28 February 2012

Victoria’s first surrogacy birth arrives under new legislation

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Melbourne IVF

A surrogate baby born through Melbourne IVF last week is the state’s first since legislation was enacted, which made surrogacy possible for the first time in Victoria within a legal structure. 

Medical Coordinator of Melbourne IVF's Surrogacy Program, Dr Kate Stern, said surrogacy is now more accessible for Victorian couples who for medical reasons cannot carry their own child.

“Under the old legislation, surrogacy was practically impossible, as all parties including the male and female partner, as well as the surrogate, were required to be infertile for the arrangement to proceed. 

“The new legislation means that the surrogacy arrangement can occur in medically appropriate situations, where specific preconditions are met and approval is gained from the external government-appointed Patient Review Panel. 

“For many couples for whom surrogacy is their only option to having their own child, this is a significant milestone that means they can undertake treatment safely in their home state, rather than travelling interstate or overseas."

Since the legislation was introduced, at Melbourne over 25 couples have registered for the program and five gestational carriers have conceived already. Dr Stern said many families had been waiting for several years for the legislation to be enacted.

“Since the legislation came into place, the number of patients accessing the program continues to increase, and now these couples, usually afflicted by serious medical conditions which prevented them carrying their own baby, can realistically expect to have a family,” Dr Stern said. 

“Surrogacy is altruistic in Victoria, which means that there is no commercial arrangement, but many women still volunteer to become gestational carriers for relatives or friends,” she said.

In Victoria, all the people involved are required to undergo multiple counselling sessions, psychological assessment and are advised to seek legal advice. By law, all cases then need to apply to the external Patient Review Panel for consideration and approval.  There are often three families participating in the process.  The utmost care needs to be given to the welfare of each individual involved as well as to the best interests of the potential or unborn child.

Dr Stern said that once a surrogacy arrangement has been approved by the Patient Review Panel, the process could begin almost immediately.

“Surrogacy is a complex and long process, however at Melbourne IVF, our dedicated counselling and surrogacy administrative team guides patients each step of the way to facilitate the care given throughout the process, to ensure that we provide all the support and advice patients need,” Dr Stern said.

“We will continue to provide support to our patients after the birth also, as this is likely to be the most challenging time for all parties involved. 

“We have also developed some research projects to assist in our further understanding of the processes and experiences for our families,” Dr Stern said.

The introduction of the surrogacy program has allowed Victorian couples. the opportunity finally to access the treatment which they so desperately need to fulfil their long-held dreams of having children and a family. Situations when a surrogacy arrangement may be appropriate is when a woman does not have a uterus, has an abnormal anatomy of the uterus preventing safe carriage of pregnancy, or has other medical conditions that make pregnancy too risky for the mother or the baby.

Read more about Melbourne IVF's surrogacy program here.

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