Surrogacy is an arrangement where a woman agrees to bear a child for another person (or couple) who will become the parent(s) of the baby after birth. At least one of the intended parents has to be the genetic parent of the baby.

It is becoming an option that is increasingly used in this country with a very clear legal process supported by the Government and three UK surrogacy organisations; Childness Overcome Through Surrogacy (COTS), Surrogacy UK (SUK) or Brilliant Beginnings (BB). These organisations are not-for-profit but they do make a charge for providing their services.

It is strongly suggested that one of these organisations are used, to ensure clarity of the process and to protect the welfare of the child. The organisations carry out medical checks of the surrogate and of the intended parents and will also carry out Disclosing and Barring Services assessments. If the pregnancy involves assisted conception, the fertility clinic involved will also have checks and measures in place such as health checks. Any decisions for assisted conception have to sit before an ethics panel who weigh up all the evidence they have, to ensure any child born thorough assisted conception will be likely to be well cared for.

There are two types of surrogacy arrangements: straight surrogacy or host surrogacy.

Straight surrogacy is where the surrogate provides her own eggs to achieve the pregnancy. In this situation, the intended father would contribute a sperm sample and conception would be through self-insemination at home, or artificial insemination with the help of a fertility clinic. 

Host surrogacy is where the pregnancy is achieved using an embryo created in vitro without using the surrogate’s eggs. The in vitro embryo is made up of eggs and sperm from either both intended parents or one intended parent and a donor.

One of the important things to understand about surrogacy in the UK is the legal position. It is legal to enter into a surrogacy arrangement, but the arrangement is not enforceable by law. This means that at any point of the process, either the surrogate or the intended parents can change their minds without any legal recourse. This is one of the risks with surrogacy.

During the pregnancy and immediately after the birth, the surrogate is the legal parent of the baby. After the baby is born, there is then a legal process called the parental order process. This transfers legal parenthood from the surrogate to the intended parents. The process cannot be completed before the baby is six weeks old but must be started before the baby is six months old.

It involves the family court and a court-appointed social worker and applications are normally heard by a magistrate rather than a High Court judge. Even though the surrogate retains parental rights until a parental order is granted, it is still normal practice for the baby to be handed over to the care of the intended parents when the baby is born.

One other important point is the cost associated with surrogacy, which can be in the region of £20,000. In the UK, surrogacy cannot be for financial reward (profit) but being a surrogate will often lead to costs incurred and reasonable expenses are expected to be covered by the intended parents. Examples of expenses are the surrogate’s loss of earnings, additional childcare to support pregnancy, maternity clothes, and additional food and supplements. The intended parents will also be expected to cover any fees from fertility treatments, as well as the cost of registering with a surrogacy organisation.

The surrogacy journey can be complex and challenging; from getting a good, clear agreement at the start of the process, to finalising the parental transfer order after birth. It’s really important to be able to have honest and open conversations with your surrogate all the way along the journey and be clear of your expectations of each other. This is why it is strongly suggested approaching the whole process with the support of one of the not-for-profit surrogacy organisations listed below:

The following website provides clear Government guidance for the surrogacy pathway: