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What is surrogacy?

WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

Kim and Kanye are the latest celebrity couple to have a baby using a surrogate. They join the likes of Nicole Kidman, Tyra Banks, and Elton John and his partner David Furnish, who have all turned to surrogacy to have children.

It's not just high-profile couples who are using a surrogate to help them start or add to their families. There's a rise in the number of people who are turning to surrogacy either because they have fertility issues or are same sex couples.

In 2016, 368 parental orders were made which change the parenthood of a child born through surrogacy to the intended parents. According to Surrogacy UK, on average 10 children are born through surrogacy each week.

To reflect this trend, for the first time the Government has published guidance on how to start a family using a surrogate.

The guidelines give detailed information about each stage of what can be a complicated process and recommend using endorsed surrogacy organisations. The guidance stresses the importance of written agreements covering every eventuality between the surrogate and intended parents. It also recommends how to help your child understand where they came from.

These guidelines apply to just England and Wales, as although the law relating to surrogacy is UK wide, there are different approaches to the court systems in Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Why use a surrogate?

There are a number of reasons why a couple would use a surrogate, such as couples where the female partner can't carry a child herself.

She may have been born without a womb, have had a hysterectomy or an early menopause. It could be because she has had repeated miscarriages or fertility treatments that haven't worked.

She may have a condition that means she can't carry a child or it would be dangerous to. For example, Kim Kardashian used a surrogate as she reportedly suffered from a condition called placenta accreta, a high-risk pregnancy complication.

It's also a way for male same sex couples to have a child that's biologically related to one of them.

Types of surrogacy

Straight or traditional surrogacy is where the surrogate mother is inseminated with the intended father's sperm. This is done at a clinic or using a donor insemination kit at home. It's known as artificial insemination.

The other method of surrogacy is known as host or gestational surrogacy and involves the surrogate carrying a baby she has no genetic relation to. It may involve the intended mother's egg being fertilised through IVF and then inserted inside the surrogate at a clinic.

Alternatively, the baby may be conceived through use of a donor's egg.

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