Families Through Surrogacy will host its fifth annual Surrogacy Conference weekend in London and Dublin on March 10 and 11.
The weekend is a chance for anyone wanting to find out more about what surrogacy involves, with experts and surrogates on hand to offer advice, guidance and support.
Here the organisation tells us what’s new in the world of surrogacy and give us an insiders view on what it’s like to go through the surrogacy journey.
There have been huge changes in surrogacy availability in recent years. UK couples have in the past engaged in Thailand, India, Nepal and Cambodia, but these countries have now closed their doors to foreign surrogacy. This has pushed renewed interest in surrogacy in the US, Canada and the UK.
Surrogacy providers are also emerging in new countries such as Kenya – copying the south-east Asia model of surrogacy in the absence of protective laws. The key is selecting reliable providers.
Born without a womb
Hannah Bailey lives in the Bath area of the UK. At the age of 17, she was diagnosed with Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser (MRKH) a condition which affects the reproductive system. Many women are born without a womb or underdeveloped vagina. The condition affect one in 5,000 women.
Hannah considered a number of options to have a family, including adoption, but decided upon surrogacy. She joined a UK surrogacy organisation, but felt herself going in a different direction.
At first Hannah and her husband looked at surrogacy in the US, but realised it was not an affordable option. Next they looked at the Ukraine. Families Through Surrogacy said the Ukraine has laws recognising foreigners as the legal parents via surrogacy.
But the red tape surrounding UK citizenship for children born in the Ukraine proved too difficult to navigate and would mean many months abroad, so they decided against this as an option.
Canada also allows foreigners to engage in surrogacy, but unlike Ukraine, awards Canadian citizenship. It meant Hannah could bring a newborn back to the UK on a Canadian passport within three weeks, then apply for UK documents once home.
Their UK lawyer introduced them to Canadian professionals and within three months they had met a network of Canadians ready to support them and were matched with a surrogate. Soon they were shipping their precious embryos from the UK to Canada.
A ‘sibling journey’
It was a relief Hannah recalls, that they never had to have a conversation with their surrogate about expenses and reimbursements. As happens in the US, a third party managed this for them. Their long yearned for son Zachary was born in August 2017 and already their surrogate has offered to help with a ‘sibling journey’ if she is medically cleared to do so.
Hannah is hoping they won’t have to find a new surrogate. According to Families Through Surrogacy, wait times have increased in Canada and all prospective parents are now advised that matching is so competitive, they need to record a ‘video biography’ to sell themselves to prospective surrogates.
To find out far more about the ins and outs of local and cross-border surrogacy, you can meet Hannah and hear from five other parents via surrogacy and ten UK surrogates at Families Through Surrogacy’s fifth annual UK consumer conference on Saturday 10 March, at 155 Bishopsgate, London.
Focusing on the information requirements of both intended parents and surrogates, the events’ popularity lies in its honesty – putting parents and surrogates front and centre, sharing their real-life journeys.
This year’s conference has a focus on best practice in UK and US surrogacy, with leading professionals exploring the complexities of surrogacy arrangements and how best to lay the groundwork for successful journeys.
Sessions will address some of the tough questions about trust, logistics, sourcing donors, matching with surrogates and legal parentage.
New sessions will explore surrogate and intended parent relationships, outcomes for children, and how surrogacy is operating in Canada, Russia and Kenya.