Surrogacy is when a woman agrees to become pregnant and give birth to a baby for another person or intended parents.
There are two types of surrogacy: traditional surrogacy and gestational surrogacy.
Traditional surrogacy means the surrogate uses her own eggs and is the biological mother of the baby.
Gestational surrogacy means the surrogate’s egg isn’t used in the conception and she isn’t the biological mother of the baby.
Surrogacy in Australia is more commonly gestational than traditional surrogacy.
The baby is created using the sperm and egg of the intended parents. Sometimes donor eggs or donor sperm are used.
Let’s look into the details of surrogacy and how it works.
Why choose surrogacy?
Intended parents choose surrogacy for a variety of reasons, including:
- Health conditions that make pregnancy or birth dangerous
- Recurrent miscarriages
- Abnormal or absent uterus
- Failed IVF
- Being in a same-sex relationship.
When all else fails and a couple is desperate for a child of their own, surrogacy could be their only hope of becoming parents.
Who is eligible for surrogacy in Australia?
Surrogacy in Australia has several eligibility requirements:
- The surrogate mother must be over 25 and under 52 years of age
- She must have already successfully given birth to a healthy baby
- There must be no history of pregnancy complications
- There must be no current illness that pregnancy would make worse
- The surrogate mother needs to have an established relationship with the intended parents for no less than 6 months before the implantation of the embryo
- Neither the surrogate nor the parents-to-be should have a diagnosed psychiatric disorder.
Surrogacy Australia is a great starting point to look into your surrogacy options. You can find a reputable surrogacy program with up-to-date information, advice, and a good understanding of your needs.
In which states is surrogacy legal in Australia?
In Australia, commercial surrogacy is illegal. This means you can’t be paid more than the cost of your medical expenses to carry a baby as a surrogate.
Altruistic surrogacy in Australia is legal. This means the arrangement occurs without financial benefit to the surrogate.
In the Northern Territory, there are no surrogacy laws. Intended parents finding a surrogate to carry a pregnancy from a different state or from overseas. However, this is set to change in 2021, when surrogacy laws will be introduced.
In Western Australia and South Australia, altruistic surrogacy is legal only for heterosexual couples.
In both these states, surrogacy isn’t legal for single people or same-sex couples.
In Tasmania, the law states the surrogate must be at least 25 years of age and the surrogate pregnancy can’t be her first.
As you can see, states have different laws concerning surrogacy in Australia. Be sure to access a family lawyer in your home state if you’re considering surrogacy arrangements.
Surrogacy Australia also has helpful information.
Are surrogates paid in Australia?
In Australia, you can’t legally accept money as payment from intended parents who want you to carry a baby as a surrogate.
It’s legal for you to agree to be a surrogate, and the arrangement must cover the cost of your medical bills.
Is surrogacy cheaper than IVF?
A fertility specialist can be expensive over time, especially if it’s not as successful as you hoped.
Because a surrogate can’t be paid, it’s tempting to think surrogacy is a cheaper option than IVF.
Other possible costs to consider are:
- The method of insemination; IVF could also be needed during the surrogacy process
- Public or private care
- Blood tests
- Pregnancy care treatment, such as multivitamins, or alternative therapies for normal ailments.
IVF Australia has a guide with more information about surrogacy in Australia. They can help you work through the process, find a fertility specialist, and cost of IVF and surrogacy.
How long does surrogacy take?
Surrogacy isn’t a quick and easy way of becoming a parent. Finding a surrogate can take a long time.
You might ask friends or a family member if they would be a surrogate for you. It’s a big decision and shouldn’t be rushed.
It’s illegal to advertise for a surrogate, and for a surrogate to advertise her services.
After you find a surrogate, it can then take months for her to fall pregnant.
Health risks of surrogacy
There’s a number of risks involved with surrogacy – mostly related to the assisted reproductive methods used to achieve the pregnancy.
Concerns for the birth mother include:
- Multiple pregnancies, which increase risk of pregnancy and birth complications
- General pregnancy risks; increase with the age of the surrogate
- Reactions to the fertility drugs
- Possible complications resulting from the birth.
Can a surrogate legally keep the baby?
A surrogate can legally choose to keep the baby she births, no matter whose egg or sperm was used. In this situation obtaining custody can be difficult.
To help prevent these problems, it’s recommended intended parents entering into an agreement of surrogacy in Australia seek legal advice before proceeding.
After the birth, a parentage order needs to be in place, to transfer parentage from the surrogate mother and her partner to the intended parents.
A parentage order recognizes the surrogacy arrangement and who the true parents of the child are.
The order also means the baby’s birth certificate is reissued, with the parents listed instead of the birth mother.
Is surrogacy worth it?
Surrogacy isn’t a simple solution to having a child.
It isn’t a decision to be taken lightly. However, it might offer you the best chance to have a child that’s genetically related to you or your partner.
Only you and your partner can judge whether or not surrogacy is worth going through.
Here is the story of just one surrogacy journey:
Tara’s story of surrogacy in Australia
“Surrogacy, for me as the surrogate, was an extremely amazing, rewarding experience. I was a surrogate for very close friends of our family whom we had witnessed go through fertility struggles for more than a decade.
Surrogacy is often described by those in the community as a marathon and not a sprint. Our experience was no different. We had 5 embryo transfers over 3 years, resulting in 3 failed transfers, 1 miscarriage, and the last resulting in our friend’s beautiful healthy baby boy!
There was plenty of heartache, tears, and injections over those three years but it was all worth it.
In Victoria, the process is particularly grueling with the number of hoops you need to jump through to get approved. You must have individual and couples counseling, psych assessments, legal advice and must sit before a panel. While this might sound daunting the fertility clinic guides you through the process, and for us it was more annoying than difficult or stressful.
My surrogacy pregnancy was straightforward, albeit with some upsetting restrictions imposed by Covid.
I was highly medicated throughout the first trimester, which I found difficult as a healthy fertile woman; however, this was mainly due to multiple failed transfers prior to our successful pregnancy. This is always negotiable and the surrogate always has bodily autonomy throughout the whole process.
The birth was magical. My husband took lots of footage and I love looking back at all the photos of my friends meeting their child for the first time.
In the days following the birth, I was so incredibly proud of my friends, seeing them with their baby, knowing how they persisted for so long despite such an unfair hand they were dealt.
I was so proud of my family, my husband, and my children, for all their love and support, and the sacrifices they made, and proud of myself for actually pulling off this massive feat!
I would highly encourage any woman reading this who is interested in becoming a surrogate to join the ‘Australian Surrogacy Community’ page on Facebook, and also to have a listen to the Australian Surrogacy podcast by Sarah Jefford for more information.