On Monday 27th July, a mixture of the SurrogacyUK team, including trustees, the Events Team, volunteers, SUK staff and experienced members attended an online meeting with a view to answering any and all questions posed by members and non-members; It was a chance to openly discuss all things surrogacy in a safe, friendly forum.
In case you missed the event, here are the questions posed and corresponding answers, including who answered them.
We hope this will be particularly useful to those considering joining SurrogacyUK, those on the waiting list to become full members, and newer members of SurrogacyUK.
Simply click on a question tab to reveal the answer:
Dawn: If both of you plan to post, have two logins/usernames… a surrogate will be able to view both as they will be linked via your profile. The more information you share and post, the better.
Linder: Take time during the GTK period to get to know the couple as a team and involve your husband to build trust, this is the basis for surrogacy in the UK. You’ll both see how much starting a family means to the IPs (Intended Parents) and this will reassure you both. The IPs who join SUK will have already put a lot of thought into their journey and have undergone numerous safety checks to become members.
Rena: Being a single IP makes no difference. In fact, we have a number of single IPs within SurrogacyUK who are currently in a GTK and have recently had a single IF who has just become a father. Be as active as possible within the community and it will happen for you in the same way as if you were a couple!
Dawn: This is not an issue at all, it’s about who you connect and build a friendship with, not their marital status.
Dawn: Depends on the surrogate as an individual as everyone has different lives and commitments. Things to consider are their family situation (if they have young children), work commitments, distance to clinic, etc. There are ways around this – for example, a lot of clinics will have sister clinics that may be closer to your surrogate so some appointments can take place there rather than at the clinic where the embryos are stored.
Annie: Frozen embryos can be moved via a special courier to a closer clinic.
Annie: Surrogates will be upfront about their timescales in their profile so you will be aware of this from the offset. Generally, surrogates are as invested in the journey as the IPs and will keep going.
Vicky: I’ve had an IM help to deliver their daughter! It is rare that a surrogate won’t want their IPs present but, again, this will be stipulated in their profile. Generally, most surrogates want to witness their IPs become parents and are honoured to be a part of that moment.
What happens after birth depends on the conditions of the birth, the hospital’s policies etc. With a home birth, the IPs generally go home with their baby quite quickly after the birth.
Hazel: No one really gives up. Instead their circumstances change. An IP’s criteria can depend on their age for instance. If IPs have used all their embryos, then a different route may be taken. Thought should be taken into consideration as to what this criteria and personal to them. As members of SurrogacyUK support is provided at these times within the community.
Dawn: Yes all our members do. When becoming a member of SurrogacyUK, a surrogate will undergo a DBS check, Health and Wellness check from their GP which includes any known social services involvement as well as physical and mental health history and a one to one membership advisory session to ensure they have considered everything prior to becoming a surrogate. If she has a partner, they too will have a DBS check and be included in the membership advisory session. Once full members, the surrogate is assigned a one to one support worker, who is an experienced surrogate and will have access to a peer support network of all our current surrogates.
Dawn: This is one of the most common questions within SurrogacyUK. Rest assured, this has NEVER happened within SurrogacyUK. Our journeys are built on trust and friendship.
Rena: Before I joined SurrogacyUK, I was an anonymous egg donor and I chatted to our IPs about this as three little girls were born to the same family. When we went from GS (Gestational Surrogacy) to TS, I asked how they feel about the fact that there would be a genetic link. They said that really didn’t bother them in the slightest. They said the bond is with us and our children and not because there will be a genetic link. I think if there were any IPs that were worried about KED or TS, I would advise them to consider if this is for them. It is up to the known egg donor/surrogate if she wants to do another journey. This is her right and she should be able to do that. I would advise the IPs to have discussions as a team to talk about how they would feel if the surrogate chose to donate again. My IPs said it enriched their lives knowing there were other children born after my donations and yes they had my genetics but that was it. It is very individual.
