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Two women discuss surrogacy

What is surrogacy?

Surrogacy is when another woman carries and gives birth to a baby for the couple who want to have a child.

The HFEA does not regulate surrogacy. We recommend that you should seek legal advice before proceeding with this option.


Is surrogacy for me?

Surrogacy may be appropriate if you have a medical condition that makes it impossible or dangerous to get pregnant and to give birth.

The type of medical conditions that might make surrogacy necessary for you include:

  • absence or malformation of the womb
  • recurrent pregnancy loss
  • repeated in vitro fertilisation (IVF) implantation failures.

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How does surrogacy work?

Full surrogacy (also known as Host or Gestational) - Full surrogacy involves the implantation of an embryo created using either:

  • the eggs and sperm of the intended parents
  • a donated egg fertilised with sperm from the intended father
  • an embryo created using donor eggs and sperm.

Partial surrogacy (also known Straight or Traditional) - Partial surrogacy involves sperm from the intended father and an egg from the surrogate. Here fertilisation is (usually) done by artificial insemination or intrauterine insemination (IUI).

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What is my chance of having a baby with surrogacy?

It is quite difficult to determine a success rate for surrogacy, as many factors are relevant, including:

  • the surrogate’s ability to get pregnant
  • the age of the egg donor (if involved)
  • the success of procedures such as IUI and IVF
  • the quality of gamete provided by the comissioning couple.

The age of the woman who provides the egg is the most important factor that affects chances of pregnancy.

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What are the risks of surrogacy?

The risks associated with surrogacy depend on the type of surrogacy (full or partial) undertaken. Generally, the risks associated with full surrogacy are similar to those for IVF.

There is also a risk of transferring HIV and hepatitis, and so screening of everyone involved in surrogacy involving IUI is recommended, and required in surrogacy arrangements involving IVF.

If a registered donor at a licensed clinic is used, the donor will automatically be screened.

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Legal issues associated with surrogacy

Surrogacy involves complicated legal issues and we recommend that you seek your own legal advice before making any decisions. It is important to know that surrogacy arrangements are unenforcable.

It is also advisable to receive counselling before starting the surrogacy process, to help you think about all the questions involved.

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Surrogacy treatment abroad

According to various surveys, many patients who travel overseas for treatment are very satisfied with the standard of care and quality of treatment they receive. However, if you are considering travelling abroad for treatment, you are advised to carry out thorough research. We have created a page that specifically discusses the considerations around treatment abroad

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has launched guidance on surrogacy overseas to give parents information about the process to help inform them of the sort of issues they may face when embarking on a surrogacy arrangement in a foreign country. The guidance urges prospective parents to ensure they are fully aware of the facts and are well prepared before starting what can be a long and complex process.

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Payment issues

Paying surrogate expenses- You are not allowed to pay for a surrogate in the UK – commercial surrogacy is illegal. However, the intended parents are responsible for the reasonable expenses of the surrogate (for example, clothes, travel expenses and loss of earnings).

Extra expense may be incurred should the surrogate have twins or more.

Clinic surrogacy fees - Fees to the clinic will depend on whether the arrangement involves insemination only or IVF procedures. The fees will also vary depending on which clinic is used and how many attempts you have.

You should ensure that you know the full costs involved before starting surrogacy treatment.

Remember: commercial surrogacy is illegal in the UK – people thinking about surrogacy should be wary of agencies purporting to offer this service.

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Where do I start?

Once you have decided, in consultation with your fertility specialist, that a surrogacy arrangement is suitable for your circumstances, you must find a surrogate.

Fertility clinics are not allowed to find a surrogate mother for you. There may be unregulated organisations in the UK that may be able to help you – the Infertility Network UK (INUK) may be a good starting point.

You should also be prepared to make the appropriate legal arrangements in order to be recognised in law as the parent of the child.

Choosing a surrogate - You will want to choose a woman capable of having a safe, healthy pregnancy and birth. It is also vital that you build up a trusting relationship with the surrogate.

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Page last updated: 05 August 2014

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