Surrogacy in the UK: an insider's guide
You might think that because there is no legal framework for surrogacy in the UK that clinics don’t offer surrogacy options. Not so. Helen Priddle, Senior Embryologist at the Centre for Reproduction and Gynaecology Wales (CRGW) explains, and gives some top tips on choosing a UK clinic for treatment.
In 1985 The Surrogacy Arrangements Act was written into UK law, making surrogacy arrangements unenforceable and commercial surrogacy illegal, with the aim of protecting surrogates from exploitation by giving them the right to change their mind after giving birth. Fertility clinics cannot be commercially involved in sourcing or negotiating with surrogates, but we can treat a surrogate that has already been sourced by intended parents*.
Finding a surrogate in the UK is your biggest hurdle. Not-for-profit support groups such as Surrogacy UK (surrogacyUK.org) and COTS (surrogacy.org.uk) can help you find a surrogate.
The next hurdle for gay men (and anyone else planning surrogacy) is finding donor eggs and it is important to be aware that Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA)regulations mean only one sperm sample can be used to fertilise the eggs for any one treatment cycle. So whilst gay men can take it in turns to be the genetic Dad, it is not possible to undertake treatment with a mix of two men’s semen.
The simplest form of surrogacy is partial surrogacy** where the surrogate’s own eggs are used, then insemination (at home or at a clinic) with the intended parent’s sperm is all that is needed. Alternatively donor eggs are sourced for full surrogacy***. This is where a clinic collects the eggs, mixes them with the sperm and places fertilised embryos into the surrogate. Clinics will advise of the costs and success rates for both methods. Although full surrogacy is generally more expensive it is more successful. However, in the case of partial surrogacy where the intended father and the surrogate are both fertile, the expected success rates will not be far short of full surrogacy.
It is important to give some thought to the quality of the eggs. They may be coming from the surrogate, from a donor you have sourced, or from an anonymous egg donor sourced by the clinic through egg-sharing. With eggs from the surrogate or a donor you have sourced, statistically the best results are with a woman under 35 who has already been pregnant. Donor eggs from a clinic will have been cleared for known fertility issues. Clinics may offer fresh or frozen eggs. Frozen are available whenever your surrogate is ready, but check that the clinic has success with freezing and thawing eggs, as egg freezing is a relatively new technology. Fresh eggs are advantageous but you will need to coordinate your surrogate and donor’s treatments, and there may be a waiting list. Alternatively fresh eggs could be used and the embryos frozen for transfer later.
Clinics screen eggs and sperm for STDs and blood-borne viruses to protect the surrogate from infection. Usually the intended father’s sperm would be quarantined for 180 days before re-testing to ensure sufficient time has passed for him to develop antibodies against viruses. However, modern testing (Nucleic Acid Testing, or “PCR”) looks for viral genetic material rather than antibodies, and the sperm can be screened on the day the sample is provided.
Reputable clinics are geared up to keep you well-informed and guide you.
CRGW offers treatment for surrogates and intended parents.
Tel: 01443 443999 firstname.lastname@example.org www.crgw.co.uk
* AKA commissioning couple
** AKA natural, straight or traditional surrogacy
*** AKA host or gestational surrogacy
This article was printed in We Are Family magazine, issue 5, Spring 2014. Details may have changed - please do not rely on this information solely when making decisions - do your own research, make your own checks and get legal or health advice as appropriate.