Surrogacy is a form of assisted reproductive therapy (ART) when a woman carries a baby to term on behalf of another person or couple. The woman carrying the child then relinquishes custody and guardianship over to the intended parents at birth.
Surrogacy provides another avenue to those who might not have otherwise been able to become parents.
The details of the surrogacy will vary depending on the individual situation of all parties and requires extensive legal, psychological and medical factors to be met before undergoing the process. Legislation surrounding surrogacy in Australia varies between states.
How does surrogacy work?
A woman who carries a baby for someone else is referred to as a surrogate, gestational carrier or birth mother. The parents who will take custody of the child are knowns as the intended or commissioning parents.
The most common reasons for surrogacy
Surrogacy may be considered for a number of reasons, the most common being:
- Where a woman is unable to fall pregnant or carry to term due to medical reasons
- A same-sex male couple wish to have a baby
- A single man wishes to have a baby
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What are the types of surrogacy?
1. Gestational surrogacy
This is the most common type of surrogacy arrangement in Australia. Gestational surrogacy is when the surrogate has a fertilised embryo transferred into her through the process of IVF using the sperm and egg of the intended parents or donor eggs or sperm. A gestational surrogate has no genetic connection with the child they are carrying.
2. Traditional surrogacy
Traditional surrogacy is less common and is when the surrogate provides the egg. However, traditional surrogacy is illegal in most states of Australia, meaning the surrogate cannot be the genetic mother of the baby which she carries.
How do you find a surrogate?
Altruistic or non-commercial surrogacy is the only form of surrogacy allowed in Australia, meaning that the surrogate cannot receive any payment beyond reimbursement for medical and other expenses.
Intending parents must find their own surrogate and it is illegal to advertise for someone to act as a surrogate or pay them. It is also illegal to advertise to become a surrogate.
Visit Surrogacy Australia for information on the surrogacy laws in each state.
Who can become a surrogate?
Most clinics will have a number of conditions that must be met to make the surrogate eligible to be able to carry a child for another person or couple. These may include things such as:
- Over the age of 25
- Under the age of 52 (this may be increased in some exceptional circumstances)
- Must have already had a child/children of their own
- Have no history of complications relating to pregnancy
- Have an established relationship with the intended parents
- Not suffer from a psychiatric disorder or any other medical conditions that could impact the pregnancy or health of the child
Both the surrogate and intended parents will go through an extensive screening process before the process can begin. This included counselling, psychiatric assessment as well as an independent legal consultation.
Surrogacy is a complex process that cannot be entered into lightly. However, if all parties are on the same page and the proper legal requirements are followed it can be a wonderful way for people to become parents who might not have otherwise had the chance.