With the whole country currently discussing the moral, legal and practical issues surrounding overseas surrogacy, we thought it would be timely to take a look at surrogacy in Australia.
VARTA, the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority, takes us through some of the potential problems arising from surrogacy and how they can be prevented.
Surrogacy is a form of assisted reproductive treatment in which a woman agrees to carry and give birth to a child on behalf of another person or couple.
Laws vary from state to state, so it is crucial that anyone considering surrogacy seek advice on the legislation in their state.
What practical problems could arise in a surrogacy arrangement?
The following are possible practical issues that may arise throughout the surrogacy process:
- The surrogate may decide she doesn’t want to relinquish the child
- The parties may disagree on the pregnancy management and birth plan of the surrogate
- The surrogate may feel pressured to fulfil her obligations to the commissioning parent(s) and feel coerced into the process
- The commissioning parent(s) may decide they don’t want the child for any number of reasons, for example, if the child is born with a disability, or if the couple separate
- The relationship between the surrogate mother and commissioning parent(s) may break down, which may lead to disagreement on a number of issues
- The parties may disagree on the process for post-natal care for the surrogate
- The chance of miscarriage or termination – including the number of attempted pregnancies that the parties wish to undertake
- The chance of unintended multiple births
- The parties may disagree on whether or not to tell the child of the circumstances of their birth, which may lead to conflict between the surrogate and the commissioning parent(s).
However, it is important to remember that all parties involved in the surrogacy arrangement must undertake counselling sessions, and many of the above issues will be discussed to enable resolution between parties.
What are the key ingredients for a positive surrogacy arrangement?
The following are potential factors that can contribute to a positive outcome from a surrogacy arrangement.
- Minimal risk factors – stable mental and physical health, positive life situation, supportive partner
- Clear and open communication between all parties
- All parties have clear boundaries and realistic expectations
- All parties have knowledge of the medical process, including being realistic about the timeline – it could be up to 12 months before embryo transfer even occurs
- Realistic expectations about the emotional responses and reactions that may occur during the process. Emotions should be managed with care and sensitivity – anxiety, grief, guilt and disappointment and are all common feelings
- Discussions between all parties regarding the fair and reasonable expenses of the surrogate that should be covered
- Commissioning parent(s) should plan a budget
- Agree on a pregnancy and birth plan that all parties are comfortable with, but remember that the birth mother has the right to manage her own pregnancy as any other pregnant woman does, despite what may be agreed to in the surrogacy arrangement.
This article was produced by the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority (VARTA).
VARTA provides public education and resources for professionals and the community on fertility and issues related to assisted reproductive treatment, including IVF, surrogacy and donor-conception.