Jemma: Upon attending your first “normal” social (normal meaning prior to Covid-19!) you are assigned a buddy who can help by introducing you to people and answer any questions you may have. During these bizarre Covid times, quiz or chat bingo socials are recommended as these involve much smaller groups of people in breakout rooms. Outdoor socials do often involve games which are great ice-breakers. After a few socials, you will begin to recognize familiar faces and become better connected to the community.
Vicky and Linder: We can only go by Government guidance. Currently, no earlier than October (even November or December) but we have no idea of numbers yet. From an inclusion perspective, we want socials to be available to as many as possible but, with some areas still in lock down and with members who may be in a more vulnerable group due to disability or pregnancy there are many variables are affecting what is feasible or possible. The trustees are keeping this under regular review.
Online socials are open to members first (as they are a member benefit), then applicant members. In the event of poor numbers on an online social, non-member places may become available.
Linder: The discussion at an MA session is dependent on your circumstances, changes and development in your life and journey as these can impact the questions asked. We do follow a checklist to ensure you have full understanding of all aspects of surrogacy and how SUK works. Rest assured, everything is confidential to allow you to explore anything you wish to discuss in a private environment. It’s a chance to update your details and discuss the surrogacy in great detail. A report is then produced by the advisor which is considered in confirming your membership. Remember, it’s not a job interview and is relaxed yet taken seriously. If any issues are flagged up, they’re followed up with the trustees and ethics committee.
Karla: After your MA session, a report is sent and your paperwork is completed. If membership has been approved, you will receive an email from us confirming this. You will gain access to the Members section on our existing message boards where we have a diary section; here you can document all about yourselves and IP(s) are encouraged to write lots of information, so surrogates (and others) can get to know you more. Your profile will be an introduction to you to our surrogates and this will be placed on our ‘Active List’, which is for those IPs hoping to proceed to GTK with a surrogate.
The current waiting time for IPs is around 12 months but SurrogacyUK is continuing as it was before, with IP applications still being processed for membership. You may experience a delay with medical professionals providing reports at the moment though.
Dawn: A surrogate will choose using a mixture of your profile, meeting you at socials (online or face to face) and your diary… so BE ACTIVE! It’s important to be active within the community. Surrogates talk to each other and their support worker to find out “are they really that nice?!”
Please note that the surrogate always initiates the GTK… it’s her body and therefore her choice. No IP should ever ask a surrogate to carry a baby for them or be their surrogate.
Once a GTK is requested, a text is sent to the IP(s) to arrange a convenient time for “The Call” to happen. During The Call, firstly checks that you’re still actively looking is confirmed. The surrogate’s profile is then sent to the IP(s) and any non-negotiable areas (GTK duration, etc) are explained. The IP(s) then take the time to read through the surrogate’s profile before making a decision. It’s ok to say no to an offer of a GTK. It’s about finding the right surrogate, not just any surrogate. If it’s a yes, an email is sent to both the surrogate and IP(s) covering all aspects of the GTK as well as each other’s contact details. The GTK is a minimum of 3 months which is non-negotiable minimum duration.
Linder: Depending on what area of legal advice you’re after, coupled with the wealth of guidance already available from SUK, outside advice shouldn’t be necessary; There is also plenty of information on the CAFCASS website.
There may be occasions such as if one of the IPs doesn’t reside in the UK, a domicile issue or you may find that clinics may ask you to seek legal advice, mainly to ensure you fully understand the law. For SUK members, most clinics will accept the SUK documents to confirm your legal understanding – we are generally respected by all clinics. The SUK member hub will contain information on legal aspects of surrogacy.
Linder: Scottish law only differs around the Parental Order process, there is experience of this within SUK but you may wish instruct a solicitor to facilitate the process as it is slightly more complex than in England and Wales. Further information is available on the member hub.
Hazel: Before joining SurrogacyUK, explore all options and make surrogacy the last choice if adoption is a choice and viable option for you. The average time to find a surrogate can vary greatly – it can be anything from 2 months to 8 months or longer. It’s about meeting the right person to team with and this can take time. Our current data shows a wait of approx. 4 months for a SurrogacyUK team to conceive after the agreement is prepared, with almost 90 per cent conceiving within 9 months. As the average application time for IPs is currently around 12 months, adoption (if an option) could be looked at in parallel. However, we ask that you keep us up to date with your position and whether you are still intending to join SurrogacyUK. If you choose to join the application list then all admin fees (£200) are non-refundable.
