogacy Act 2011, the commissioning couple can apply for parentage to be transferred to them. Until the parentage order legally takes effect, the child is deemed to be the child of the birth mother.
In 2010 the NSW Health Department established a Central Register for donors and donor-conceived offspring. The NSW Health Central Register contains information about donors and children born as a result of ART treatment using donated gametes and surrogacy.
Once a child conceived through surrogacy turns 18, they will be able to access certain information on the register if they wish.
To get the process started...
If you are considering surrogacy please call our experienced donor team on 1800 111 483 to discuss how our surrogacy program can assist you or book an appointment with a fertility specialist. Appointments are available in the next couple of weeks and will cost approximately $150 for a couple after the Medicare rebate.