Not everyone can get pregnant naturally and that’s okay. Whether you’re a same-sex couple, have infertility issues, or simply don’t want to go through pregnancy, surrogacy is always an option to help you expand your family.
We’ve broken down what surrogacy is and the steps it involves, so you can understand the process better. Whether you’re thinking about surrogacy for yourself, you know someone who’s going through the process, or you’re just interested in the subject, here’s everything you need to know about surrogacy.
What is surrogacy?
Surrogacy is when somebody else carries your baby to term (until birth). It’s a way to have a biological child without either person in the relationship getting pregnant.
In order for the baby to be biologically related to the parents, an egg must be fertilised by one member of the couple. Depending on the make-up of the couple, this will either be the couple’s sperm fertilising a donated egg or the couple’s egg being fertilised by donated sperm.
There are 2 different types of surrogacy. ‘Traditional surrogacy’ refers to when the surrogate uses her own egg and it is fertilised by somebody else. ‘Gestational surrogacy’ is when the egg and the sperm both come from people who aren’t the surrogate. When gestational surrogacy happens, the egg is fertilised through IVF, which means it’s fertilised outside of the body. Whatever type of surrogacy a couple uses is up to them - they both have their benefits.
The surrogate doesn't usually have any direct relation to the parents, but some couples ask family members to carry for them. It’s more common for surrogates to come from a surrogacy agency, however.
What are the benefits of surrogacy?
For some people who can’t directly conceive, adoption may be a good solution for them. However, it may be important to others for their baby to be related to them in some way. All routes are valid and it’s ultimately the choice of every couple how they’d like to parent.
Surrogacy may not seem like the quickest or cheapest way to get pregnant (the general cycle of surrogacy, from making the decision to receiving your baby, can take about 2 years), but crucially it allows a couple to have a biological baby if they don’t have the means to do it independently. It’s particularly beneficial for same-sex couples who would like a child that is related to them but are otherwise unable to conceive.
Surrogacy gives families the freedom to have a baby on their own terms, and is just one of many ways for couples who can’t get pregnant naturally to get assistance.
What is the process of surrogacy?
Prepare for surrogacy
Having a baby through surrogacy is a big decision to make. You have to consider things like cost, time, and how much you want the surrogate to be involved in yours and your baby’s life. It’s worth taking some time to think about it and make sure you’re confident in your decision.
Find a match
Once you’re ready to start the surrogacy journey, you need to find a surrogate. If you already know someone who’s willing to be a surrogate for you, this process won’t take as long. However, if you’d like to go through a surrogacy agency, be aware that it can take a few months to find the right surrogate.
Every agency will work slightly differently, but generally both the parents and the surrogate will fill out some form of questionnaire so that they can be matched most suitably. Profiles of suitable surrogates will be presented to the couple so they can find the best match for them.
A couple may immediately find a suitable match and hit it off, or it may take them longer to make sure they’re paired with the right person. However, once a match has been made, the next step is to fill out all of the agreements that ensure your surrogacy can happen safely and fairly.
Come up with a surrogacy arrangement
Once you’ve found a match, you should set up a surrogacy agreement. This isn’t a legally binding contract, but rather a set of rules for both parties to uphold. It’s important for surrogacy agreements to have written confirmation on certain topics so that communication can be clear and there are no misunderstandings further down the line.
This can include birth arrangements, post-birth arrangements, things that could go wrong (miscarriages or decisions to terminate) and how they’ll be handled, any expenses for treatments, and anything else that might be important to note.
Begin the fertilisation process
Similar to trying to get pregnant naturally, fertilisation isn’t a one-and-done process. It can take months. This can cause some stress, particularly because the cost of artificial fertilisation is high, so it may feel like it’s more important to get it right the first time.
However, don’t get discouraged if it takes a few tries before fertilisation happens; according to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, more than half of women take 6 cycles of artificial fertilisation until they achieve a positive result.
Prepare for the arrival of your baby
Once the egg has been successfully fertilised and the surrogate is officially pregnant, you can start to think about what your life will be like when your baby arrives.
Every couple has a different relationship with their surrogate. Perhaps you’d like to check in often and form a strong bond. However, some surrogacies are much more formal and you’ll have limited contact with your surrogate. Again, it varies from family to family, and there’s no right way to do it.
As long as you do what’s best for you and your family then that’s all that matters. Surrogacy is a big process, so making sure you’re taking care of yourself and your surrogate is key.
Final thoughts from Kami
Surrogacy is a lengthy journey, so it’s good to know all of the different things that make it happen. Being unable to conceive naturally doesn’t lessen the value of your family; there’s no single way for a family to look, and surrogacy is a very important and special process for the families that decide to go through with it.