It takes a special kind of woman to even consider becoming a surrogate. A lot of women know that they want to help others who can’t carry a child for whatever reason, but don’t know whether they would be able to, what to consider, or how to get started.
There are two types of surrogacy. Gestational surrogacy is where you would carry a baby that is not genetically linked to you. Treatment would take place at a licensed fertility clinic and an embryo that has been created with the sperm and egg of the intended parents (or donated egg or sperm) is transferred into your womb. Traditional surrogacy is where you would carry a baby that has been conceived using your own egg. Treatment can take place at a licensed fertility clinic, or insemination can be carried out at home without a clinical professional.
Both types of surrogacy are legal and it is important you think carefully about which you think feels right for you. A lot of women feel that they would only want to consider one type, but many women are open to either. A surrogate is viewed as the legal mother in UK law, and her spouse as the second parent if she is married. The intended parents won’t have legal responsibility for their child until a Parental Order has been granted, so there is a solution to this, but the IPs can’t apply for this until after the baby is born.
There are no legal “requirements” for being a surrogate (either gestational or traditional), but there are some important practical things to ask yourself to help ensure that your physical health and mental wellbeing are not compromised by becoming pregnant.
It is important to be sure that you are able to manage the often unpredictable emotions that you may face during a surrogacy journey. Are you taking medication that you may need to stop in order to undergo fertility treatment and pregnancy? Do you have the right support around you? Most UK clinics have mandatory counselling sessions that will explore the emotional impact that surrogacy can have on you and your family, but it is advisable to have explored this before you get to that stage. Seeking independent advice from a counsellor or psychologist can really help.
Pregnancy can pose a number of risks, so talk to your GP about your hopes to become a surrogate and make sure they don’t have any concerns with your ability to carry a pregnancy safely. Most UK clinics will require you to have a BMI that is within a healthy range for your height and weight (around 19 – 30) so if you have any concerns about falling either below or above this range, consider how you might adapt your lifestyle.
You don’t have to have had children of your own to become a surrogate (although this is a requirement for BB Surrogates) but if you haven’t already carried a pregnancy, you won’t know how you are likely to respond to pregnancy, physically and emotionally. Any pregnancy carries risk to future fertility, so make sure you are content with the possibility that your fertility may be impacted if something were to go wrong.
Having a strong support network of friends and family who fully support your decision to become a surrogate is incredibly important. Surrogacy is not a journey that you can do alone – it will impact everyone in your life to a degree, so it is crucial that those close to you will be there for you during the highs and lows of your journey. Many will have questions, so it will help you to be as informed and prepared as possible when speaking to them.
However you find intended parents to help, you should make sure you are clear on what your deal breakers are. For example, what kind of relationship would you hope to have with your intended parents during the journey (and beyond)? What are your views on the emotive topics such as amniocentesis and termination? It is important that you are clear on what you feel would be a red line for you, because if the intended parents you are thinking of helping don’t have the same hopes and expectations as you, things could unravel further down the line.
There are different ways to become a surrogate in the UK. It is important that you find a way that feels right for you and your family, that fits well in to your life and that you feel will offer you the resources and support that you need.
Some women might choose an “independent journey” where they will gain much of their information and support from informally run Facebook groups and websites, where they will meet intended parents online or at social gatherings organised by independent groups
Others feel more comfortable having the support of an organisation that will provide them with information and support they need, as well as a platform to meet intended parents who are also part of the organisation and have prepared in their own way. Surrogacy organisations can also act as an intermediary between surrogates and intended parents, helping them to raise tricky conversations and resolve problems before they become insurmountable. Because surrogacy arrangements in the UK are largely based on trust, often between people who don’t already have existing relationships, having an organisation to help you navigate the complex emotions and potential difficulties can help everyone feel more secure.
At Brilliant Beginnings we have a team of professionals who are dedicated to supporting women who want to become surrogates. Our goal is to make sure that every women we help is well informed and feels empowered to make decisions about her journey that are right for her and her family.