While those in need of a surrogate may have family members or good friends offer to carry for them, many are not so fortunate.
As well, potential surrogates often change their mind after considering the possible complications.
It means many who require surrogacy need help not only in finding a surrogate but navigating the complexity of these most intimate arrangements
For-profit surrogacy agencies are not allowed in the UK. Instead this has seen the emergence of non-profit organisations and community-based forums which provide various levels of advice and assistance.
The oldest of these COTS (Childlessness Overcome Through Surrogacy) founded by consummate surrogate Kim Cotton in 1988 continues to assist with intended parent and surrogate support. Surrogacy UK is perhaps the largest and most organized of these and also founded by experienced surrogates. It has as its mantra ‘surrogacy through friendship’ and provides a range of meet ups and counselor support and well as advice. Both organisations charge a sizable membership fee of £800 or more to cover operational costs, with no guarantee of a surrogate match.
Given the huge popularity and usability of Facebook forums, there has been an increase in UK singles and couples engaging in surrogacy without the help of structured support. Groups like Hope and Surrogacy Connections are providing forums in which intended parents and surrogates can meet and network.
Compared to other nations, the UK is unusual in having a high proportion of surrogates (estimated at 50% or more) carry using their own eggs – called traditional surrogacy.
How they can do this is poorly understood by many. One advantage is it can bypass the need for expensive and invasive IVF processes.
Many UK surrogates carry multiple times, sometimes for the same couple, sometimes for two or more different couples.
The UK has no structured approach to surrogacy screening and approval, so essentially any women can put up her hand to carry without the need for prior counselling.
Unsurprisingly, domestic surrogacy, given its demands for an intense and usually ongoing relationship with a surrogate is not for everybody. Some intended parents have not the patience or mindset to do their own screening or relationship building and prefer to outsource it all to professionals.
With South-East Asia now closed to foreign surrogacy, UK singles and couples are increasingly engaging in countries with protective laws recognizing foreigners as the legal parent(s). These include some US states, Canada, Greece & Ukraine.
Families Through Surrogacy will be running a seminar series in Manchester, London, Birmingham & Dublin from 22 – 26 November to discuss these trends.
Fifteen parents through surrogacy will share their extraordinary journeys to parenthood, whether here in the UK in the US, Canada or Ukraine. Panels of surrogates will discuss their motivations for carrying children for others, agency vs independent arrangements, surrogate compensation and why the enforced ‘labour’ depicted in The Handmaidens Tale is so far from their experience.