The surrogacy is an agreement by which a woman carries and gives birth to the child for the intended parents or commissioning couple.
Surrogacy is a process in which a woman, or a non-binary or transgender patient, will choose to become pregnant on behalf of intended parents. These may be single people, or a commissioning couple who wish to form their own family but have been unable to for any number of reasons. The surrogate will carry and give birth to the child or children, who will then go home with their intended parents.
There are two types of surrogacy available in the UK. These are full or partial surrogacy.
Full surrogacy, which might also be known as Host or Gestational surrogacy, involves the implantation of an embryo into a surrogate’s womb as part of a cycle of an IVF treatment. This embryo may be created using the egg and sperm of the intended parents, donated eggs and sperm, or the eggs or sperm of a female or male commissioner and a donated sample.
Full surrogacy is often the more popular choice, as in many cases it can mean that the intended parents are both biologically related to the child.
Partial surrogacy, which may also be known as Straight or Traditional surrogacy, involves fertilising an egg from the surrogate with sperm taken from a male intended parent. This procedure will normally be carried out and completed using intrauterine insemination (IUI).
In cases where partial surrogacy is chosen, the surrogate will be the biological mother.
Surrogacy and the Law
Surrogacy is legal in the UK, but if a person chooses to make an arrangement or an agreement that involves it, it also cannot be enforced by law. It is always strongly recommended that people seek legal advice before making a decision about surrogacy.
Surrogates will be considered the legal parents of any child they carry for intended parents or commissioning couples. If the surrogate is married or in a civil partnership, their spouse or partner will be considered the second parent, unless they did not give their consent.
Legal parenthood can be transferred to the intended parents by parental order or adoption once the child or children have been born. Disagreements over who should be the legal parents of the child will have to be made by the courts. The ultimate decision will reflect what has been determined to be in the best interests of the child.
Surrogacy is only permitted under UK law if one or both of the intended parents live in the UK, the Channel Islands, or the Isle of Man. Commissioning couples must also either be married, in a civil partnership, or living as partners in an enduring family relationship. In any of these cases, the relationship must not be one that is prohibited by the Marriage Act (1949) or the Civil Partnership Act (2004).
We should also note that it is illegal for surrogates to be paid in the UK. They may only be reimbursed for certain reasonable expenses by the commissioning couple or the intended parent.
Who is Surrogacy Recommended For?
Anyone may choose to use a surrogate when forming their family, but there are some circumstances in which it is the most recommended option. These include:
- When the intended parent has experienced recurrent pregnancy loss
- If the intended parent has a malformed womb, or the womb is absent entirely
- If the intended parent is experiencing a life-threatening illness or condition that prevents pregnancy
- If the intended parent doesn’t wish to pass on an inherited genetic condition
- If the intended parent has experienced repeated IVF implantation failures
Becoming a Surrogate
In most cases, it’s preferred that a surrogate has completed their family and has the support of their partner (when in a relationship) before they choose to go through with the surrogacy. They must also:
- Be in good health, with a normal body mass index (BMI), i.e. less than 35
- Be over 21 years old, but ideally not older than 42 years of age
- Have no other health issues, or issues related to pregnancy
Both the surrogate (and their partner, where applicable) should ensure that they have considered all aspects of treatment before agreeing to it. This includes all emotional, medical, legal, and practical elements.