Tamsin’s Surrogacy Advice and Tips (UK)

To even arrive at the path of surrogacy is a journey in itself, and not an easy one. It is incredibly hard to come to the realisation you will not be able to carry your child yourself, and it can be difficult for a husband to not have his wife be pregnant. It is against what we all imagined; growing up and easily having our own children. However, modern science and the kindness of another can give you the hope to still be able to have a baby that is biologically related to you.

When we started out on the road to parenthood through surrogacy we didn’t have a clue. Being able to read information and chat with other CF women online was so helpful to me during this journey. Now, 3 years on, I have gained so much knowledge and experience and hope that I can help others with CF by sharing it.

1. Find out as much information as you can and get in touch with other women (including those with CF) who have been through surrogacy

Joining the CF mothers online support forum on Facebook was so valuable to me. It is full of inspirational and supportive women, all with CF and all with experiences of going through pregnancy, surrogacy and adoption. Also, ask your CF team if they have any other patients who have gone through surrogacy who they may be able to put you in touch with. Although my CF team were unable to give me any information about surrogacy, with my permission they passed on my information to another patient of theirs who had been through it who emailed me about her story and gave me guidance about the process. I also found the Surrogacy UK online forums offered a wealth of information, and positive stories. We ended up choosing our fertility clinic on the basis of a recommendation from one of their forum members who lives in my area.

2. Consider the cost of surrogacy early on

The NHS often refuses to cover the IVF side of things for surrogacy cases and using a private clinic for IVF cost us around £12,000. There is also then the additional cost of covering your surrogate’s expenses. These can hugely vary depending on their circumstances. Whilst it is illegal in the UK to ‘pay’a surrogate it is acceptable to pay them a monthly a sum. This can cover any costs (vitamins/maternity clothes) or inconvenience (missed time from work or childcare for their own children), as well as makes life easier (for example a cleaner). So overall costs can be minimal or up to around £15,000. This does not include appointment costs.”

3. Decide your route of finding a surrogate

Are you hoping to involve someone you know? Or would you prefer a stranger? Both have implications to consider. We decided we didn’t mind. If you prefer someone you don’t know you can join an agency. In the UK there is Surrogacy UK and COTS (Childlessness Overcome Through Surrogacy). You can find out how to join on their websites (http://www.surrogacyuk.org and http://www.surrogacy.org.uk). It is worth getting started with this first as it comes with a lot of paperwork and a variable wait time to find a surrogate once you’ve joined. The paperwork includes a questionnaire (with thought provoking questions) and you will need to apply for Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks and gain GP referral letters.

Our original plan was to use an agency as we had no other choices but another CF mum who had been through surrogacy gave us some helpful advice- if you are public with friends and family about what you are doing you never know who may offer to be your surrogate. Being open with people was also a good choice for us as I found all the ‘when you are getting pregnant?’ questions after we got married hard to deal with.

4. Be cautiously optimistic about meeting potential surrogates

Originally a friend of ours offered to be a surrogate which was amazing. We had appointments booked for her to go through the necessary blood tests and counselling when the offer was withdrawn. This was so hard for us but unfortunately does happen and it taught us a valuable lesson about being optimistically cautious when meeting potential surrogates.  If you find your own surrogate (outside of an agency) it is still advisable that you all talk through the issues raised in the Surrogacy UK questionnaire. These issues will be also be covered in the fertility clinic’s counselling sessions as well. Topics such as lifestyle during pregnancy, attending scans, who will be present at the birth all need to be discussed and agreed between you in advance.

5.  Look for a fertility clinic

We found ours by joining the forum on the Surrogacy UK website.  You could also look online for a clinic near you. Many list their success rates which may be a factor you wish to consider. Once you have chosen one you need to make an appointment to see a consultant and begin the process of tests and counselling.

6. Consider getting your partner CF carrier tested

 Hopeful CF mums may also want to check if their partner is a CF carrier. This can be done on the NHS through a referral from your CF unit but we found this was taking too long so we opted to use our private clinic (approx £155) and the results came in 2 weeks. My husband’s result was negative. If you have a positive result some clinics offer a procedure where the clinic can screen your embryos and select the ones that are free from CF for implantation or freezing if you wish.
7. Be clear on where you stand from a legal perspective

We were recommended to use the fertility specialist solicitors Natalie Gamble Associates who went through the legal side of things with us. They also have lots of information on the legal side of surrogacy on their website. The appointment was a great help and cost £660. The key information is that in the UK whoever gives birth to the baby (the surrogate) and her husband (if she has one) are the legal parents to the baby when born, even though it is biologically yours. However, you do not need to adopt your baby but instead apply for a parental order when your baby is between 6 weeks – 6 months old. All the information and the link to the forms is on this government website. This process can take around 6 months, and once it is granted by your local council the old birth certificate is destroyed and a new one issued.

Parental responsibility can be given to you in the hospital at the birth to give you the right to make any health care decisions for your baby. A signed letter from the surrogate is often sufficient for this but every hospital and local court may handle the issue differently. Like most hospitals, ours didn’t have a policy or protocol in place for surrogacy births which was frustrating. Our consultant and midwife are fine with it but the hospital solicitors have been unclear as to whether a signed letter is sufficient to give us parental responsibility due to the lack of a policy so our solicitors have been working with theirs to give us a definitive answer.  Thankfully the hospital are now using our case  as a basis on which to create their surrogacy policy and our birth plan as a protocol for surrogacy births going forward.


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