Surrogacy is when a woman agrees to carry and give birth to a baby for another couple who want to have a child. The woman carrying the baby is called the surrogate or host mother, and the couple who intend to become the parents are called the intended or commissioning parents. Under current UK law, the commissioning couple can only become the legal parents of the child by applying for a parental order after the child is born.
Surrogacy is a good option for women and trans men or non-binary people who are unable to carry a baby to term themselves, and for male gay couples.
Types of surrogacy arrangements
There are two ways in which surrogacy can be arranged:
- This is when an embryo is created using eggs that are produced by either the intended mother or an egg donor. The eggs are then fertilised with the intended father’s sperm using in vitro fertilisation (IVF).
- If a sperm donor is used, the egg must come from the intended mother. That’s because UK law says that at least one of the intended parents must provide their gametes (eggs or sperm). The surrogate’s own eggs are not used so she is not genetically related to the baby that she carries for the intended parents.
- This is when the surrogate becomes pregnant using her own eggs with the sperm from the intended father. That means the intended father and the surrogate are the genetic parents. Straight surrogacy doesn’t always involve IVF. A simple procedure, known as intrauterine insemination (IUI) can be carried out, using frozen sperm from the intended father.
Why choose surrogacy?
Surrogacy involves another person taking on the risks of pregnancy. It’s used in situations where there is no intended mother involved, or where it is either physically dangerous or impossible for the intended mother to carry a child herself.
You might consider a surrogate if:
- You don’t have a womb – either because you were born without one or it’s been removed (for example because of womb cancer, gynaecological problems or following gender reassignment surgery
- You have a womb, but it’s not safe for you to become pregnant (for instance, following radiotherapy for cancer, repeated miscarriages or multiple IVF attempts without success)
- You’ve been advised to avoid becoming pregnant because of an underlying medical condition (for example, a heart or lung condition)
- You are a gay male couple in a same-sex relationship
A potential surrogate host could be a close relative or friend, or an altruistic volunteer. It’s up to you to find your own surrogate. There are a several agencies that can help you including Surrogacy UK and COTS
We advise everyone having surrogacy treatment at the Agora to seek independent legal advice before beginning their surrogacy journey.
Surrogacy and UK law?
Surrogacy is legal in the UK but:
- You cannot advertise that you are looking for a surrogate and a surrogate can’t advertise
- The Agora can’t advertise on your behalf or become involved in any surrogacy arrangement
- Surrogacy agreements in the UK are unenforceable
- A surrogate can’t be paid anything other than reasonable expenses
- You must have consulted a specialist legal firm before undergoing treatment using a surrogate at the Agora
Who can become a surrogate?
To become a surrogate, a woman must be healthy so she can undergo a pregnancy with the minimum amount of risk to herself or the baby. Risks include:
- Certain medical conditions
- Having any medical problems which could lead to complications with the pregnancy or put the surrogate or baby at risk
- Being overweight
- Being a smoker or drinking heavily
- Drug misuse
What do I need to do first?
As intended parents, we’d advise you to begin your surrogate journey by having:
- A consultation with one of our Fertility Doctors to discuss your individual needs and possible treatment options
- A transvaginal scan to look at your ovaries and an ovarian reserve assessment if you’re planning to use your own eggs
- A semen analysis, with or without a DNA fragmentation test if you are the partner and want to use your own sperm
If you need an egg or sperm donor to create embryos, one of the nurses or embryologists coordinating our donor programmes will be able to advise you about this.
What will your surrogate need to do?
Your surrogate will need to arrange the following appointments:
- A medical consultation at the Agora to discuss the proposed treatment and what would be involved, including any risks
- A transvaginal scan to look at the womb and ovaries (if the surrogate is using her own eggs)
- An ovarian reserve assessment (if the surrogate is using her own eggs)
Once these initial steps have been taken, we’ll design an individualised program of care for you and your surrogate.
Counselling for Surrogacy
Everyone involved must be clear about the implications of surrogacy before going ahead. That’s why everyone involved in a surrogacy arrangement at the Agora must agree to have counselling. This needs to be arranged before you start any treatment.
- Your potential surrogate must consider how she might feel about the developing child, the possibility of miscarriage or termination, pregnancy-induced illness or complications – and the effect of parting with the child if the pregnancy is successful
- You may have concerns about how you’re going to bond with a child carried by another woman or worry that your surrogate will decide to keep the child
- Both you and your surrogate need to consider how you would react if the child was born physically or mentally disabled, how you would wish to proceed and how this would affect your surrogacy arrangement
It’s normal to have anxieties and concerns about the process. Our specially trained counsellors are experienced in all areas of surrogacy. They can provide the support and reassurance you need throughout your journey.
Find further resources on Surrogacy from Stonewall.
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