two men hugging each other
Welcome to our guide to surrogacy treatment: digestible, comprehensive and medically reviewed. Whether you’re brand new to fertility treatment or a pro already, this guide is for you to better understand the ins and outs of surrogacy treatment.
Dr. Salim
Reviewed by Dr. Rehan Salim
Medical Director at Lister Fertility
Consultant gynaecologist and expert in reproductive medicine
A few quick facts
We have Latin to thank for the term “surrogate” — the original word, “surrogare,” means “to put in another’s place” or “to substitute”
While surrogacy dates back to biblical times, the first legal surrogacy agreement was drafted in the U.S. in 19761
In the UK, surrogates can’t be paid for carrying a pregnancy, but you’ll be responsible for their reasonable expenses, like travel costs and maternity clothing2
Fertility clinics can’t connect you with a surrogate, but there are lots of organisations willing to help3
If you decide to use a surrogate, you can benefit from adoption leave and pay at work4
hands of a woman, a woman taking a pill - collage stylea woman taking a bill and a couple holding hands

What is surrogacy?

Surrogacy is when another person carries a pregnancy on behalf of another person, often called an “intended parent”. After the child is born, the intended parent becomes the legal guardian. A family member, friend, or a person recommended by a surrogacy organisation can all be a surrogate. There’s paperwork to complete to ensure everyone consents to the arrangement, so it’s smart to consult a lawyer before beginning the surrogacy process. 

How does surrogacy work?

There are two different types of surrogacy to be aware of: full (also called “host” or “gestational” surrogacy) and partial (also called “straight” or “traditional” surrogacy). 

In full surrogacy, there is no genetic connection between the child and the surrogate. This could mean having the surrogate implanted with an embryo made from you and your partner’s own eggs and sperm.

In partial surrogacy, there is a genetic connection between the child and the surrogate. This could mean having the surrogate’s egg fertilised with sperm from you or your partner. Note: if you decide partial surrogacy is right for you, be sure to use a reputable clinic — this is not a DIY operation.5

How successful is surrogacy?

There are a few important considerations: most importantly, the age of the surrogate, then the age of the eggs used, and the type of treatment. Other factors to consider include the quality of the sperm used, whether it’s from a donor or partner, and the surrogate’s ability to get pregnant.6

How much does surrogacy cost?

It depends on the type of surrogacy you have, but generally, it is between £20,000-30,000.7 Intended parents have to pay for the surrogate's medical care and reasonable expenses, their own legal fees, and, in some cases, donor eggs.

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The bottom line

Surrogacy, or having someone else carry a pregnancy on someone else’s behalf, is an option for people who cannot, or don’t want to, carry on their own. It can be expensive and legally complicated and requires help from legal and medical professionals. A friend, family member, or someone connected via a surrogacy organisation can also carry a child.

Common questions about surrogacy

Your fertility doctor will be able to answer your specific questions about your unique treatment plan, but there are a handful of questions that nearly every patient asks:

Is there a surrogacy age limit in the UK?
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Generally, surrogates must be older than 21.9 While there isn’t a legal maximum age, each clinic has an age range in mind for the best chances of success. If you’re considering becoming a surrogate, ask a few clinics about their age limits to compare your options. 

How long does the surrogacy process take?
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From filling out an application to birth, it typically takes anywhere from 18-24 months, but it can be longer depending on many circumstances.8 It’s not a quick process, but that’s to make sure the intended parent, the surrogate, and the child are protected medically and legally. 

Can you use your own eggs for surrogacy?
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Yes, if you decide to do partial surrogacy, where the child is genetically related to you. If you choose this option, you’ll go through egg retrieval, and your eggs will be fertilised with your partner or a donor’s sperm in a lab before being implanted in the surrogate. You can read more about the egg retrieval process on our guide to IVF.

Do you have to do IVF for surrogacy?
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Not necessarily. It depends on the type of surrogacy you choose. 

If you’re using the surrogate’s eggs, the surrogate will likely go through intrauterine insemination (IUI) treatment. A doctor will wash a donor or the male partner’s sperm before injecting it into the surrogate’s womb in hopes of creating a viable pregnancy.

If you’re using your own eggs, you’ll go through egg retrieval, which is part of IVF treatment. On the same day as your egg retrieval, a doctor will wash a donor or the male partner’s sperm before fertilising your egg with it in a lab. After the embryo has grown for a few days, the doctor will implant it into the surrogate’s womb.

If you’re using a donor’s frozen eggs, the surrogate will go through IVF treatment. A doctor will wash sperm from a donor or the male partner before fertilising the donor egg with it in a lab. After the embryo has grown for a few days, the doctor will implant it into the surrogate’s womb.

Does surrogacy have both parents’ DNA?
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It can, but it doesn’t have to.

Surrogacy can have both parents’ DNA if you decide to use your own eggs and your partner’s sperm.

Surrogacy doesn’t have to have both parents’ DNA if you use donor eggs or the surrogate’s eggs.

Am I eligible for surrogacy?

If you cannot, or don’t want to, carry a pregnancy, and you can afford to take care of a surrogate’s expenses, surrogacy can be a good option. If you want to use your own eggs or a partner’s sperm, your age and fertility history will be factors to consider. A fertility doctor can help you understand the options available for your specific situation and whether you need any diagnostic tests.

Unfortunately, we can’t currently support surrogacy in our Gaia Plans, but we’ll let the community know as soon as we change this.

Is surrogacy suitable for me?

Surrogacy is suitable for heterosexual couples, same sex male couples, and single people who want to use a donor. Learn more about your options: 

Still have questions about surrogacy? 

If you have any other questions about IVF we haven’t answered, DM us on Instagram or join our community group.

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