Surrogacy in the UKSurrogacy is when another woman carries and gives birth to a child for you.
Though it can be an emotionally intense and legally complex arrangement, surrogacy is growing in popularity with couples and single people wishing to create families. They are referred to as Intended Parents, or IP’s.
In the UK the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) Code of Practice plays a huge role in the laws and regulation surrounding all matters of surrogacy and assisted reproductive technologies.
Also known as genetic, full or traditional – straight surrogacy is when the surrogate provides her own eggs to achieve the pregnancy.
One of the IP’s (or the male partner in a heterosexual relationship) provides a sperm sample for conception through IUI (intrauterine Insemination) at the clinic.
The sperm is prepared and injected into the uterus of the surrogate at the time of the surrogate’s ovulation. This is a relatively straightforward procedure and can be carried out on a completely natural cycle for the surrogate, or with some medication that will stimulate the ovaries to grow and mature follicles (fluid filled sacs that may contain eggs).
If either the surrogate or IP has fertility issues or prefers an alternative route, then embryos may also be created in vitro and transferred into the uterus of the surrogate as outlined below.
Also known as gestational or partial – host surrogacy is when the surrogate doesn’t provide her own eggs to achieve the pregnancy.
In such pregnancies, embryos are created in vitro (IVF) and transferred into the uterus of the surrogate using the gametes of at least one IP, plus the gametes of the other IP or a donor, if required. The egg donor or female Intended Parent will undergo a cycle of stimulation with some fertility medication to stimulate the ovaries to respond and produce a number of follicles.
This is often the preferred method for Intended Parents who have not yet found their surrogate. The clinic will create embryos in vitro and vitrify (cryopreserve) them (usually at the blastocyst stage) and store them until they are ready to perform a frozen embryo transfer cycle for the surrogate. This can take place in a completely natural cycle or with the use of some stimulation medication that the fertility nurses will explain to you.
Useful Surrogacy Links
- Government guidance on having a child through surrogacy – information for intended parents, surrogates and health professionals about the surrogacy process in England and Wales.
- Surrogacy UK – Surrogacy UK was formed in 2002, by a group of surrogates who believed that a successful journey for both surrogates and intended parents was one based on trust, mutual respect and, above all, friendship.
Prior to all surrogacy treatments, there are a number of investigations and tests that you will be required to complete before the treatment actually takes place. These include screening the intended parents (if they are providing their gametes or eggs and sperm) for sexually transmitted infections, blood borne viruses and blood karyotype (genetic screening) and of course, performing a semen analysis to assess the sperm of the male intended parent.
The surrogate will also be required to complete some of the tests outlined above and in addition, a trans-vaginal ultrasound of the uterus to assess the uterine cavity to ensure that there are no problems that could potentially cause a problem for her to conceive or to maintain a healthy pregnancy and carry a child to full term.