23 September 2020
How do I ‘choose’ an international surrogate?
With commercial surrogacy still illegal in the UK, many single people and couples, same sex and heterosexual, choose to look to the US when considering using an international surrogate, particularly California and Nevada where the law is robust, coherent and protects both parties.
But how do you even begin such a relationship, not least when surrogacy is still considered taboo in this country?
Hilary Smith is an international client relations manager working for a reputable surrogacy agency in the US, whose job it is to make the process of bringing together intended parents and a surrogate overseas as easy, and pleasant, as possible. Based in the UK and the US, she describes much of her job as representing the human side of what can feel like a long and complicated process for intended parents.
Previously, Hilary was an IVF nurse which immediately gives her an insight into what many couples have been through before beginning the surrogacy journey. Many people ask her, why does anyone want to be a surrogate?
Although surrogates in many states where the practice is legally regulated and contracts are enforceable are compensated, Hilary says many women become surrogates to help another family, perhaps having seen a friend struggle to get pregnant or after having their own children, and most, if not all, genuinely enjoy being pregnant. Many of the surrogates Hilary works with are doing it for the second, or third, time.
Surrogates working through an agency go through a rigorous physical and psychological screening process, must have experienced at least one live, complication free, full-term birth, be a non-smoker with a BMI of less than 32 (up to 35 in some cases). Among other criteria, women considering surrogacy must also be mentally stable, financially sound and must have a strong support system. If they are married or in a long-term relationship, the support and screening of their husband or partner is also required. Most women considering surrogacy have already completed their own family and have no desire to have any more children of their own.
Hilary says that every relationship between a surrogate and the intended parents is different. Some become like extended family and continue a relationship after the birth of the child, just as many end that relationship shortly after the child is born and the intended parent/s take over parental responsibility. In some cases, intended parents also wish for the surrogate to breast feed or express milk for their baby.
There is no right or wrong relationship when it comes to surrogacy, so long as everyone is on the same page and healthy communication is maintained.
According to Hilary, matching is a mutual decision between both the intended parent/s and the surrogate based on the review of profiles, guided Skype calls, and phone conversations to discuss the process, personal details about their lives and outlook on important topics, which is a slow and careful process to ensure a good ‘match’.
Once a match is confirmed, all parties are screened and legal paperwork is in place, the embryo transfer process can begin. The embryo is usually created in the UK and shipped to the US to be implanted into the surrogate. Once the pregnancy is confirmed, most intended parents want regular updates and to be fully involved, while others are happy to receive updates less regularly.
If the intended parents have undergone the surrogacy process in a US state where surrogacy is legally practiced, they will always assume legal parentage of their baby by way of a pre or post birth order. However, the birth orders are not automatically recognised in the UK and the new parents are obliged to apply to the Court for a Parental Order once back home to assume legal parentage.
“My relationship with the parents and the surrogate does not end at the birth,” Hilary says. “Like any woman giving birth, some surrogates need additional support and we continue to be available to give it to them, even after the parents have returned home with their baby.
"Experience is everything and many of the women will begin the process all over again for another family sometime in the future.”
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