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What is surrogacy?
Surrogacy is when another woman carries and gives birth to a child for you (you are known as the intended parent/s). We manage around 200 surrogacy cases every year.
Surrogacy requires time and patience. Though it can be an emotionally intense and legally complex arrangement, it is becoming more popular as a way for infertile couples to have children.
Single women, heterosexual couples and same sex couples can enter into a surrogacy arrangement to start a family under certain conditions.
How does surrogacy work?
Surrogacy involves the implantation of an embryo in the surrogate (carrier of the baby). The embryo may be created using:
- the eggs and sperm of the biological parents
- a donated egg fertilised with sperm from the (intended parent) father
- an embryo created using donor eggs and sperm.
Gestational surrogacy (where a surrogate carries a baby not formed from her own egg) is the only legal surrogacy option in Australia. Traditional surrogacy (when a surrogate carries a baby formed using her own egg) is illegal in Australia.
Generally, intended parents are very involved in the pregnancy and the surrogate may remain part of your baby’s life after birth.
Surrogacy because of medical conditions
Surrogacy may be appropriate if a medical condition makes it impossible or dangerous for intended parents to get pregnant or give birth. These medical conditions include being:
- unable to conceive
- likely to be unable to carry a pregnancy or give birth
- unlikely to survive a pregnancy or birth
- likely to conceive a child affected by a genetic condition or disorder
- likely to conceive a child who is unlikely to survive a pregnancy or birth
- likely to conceive a child whose health is likely to be significantly affected by a pregnancy or birth.
Who can enter into a surrogacy arrangement?
The guidelines for a surrogacy arrangement include:
- All parties (surrogate and intended parents) must be at least 25 years old.
- Intended parents must live in the state where treatment takes place.
- The surrogate should ideally be 25-40 years old and have no medical, obstetric or psychological issues.
- The surrogate must have given birth to a live child, and preferably completed her own family. She should have a healthy lifestyle, not abuse drugs or alcohol, and be in a monogamous relationship.
- Intended parent/s must be 25-53 years of age (treatment must be completed by the 53rd birthday of the youngest partner).
- Surrogacy arrangements need to involve people known to each other – we cannot recruit a surrogate for you or provide anonymous surrogates.
How do I find a surrogate?
Finding a surrogate can be challenging and can take up to a year. It is illegal to advertise for a surrogate in some states of Australia.
Under the law, the surrogate can’t receive any material benefit or advantage from a surrogacy arrangement; she can’t be paid, but can be reimbursed for some costs directly related to the surrogacy arrangement.
How successful is surrogacy?
It is difficult to determine a success rate for surrogacy as there are a range of factors influencing success.
The most important factor affecting chance of pregnancy is the age of the woman who provides the egg. The age of the surrogate (carrier of the baby) is a less critical factor.
Other key factors include:
- the age of the egg
- the age and quality of the sperm
- the success of procedures such as IVF.
The treatment process
The first consultation with a fertility specialist includes the intended parents and the surrogate.
Your fertility specialist will discuss your medical history, tests and treatment options to make sure there are viable eggs and sperm from the couple and that the surrogate is healthy and can safely carry a pregnancy. This also includes going through any donor egg or donor and sperm options.
Depending on the state where treatment will occur, the surrogate and the intending couple may need to have an independent obstetric and psychiatric assessment.
Counselling is available for the intended parents and the surrogate and her partner. It may include counselling around possible genetic issues and counselling for any donors.
You must provide us with a “letter of advice” confirming all parties to the arrangement have had independent legal advice and understand their rights and obligations.
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 or the donor sperm. The embryo is then transferred into the surrogate.
Counselling with Monash IVF
Before a surrogacy arrangement is entered into with Monash IVF, the intended parents and the surrogate (and her partner) must attend counselling sessions to discuss the social and psychological implications of the arrangement.
Depending on the state where treatment will take place, they’re likely to be required to see an independent psychologist for an independent assessment. We will provide details of psychologists experienced in these types of assessments – but you can choose your own psychologist.
The counsellor decides how many sessions are required. Surrogacy arrangements are complex, so multiple sessions are usually needed to ensure clear expectations and boundaries.
Surrogacy can be physically and emotionally complex, involving a lot of trust and some sacrifice. It’s important for everyone involved to understand the surrogacy arrangement and what it means for them in the short term, during the pregnancy and when the baby is born.
After the birth
Under the law, the baby is registered as the child of the birth mother (the surrogate), even though she is not genetically related.
Once the baby is born, intended parents need to establish their legal parentage. If one of the intended parents is genetically related to the child, this can be done through a parental order.
Putting the baby’s needs first
The legal requirements for surrogacy arrangements are for one good reason. The guiding principles of surrogacy laws state the most important consideration during the process is the wellbeing and best interests of the child.
The best place to start is chatting to our Monash IVF Surrogacy team. They’ll explain the process and help you get you started on your journey to bringing a baby home.