Getting started - for intended parent(s)
Finding a surrogate within Australia can seem impossible. It can be difficult to know where to start or who to ask for help. The Finding a surrogate brochure can get you started. You can also contact a counsellor or fertility clinic for advice and support.
You should also consider:
- Letting family/friends know that surrogacy is your only option.
- Asking a family member or friend for help.
- Seeking a surrogate online through surrogacy support groups or online forums.
- It is illegal to publish an advertisement or notice, or attempt to publicly seek a surrogate. Fertility clinics cannot advertise on your behalf.
- You are not allowed to pay a surrogate other than prescribed costs.
- It is illegal for a surrogate to publicly indicate willingness to act as a surrogate.
Surrogacy arrangements have many financial, medical, practical and emotional implications for you, your family, and the child born from the arrangement. The laws affecting surrogacy vary across states and territories. You should always seek advice locally to take your individual circumstances into account.
It is normal to experience apprehension about needing help, as well as doubts and fear that the surrogate will want to keep the baby or will want to intrude or interfere with your family. In reality, few surrogates do not relinquish the child, with more cases of the intended parent(s) not wanting to take responsibility. In Victoria, the counselling sessions (joint and individual) aim to work through any concerns and potential issues, and ensure everyone is emotionally prepared.
Some of the things you should consider include:
- Giving yourself time and space to reconcile the grief and loss if you are not going to be genetically related to the child, or are not able to be pregnant and give birth.
- There are many avenues to become a parent. Is surrogacy the most comfortable option for you given your circumstances?
As with any successful relationship, it takes time to foster good communication, respect and trust between you and a surrogate. Given the complexity of surrogacy, ensure you take time to discuss potential issues and whether to proceed. A shared understanding of expectations and communication for the pregnancy, the birth plan, information exchange and any ongoing relationship with you and the child should be discussed. A surrogacy agreement formalises this and helps all parties clarify their wishes, expectations and responsibilities.
The following factors can contribute to a positive surrogacy arrangement:
- Stable mental and physical health, a positive life situation, and a supportive partner.
- Clear and open communication with clear boundaries and realistic expectations. This is particularly important if you have a pre-existing relationship with your surrogate (i.e. family member, friend).
- Trust your surrogate to do the right thing by herself, her body and your baby. Be genuine, respectful, open, reliable and have some degree of flexibility to work well together. Be supportive, build trust by keeping promises and show commitment (e.g. offer practical support, attend appointments, show interest in her health and wellbeing, listen).
- Understanding the medical process, success rates and timeframes.
- Realistic expectations surrounding emotional changes and reactions that may occur during the process. It is normal to feel anxiety, grief, guilt and disappointment. Be considerate of the potential strain a surrogate is putting on her personal relationships including her family by carrying your child.
- Agreeing on what fair and reasonable expenses for the surrogate are. Be financially responsible by budgeting and clearly outlining when and how costs are to be reimbursed.
- Agreeing on a pregnancy and birth plan that all parties are comfortable with. Keep in mind that the birth mother has the right to manage her own pregnancy regardless of the agreement.
- Have common long-term goals about the rights and interests of the child and agreed openness about their conception and genetics.
- Be open to ongoing contact and communication in regards to the child. Children often need and like to know their origins.
While it is illegal to pay a surrogate in Australia (commercial surrogacy), a surrogate can be reimbursed for costs she incurs as a direct consequence of entering the surrogacy arrangement (altruistic surrogacy). These may include:
- Medical expenses associated with the pregnancy or birth (e.g. doctors’ fees, medication, medical scans, etc). Fertility treatment fees vary depending on the clinic used, what procedure is required, whether a donor is needed and how many attempts are undertaken. It is recommended that you discuss the details of costs with your clinic directly. Refer to clinic websites for more information about costs.
- Costs of legal advice and counselling necessary to satisfy the requirements for approval by the Patient Review Panel, or prior to obtaining a substitute parentage order.
- Travel expenses that are incurred in relation to the pregnancy or birth.
Medicare does not currently subsidise the costs of surrogacy in Australia. This is largely due to the inability of surrogates to satisfy the eligibility criteria for Medicare which states that a treating doctor must declare that the procedure is ‘medically necessary’ for the woman undergoing treatment which, in this case, is the surrogate. This means costs for treatment are passed on to you as intended parent(s).
As surrogacy arrangements can be expensive, a budget is important, and you may want to consult a financial advisor for help.
Talking to your child
Whether a child is born with the help of a surrogate in Australia or a surrogate internationally, research and anecdotal evidence shows that children of surrogacy and donor conception benefit from being told how they came to be in the world. Children are also often curious to know more about their surrogate and donor (if any).
Talking to your child about how you became a family through surrogacy is no different from the experience for families created through donor conception or other forms of fertility treatment. It is all about openness, honesty, how, when and why to tell. Find out more information about talking to children here.
Helpful resources & support
“Family became aware of our situation and a family member offered to be a surrogate for us. Before we even got to the first point of undertaking any medical procedure we had to make sure we’d considered every aspect of issues that might have occurred during that surrogacy process.” Leanne
Frequently Asked Questions
How many people have babies with the help of a surrogate in Victoria each year?
In 2017-18, 35 women received fertility treatment as surrogates in Victorian clinics, and 13 babies were born as part of surrogacy arrangements.