What is Surrogacy? Who needs a Surrogate? How to find a Surrogate?

‘Surrogacy is an arrangement in which a woman, a surrogate, carries and delivers a child for another couple or person’ (Wikipedia).  If you want to read more of what Wikipedia have to say on the subject of surrogacy just click this wiki link to ‘surrogacy’, but I also wanted to put it in to my own words to try to relay an understanding of how diverse surrogacy can be, from the relationships between the intended parents and the surrogate mother involved to the differing biological elements.

So let’s look back in time.  Surrogacy is not a new concept, far from it.  As long as female infertility has been a problem, surrogacy has been a potential solution. Some forms of surrogacy can even be found in  the Bible and unreported surrogate arrangements have taken place throughout history.  However, modern documented cases mostly started appearing in the 1970′s.  This was when only traditional surrogacy, or straight surrogacy as it is also called, was possible.

What is traditional / straight surrogacy?

Kim Cotton with ‘Baby Cotton’ in 1985

This is when the surrogate mother uses her own eggs and the intended father’s sperm to create the baby.  The surrogate baby will therefore be genetically related to the surrogate.  The most common way to do this is by artificial insemination.  This form of surrogacy came in to the UK media spotlight when Kim Cotton gave birth in 1985, leading to the ban on commercial surrogacy in Britain. Straight surrogacy has become less popular due to the introduction of in vitro fertilisation (IVF) in 1978 when the first ‘test tube’ baby, Louise Brown, was born right here in the UK.  This paved the way for the more common form of surrogacy today, gestational (or host) surrogacy.

What is gestational / host surrogacy?

Once IVF became a popular solution to infertility, it became common to create embryos outside of the body, and then later place them in the womb for gestation.  A gestational surrogate or host surrogate undergoes IVF treatment at a fertility clinic and has the embryo of the Intended Parents transferred to her uterus.  This then means that the surrogate mother has no genetic link to the fetus and it is possible for both the Intended Parents to be the genetic parents of the baby.  It is also an option to use a donated egg from an egg donor if necessary.

Why might I need a surrogate mother?

The most common reason a couple look to surrogacy as a solution for infertility is that the female partner has a problem with her uterus – either a malformation or has undergone a hysterectomy.  surrogatesSeveral failed IVF attempts or a history of miscarriage may also mean that a woman cannot carry a baby to term and surrogacy could be the answer.  More recently gestational surrogacy has become a way for gay men to create families too.  Adoption has certainly become very difficult in the UK and the fact that it is now possible to have your own biological child through surrogacy means that this way of creating families is increasing in popularity.  Some 200 surrogate babies are reportedly born in the UK every year, with this number increasing to several thousand the USA – and these numbers may be conservative as arrangements are often kept private.

Who will be my surrogate mother?

Some fortunate couples have family members or close friends who volunteer to act as surrogate mother for their baby.  This is an incredibly selfless gift to give and when relationships between all the people are mature and strong, this can be a tremendously bonding experience.  Of course, there is always the risk that the relationships will be tested as there are few more emotional experiences than creating a baby.

If there is no-one suitable close to you, it is still possible to have a baby through surrogacy by finding a surrogate mother either in the UK (for example, via surrogacyuk), or overseas.  There are several places outside of Britain where surrogacy has become possible for UK couples, including India, Ukraine and certain states in the USA.  Some intended parents and surrogates meet through agencies, many of which are professional and experienced.  Some people meet via online forums, but it is wise to be careful how these meetings are conducted as it is vital that everyone involved has integrity and kindness in order to avoid the pitfalls that occasionally can occur.  It would be best to get a recommendation to get you started.

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