By Sam Everingham, co-founder of Families Through Surrogacy
The key players in third party reproduction are not in fact the doctors, embryologists and fertility lawyers you are paying. They are the surrogates, egg donors intended parents and their support networks
Perhaps it is odd then that few fertility seminars emphasise lived experience of surrogates and the families they carry for. Families Through Surrogacy’s events explore not just the logistics of working with friends and strangers to create family, but the emotional and financial stressors, the everyday hurdles and how these are overcome.
A factor often overlooked in surrogacy journeys is the importance of good quality eggs. Surrogates are giving up so much of their time and energy to carry that it is crucial that the embryos being used are as good as they can be. There is much debate about whether pre-implantation genetic testing of embryos is worthwhile. The latest research shows this is only likely to make a difference where the egg provider is 38 years or older and may in fact be detrimental to embryos for those under this age.
The issue is so important that from 2019 FTS decided to increase its focus on eggs in its ever-popular seminar series
For many, especially woman over 35 years, good quality eggs can mean an egg donor. There are a few UK organisations which can provide altruistic donors and some online forums where you can meet prospective donors. However extracting eggs is a somewhat painful and laborious process, requiring numerous injections and medical visits. In the absence of significant payment this means a shortage of UK donors.
Canada has for a few years been a go-to destination for altruistic surrogacy for foreigners unable or unwilling to engage at home. However Canada also operates under ‘no-payment’ rules, meaning they now struggle to keep up with the demand from intended parents who can wait six months to match with a donor and even longer to match with a surrogate.
As a result, countries which allow donor compensation, such as Spain, Greece, Eastern Europe and the US, are an important additional source. But it becomes more complicated – under Greek and Ukrainian law donors must be anonymous, while under Georgian law they must be known. Some couples look at taking their own donor to work with an overseas surrogate, so understanding the rules is critical.
Then there’s the issue of disclosure
Many women don’t want to admit that they needed an egg donor. It’s hard enough having to let go of your own genetics, let alone tell family and friends your eggs were no good. The important thing is that your child understands their identity and how they were created. In this age of cheap DNA testing via sites like ancestry.com, too many adolescents have turned against parents for lying about their use of a donor. All they wanted was honesty.
Families Through Surrogacy’s upcoming March seminar series in London on March 7, Dublin on March 9 and Manchester on March 10, will provide a practical overview of many of the surrogacy and egg donor issues which fertility marketing teams ‘forget’ to tell you. Parents, surrogates and egg donors will share their stories and advice. Choosing the right IVF clinic and legal expert is important, but hear from other parents first.
For tickets and further details, click here