Surrogacy Treatments


Surrogacy refers to an arrangement when one woman carries a baby or babies for another woman/couple and hands over the baby after birth.

The couple who want the baby and start this arrangement are called the commissioning couple. The woman who carries the baby is called the surrogate or host. There is provision within the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Act 1990 as amended for the granting of parental orders for situations involving surrogacy as long as particular criteria are met. We strongly advise that you seek your own independent legal advice prior to embarking upon surrogacy treatment. You should also be made aware that surrogacy arrangements are unenforceable.

Who will benefit from surrogacy treatment?

  • Women born without a uterus
  • Women who have undergone a hysterectomy or removal of the uterus
  • Women with damaged uterine lining, including Asherman’s syndrome where the uterine cavity is obliterated due to adhesions as a result of severe scraping of the womb.
  • Women with recurrent miscarriages
  • Repeated failure of IVF treatment in spite of good quality embryos
  • Severe medical conditions incompatible with pregnancy

Types of surrogacy

  1. Host surrogacy (also known as gestational surrogacy)

    The eggs are from the commissioning mother and the sperm are from the commissioning father. They are fertilised by IVF treatment and the resulting embryos are placed inside the womb of the surrogate host. The resulting baby is not genetically related to the surrogate host.
    The sperm from the commissioning father is usually frozen for six months (he has screening for HIV, HTLV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C at the time of freezing the sperm and again at the end of six month period). However, this quarantine period can be omitted if repeat screening for infectious diseases is performed by the NAT method. The commissioning mother undergoes ovarian stimulation for IVF and her eggs are collected and fertilised with the frozen-thawed sperm of her husband. The resulting embryos are used fresh for transfer into the host and the surplus embryos are frozen. The host can have embryos transferred in a natural cycle or a hormonally prepared cycle.

  2. Straight surrogacy (also known as partial or natural surrogacy)

    Here the surrogate not only carries the baby but also acts as an egg donor. The resulting baby is genetically her baby.
    In this situation, the treatment required is usually intra-uterine insemination which is simpler compared to IVF. Intra-uterine insemination can be performed on a natural cycle or a drug controlled cycle (please see info). Occasionally IVF may be required in straight surrogacy also, if IUI attempts are not successful. Then the surrogate undergoes the whole IVF treatment.

  3. Third scenario

    There is a third scenario, where the commissioning mother’s eggs are not available or suitable for the treatment, but the commissioning couple does not wish to use the surrogate’s eggs. They can use eggs from another woman who will act as an egg donor. The egg donor can be known or anonymous to the commissioning couple.

    This arrangement involves three parties:
    – The commissioning couple who want the baby
    – The surrogate host who carries the baby
    – The egg donor who provides the eggs
    Some commissioning couples feel that this arrangement may make it easier for the surrogate to hand over the baby at the end if the baby is not genetically related to her. In some cases, the surrogate may share this feeling too.


In any surrogacy arrangement the gamete providers, i.e. the persons providing the eggs and sperm, will be considered an egg or sperm donor. They will need to screened accordingly.

Potential problems in surrogacy treatment

Surrogacy treatment is a complex treatment, emotionally, psychologically and clinically. There are numerous complications that can arise, including:

  • The surrogate may fail to handover the baby at the end and keep the baby.
  • The commissioning couple may reject the baby if the baby is abnormal.
  • In view of the above problems, it is better to have an agreement drawn between the relevant parties with the aid of a specialised solicitor.

Please note that commercial surrogacy is not allowed in the UK and hence no outright payment should be made to a surrogate at any point.

A question commonly asked by coupes is whether the commissioning mother can breast feed the baby after it is handed over by the host. The answer is: yes, it is possible and the commissioning mother can be prepared for this with medications.

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