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Surrogacy in the UK: Risks and Benefits

With an estimated 3.5 million people in the UK affected by infertility at any one time, many couples turn to surrogacy in order to complete their family. We examine the risks and benefits and discover how you can use a surrogate to carry your child.

What is surrogacy?

Surrogacy is when one woman agrees to carry a child for another couple [intended parents] or, increasingly, a single person.

How does it work?

Traditional surrogacy: Also known as “Straight” or “Partial” surrogacy, involves fertilising the surrogate mother’s egg with sperm from the intended father. This may take place in an IVF clinic or by using an artificial insemination kit at home.

Gestational surrogacy: Also known as “Host” or “Full” surrogacy, involves the implantation of an embryo which has been created using the intended mother’s egg and either the intended father’s sperm or donor sperm.

How do I find a surrogate?

Surrogate agreements are usually facilitated by an agency. Both Surrogacy UK ( and COTS (Childlessness Overcome Through Surrogacy, are non-profit organizations that offer information, advice and support to both intended parents and surrogate mothers. Other couples will be lucky enough to have a sibling, cousin, or close friend who is willing to act as their surrogate.

What are the benefits?

For women who discover that they are unable to fall pregnant or carry a healthy baby to term, surrogacy may offer the only chance for her and her partner to parent a child who is genetically theirs. While adoption is also an option, it is not without its own financial and emotional costs. Some couples may have already been turned down as adoptive parents because of their age or due to a medical condition. Others may simply want the opportunity to experience the joy of raising a child from birth.

What are the risks?

In addition to the potential complications associated with fertility treatment and pregnancy, both the intended parents and the surrogate mother may experience emotional and psychological issues before, during or after the surrogacy arrangement. Very rarely, a surrogate mother may have difficulty handing over the baby after the birth, which is why organisations such as Surrogacy UK emphasise the importance of maintaining good relations throughout the agreement.

Surrogacy law in the UK

Surrogacy in the UK is legal, but it is also govern by various restrictions:

  • Under the Surrogacy Arrangements Act 1985 it’s illegal to place an advertisement either searching for a surrogate, or offering to act as a surrogate. This includes online adverts that are placed, or can be seen by, anyone in the UK.
  • Surrogates can only be paid reasonable expenses. These may range from £7,000-£15,000 and must be justified to the courts. Expenses may include maternity clothing, travel, loss of earnings and child care costs.
  • English law states that, at birth, the legal mother of a child born via surrogacy is the surrogate mother. If she is married, her husband’s name will also go on the birth certificate. After six weeks the intended parents should apply for a parental order that will give them full parental rights over the child. A new birth certificate will then be issued to replace the original.
  • No surrogacy contract or agreement in the UK is legal binding. However, solicitors can give advice on surrogacy laws and assist you as you apply for a parental order.

For more information, visit HFEA (The Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority, or fertility and parenting law specialists, Gamble and Ghevaert (

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