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A couple and surrogate mother from BBS series Surrogates

Surrogates

Five young British women attempt to carry babies for other people.

About the programme

Filmed over 18 months, this landmark three-part documentary series uncovers the taboos surrounding the controversial subject of surrogacy, by following the experiences of five women, all embarking on complex journeys by trying to have babies for other people.

To find out more, visit the BBC programme page .

Discover the range of qualifications and modules from the OU related to this programme:

Surrogates - BBC Series couple and surrogate mother

Copyright: Sundog Pictures Ltd

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The surrogacy pathway

Have you ever wondered what's involved in the surrogacy process? Find out what costs can be claimed by a surrogate as reasonable expenses and more.

The Surrogacy Pathway Illustration

In the UK commercial surrogacy is illegal, but altruistic surrogacy is permitted. The Department of Health and Social Care (2019) identify a number of key decisions and processes that surrogates and intended parent(s) (IP(s) need to consider. The surrogacy pathway is illustrated here.


Starting the process

Surrogacy organisations recommend constructing an agreement to ensure consideration is given to a number of issues that may arise during the surrogacy process.

There are a number of non-profit organisations that lawfully assist potential surrogates and intended parent(s) to navigate their surrogacy. These surrogacy organisations perform various checks (including medical and Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) for all new members) and aim to provide support throughout the surrogacy journey. They can help surrogates find intended parent(s) and vice versa through social events that enable surrogates and intended parent(s) to get to know each other and decide if they want to work together.


Surrogacy agreements

A photo of three people standing in a small circle, the camera is pointed at their shoes

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Once intended parent(s) and a surrogate (and her spouse or partner if she has one) agree to work together they can construct a written surrogacy agreement. This is a statement of intention about how the arrangement will work prior to commencing the surrogacy. All those involved need to give their full consent to contents. Under UK law, any contracts or agreements signed before the child is born are not enforceable. Therefore, the agreement is not a legally binding document and surrogacy can go ahead without one. Surrogacy organisations recommend constructing an agreement to ensure consideration is given to a number of issues that may arise during the surrogacy process.

Agreements typically include:

  • Strategies to support the surrogate’s health and emotional well-being.
  • The extent of intended parent(s) involvement in appointments and decisions surrounding pre-conception, conception, pregnancy, birth and post-birth arrangements.
  • How difficult scenarios will be responded to for example, miscarriage, still birth, foetal anomaly, multiple pregnancy, decisions to terminate, or breakdown of relations with intended parent(s).
  • Communication and future relationship with intended parent(s), including explaining to the child about their origins;
  • Legal implications and parental order application arrangements;

Reasonable expenses

The parties to a surrogacy agreement normally estimate their expenses at the start, with an agreed sum being clearly recorded in their agreement and the payments spread over the course of the pregnancy.

Surrogates can expect to be paid no more than reasonable expenses. The law does not provide a definition of reasonable expenses. What is regarded as reasonable will depend on the specific circumstances. The parties to a surrogacy agreement normally estimate their expenses at the start, with an agreed sum being clearly recorded in their agreement and the payments spread over the course of the pregnancy.

The family court have generally accepted the following as reasonable expenses:

  • Surrogate’s loss of income;
  • Surrogate’s partner/spouse’s loss of income;
  • Additional childcare costs incurred for attending appointments;
  • Domestic support during pregnancy;
  • Additional food/supplements;
  • Additional classes or therapies to support pregnancy; 
  • Travel and accommodation expenses;
  • Maternity clothing;
  • A modest recovery break;

Numerous costs are associated with surrogacy such as, fertility clinic tests and treatments, membership fees of non-profit organisation and legal fees. Non- profit organisations can provide information about this.


Becoming legal parent(s)

A grown-up's hand gently holds a baby's finger

Photo by Aditya Romansa on Unsplash

The legislation relating to surrogacy is UK-wide but there are different approaches to the court systems in Scotland and Northern Ireland. In England and Wales, the law regards the birth mother as the child’s legal mother. If married, her spouse/civil partner would also be recognised as a legal parent.

Legal parenthood is transferred from the surrogate to the intended parent(s) through a parenting order or adoption. To be eligible to apply for a parenting order at least one of the intended parents(s) must be a genetic parent of the child born to them through surrogacy. Intended parent(s) submit a parental order application to the court within six months of the child’s birth. If there is no genetic relationship to the child adoption is the only way that intended parent(s) can become the child’s legal parent(s). In these circumstances a registered adoption agency must be involved in the surrogacy process.

The surrogate must consent to a parental order application at least six weeks after the birth (this provides the surrogate with a cooling-off period). It is possible that during those six weeks the surrogate will bond with the child and decide to keep the baby. In most surrogacy arrangements the baby is handed over immediately after being born. However, if the surrogate refuses consent for the intended parent(s) parental order application they can apply for a Child Arrangement Order. In these circumstances the court considers what is in the best interests of the child. In practice the child usually ends up with the intended parents, even if the surrogate is named as a legal parent.


 

Prenatal diagnosis and surrogacy podcast

11:56

Jane Fisher, is the Chief Executive of the UK charity Antenatal Results

Jane Fisher, is the Chief Executive of the UK charity Antenatal Results (ARC), who provides unbiased information and support to women and couples who are going through antenatal screening and dealing with its consequences. In this podcast, Jane draws upon this experience in relation to the context of surrogacy.

Meet the OU experts

Lesley Hoggart - profile image
Professor Lesley HoggartProfessor of Social Policy ResearchVIEW FULL PROFILE
Lesley Hoggart - profile image
Professor Lesley HoggartProfessor of Social Policy Research

I am Associate Head of School (research excellence) in the School of Health, Wellbeing and Social Care at the Open University. I specialise in qualitative research, and have spent many years working in the qualitative research group at the Policy Studies Institute. Myresearch interests are focused on reproductive health, abortion policy and politics, teenage pregnancy and sexual health. 

Sarah Earle
Dr Sarah EarleSenior Lecturer - Faculty of Wellbeing, Education & Language StudiesVIEW FULL PROFILE
Sarah Earle
Dr Sarah EarleSenior Lecturer - Faculty of Wellbeing, Education & Language Studies

I'm a medical sociologist with an interest in reproduction, sex and health and am a member of the School's reproductive and sexual heatlh research theme

I'm especially interested in the politics of infant feeding, contraception and fertility, and the reproductive and sexual rights of disabled people. 

I'm also interested in reproductive and sexual health and Convened the British Sociological Association’s Human Reproduction Study Group for over 10 years. 

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