Rena: I am a teacher in a secondary school and, while I’ve yet to meet children that were born through surrogacy, I have met children from a variety of families. I have some students with same-sex parents, students that have been adopted and some who have been fostered and I believe that we now live in a day and age where everybody is very open to and accepting of the way that different families are created. When I told my students that I was pregnant with a surrogate baby, so many opened up with comments like, “my mums used a sperm donor.” They were happy and positive to share that along with their ideas so I think that, with regards to a child’s mental health or emotional issues, I think as long as the parents have been honest and open about how that child came to be, they will be positive and confident themselves.
Vicky: As an IP, be upfront and honest from the start about how involved you’re prepared / happy to be. Openness and honesty is key. The right surrogate won’t have a problem.
Kitty: This is not something we’d look to do as it can be quite intense and could alienate shyer members; It’s also tough for members with children and could be misconstrued as a matching tactic. Organic socials are best as they help form natural friendships with other members for support etc. In short, we recommend full immersion in the community with no tunnel vision.
Also, please bear in mind that socials are not just about talking to available surrogates… talk to everyone! You may find a group of like-minded, supportive IP friends… a retired surrogate has even been known to come out of retirement for the right IPs!
Dawn: At the moment, the majority of surrogates are looking at host surrogacy, some are open to both host and straight, and some have been known to evolve their journey from host to straight or vice versa, which makes the numbers hard to track.
Linder: A surrogate’s primary bond is with the parents, secondary to the child; whether that’s host or straight surrogacy. With straight surrogacy, it’s important that the surrogate’s family are happy and have a good understanding of the genetic bond with a child who is technically their half sibling. SUK encourage transparency around the genetic origins of the child.
Annie: Yes, particularly Sarah, our Head of Surrogacy who will offer help on writing a letter to your employer, offering guidance. This will be a resource on the new Member’s Hub (available to full members VERY soon!) too.
Linder: We have established an employment rights working group who look at employment issues in surrogacy. We are currently developing an ‘employers guide’ to Surrogacy and a template policy which employers can use.
Dawn: We have 450 IP members but this includes lifelong members, not just active members (actively looking, GTK, TTC, pregnant). We currently have 83 actively looking IP(s) as of 27th July who have profiles that are made available to all our actively looking surrogates.
Dawn: Life insurance is recommended for IPs but not essential. It’s important to make sure as IP(s), you are happy with what you have in place and that it covers you and baby if the worst should happen.
For surrogates, we recommend a minimum of £300,000 cover for 2-5 years so cover is available for 6 months post birth and the IPs are responsible for this cost as part of the pre-pregnancy expenses.
Wills – for IP(s) this should cover naming guardians if anything were to happen to them before or after the Parental Order is granted. For surrogates, their will should stipulate that no baby born out of surrogacy is legally their child and is the IP(s). If the surrogate is married, their spouse should also have a will in place similar to the surrogate as the spouse is as legally responsible for baby as the surrogate is. The IP(s) are responsible for covering the cost of wills as part of pre-pregnancy expenses.
Vicky, Jemma and Rena: We intend to create a list of clinics with whom we have had positive experiences. Location plays a factor as mentioned above, also (for some surrogates) a clinic that is prepared to try a natural cycle over a medicated cycle is sometimes a preference… it’s also cheaper for the IPs to try an un-medicated cycle! Also, while SurrogacyUK and our surrogates don’t have an age limit for IPs, certain clinics may along with BMI requirements etc.
Dawn and Kitty: While we don’t insist embryos are pre-made, you may find newer surrogates are keen to get going straight away and, if it came down to you and another IP(s) who do have embryos made, this may sway a surrogate’s choice. The best advice from an IPs perspective is, while you’re waiting – be proactive! If you know that’s the route you want to take, take some positive steps in the right direction.