What is Surrogacy?
Surrogacy is an assisted reproductive treatment (ART) in which a woman (surrogate) carries a child in her uterus on behalf of another person because they are unable to carry a pregnancy themselves. For some women and couples, using a surrogate is their only hope of having a child.
Since the implementation of the Assisted Reproductive Treatment Act (2008) in January 2010, Melbourne IVF has been able to facilitate surrogacy arrangements.
Surrogacy is a highly complex process and there are many important steps in place to ensure all parties are well informed.
In surrogacy, an embryo is created using an egg and sperm produced by the intended parent(s) (or donors), and is transferred into the surrogate’s uterus. Normally, the surrogate has no genetic link to the child.
In traditional surrogacy, the surrogate uses her own egg to assist the intended parent(s). This is a more complex approach and at Melbourne IVF, we, normally, do not support this arrangement.
We are also required by legislation to ensure that the surrogacy arrangement has been approved by the Patient Review Panel.
Who is eligible to commission a surrogate for childbirth?
Under Victorian law, a person is eligible to commission a surrogate if they are:
- Unlikely to become pregnant,
- Unlikely to be able to carry a child or give birth,
- Likely to place their life or health (or that of the baby) at risk if they become pregnant, carry the baby or give birth.
Our medical guidelines for surrogacy include:
- Absence of the uterus,
- An abnormality of the uterus preventing safe pregnancy,
- Other medical conditions making pregnancy too risky for the mother or baby.
Under Melbourne IVF clinical guidelines the commissioning woman may use her own eggs until her 46th birthday, if medically appropriate. If using donor eggs or embryos, the upper age limit for treatment is the commissioning woman’s 51st birthday.
The intending parent(s) must find their own surrogate and it is illegal to advertise for someone to act as a surrogate.
Who can be a surrogate?
Under Victorian law, matters to be considered by the Patient Review Panel in deciding application for approval of surrogacy arrangement is:
- The surrogate must have previously carried a child and given birth to a live child,
- The surrogate must be at least 25 years of age,
- The surrogate’s eggs must not be used in the conception of the child.
Under current legislation all parties to the surrogacy arrangement must undergo a Criminal Records check (to be sighted by the counsellor providing counselling) and consent to a Child Protection Order check.
It is illegal for a woman to advertise that she is willing to act as a surrogate mother.
Under Melbourne IVF clinical guidelines:
- The upper recommended age limit for the intended surrogate is 40 years of age,
- Only one embryo will be transferred into a surrogate at any given time,
- It is highly recommended that the surrogate has completed her own family.
Satisfying the above eligibility requirements does not guarantee Patient Review Panel approval for a surrogacy arrangement to proceed.
The types of surrogacy
There are a few different types of surrogacy.
Gestational surrogacy is the only type of surrogacy that is legal in Victoria. This is where an embryo created using an egg and sperm produced by the intending parent(s) or donors is transferred into the surrogate’s uterus. In these circumstances, the surrogate has no genetic link to the child.
Traditional surrogacy, which is less common, is when the surrogate uses her own eggs and sperm of the intended father, often via insemination. This means that the surrogate does have a genetic link to the child she is carrying. Traditional surrogacy is not performed at Melbourne IVF.
The surrogacy process explained
Medical Review – Intended parents & surrogate referred to Melbourne IVF fertility specialist for medical review.
Obstetrics Assessment - Surrogate only to have independent obstetrician medical assessment.
Melbourne IVF Surrogacy Review Panel - Melbourne IVF Surrogacy Review Panel considers referral from a MIVF fertility specialist and obstetric assessment to ensure that the legal requirements and Melbourne IVF guidelines are met for eligibility to proceed with the arrangement.
Initial Counselling Stage - Separate appointments will be made with the same counsellor to consider and understand the issues, implications and challenges associated with surrogacy.
Independent Psychological Assessment - Appointments will be scheduled over a period of 6 weeks.
Second Counselling Stage (separate appointments) - Review and discuss issues raised, provide opportunity to ask questions, ensure all implications of the surrogacy arrangements are discussed.
Joint Counselling - Combined counselling appointment with Surrogate (& partner) and intended parent(s).
Independent Legal Advice - All parties seek independent legal advice.
Third Counselling Stage - Review legal advice and any outstanding issues, and ensure all parties agreeable to proceeding prior to applying to the Patient Review Panel.
Nursing Appointment - A nursing session will be held with the Surrogacy Program Nurse. This appointment is for the surrogate to have an understanding of the treatment. The intended parent(s) may also attend.
Patient Review Panel Application - An application will be made to the Patient Review Panel in order for a hearing date to be set. Patient Review Panel provides written decision to applicant within 14 days of the hearing.
Final Counselling - Final counselling session and signing of consents prior to the surrogacy treatment process commencing.
Assisted Reproduction - Surrogacy involves assisted reproduction. If the intending parent is using her own eggs, they will be collected after an IVF treatment cycle and fertilised with her partner’s sperm. The embryo will then be inseminated into the surrogate.
How do you find a surrogate?
A woman must decide to become a surrogate for altruistic reasons in Australia. In other words, the birth mother does not receive any payment other than reasonable reimbursement of medical expenses associated with the pregnancy and birth.
As an intending parent, you must find your own surrogate. Advertising to find someone to act as your surrogate is illegal, and payment for surrogacy is illegal. It is also illegal for a woman to advertise that she is willing to act as a surrogate.
What are the costs associated with surrogacy?
Treatment costs associated with surrogacy will vary, depending on the individual arrangement. We will discuss these with you during your first medical consultation.
To find out more information about the Melbourne IVF surrogacy program call our Surrogacy Programme Coordinator on (03) 9473 4611.