Becoming a surrogate

These days, the word ‘surrogacy’ often tends to be attached to the name of someone famous like Kim Kardashian, Nicole Kidman or even Elton John. In addition to the process being glamourised we often hear that these surrogates are also being paid big money. But is this an accurate depiction of surrogacy?

Surrogacy in South Africa
According to Robynne Friedman Attorneys and the Surrogacy Advisory Group (SAG) surrogacy cases have increased since the legislation of the Children’s Act that came into effect on the 1st of April 2010.

In addition, surrogacy has become increasingly popular since gay marriages are being recognised and gay couples are increasingly exploring this avenue.

“Many mothers are also suffering from lifestyle diseases and cancers which will qualify them for surrogacy,” adds Friedman.

The process

The process of carrying someone else’s child without any real legal right to them, can be complicated. For this reason and the fact that surrogacy is still a relatively new and growing concept, there are a few agencies aimed at making it a lot easier.

SAG is one such agency that introduces surrogate mothers to intended parents free of charge.

“I am the chief advisor of this group and have extensive experience in surrogacy both personally and professionally. The Surrogacy Advisory Group seeks to protect the right of parents and surrogate mothers. We have been involved in a recent constitutional court challenge to attempt to establish laws in surrogacy,” Friedman explains.

In the case of SAG, once the potential surrogate has contacted the agency and is fully informed of the process and meets all legal and preliminary medical requirements, a match will be made. The surrogate has the choice of gay, heterosexual or single parents.

Do you qualify?

The ‘screening process’ can be highly invasive and intense to ensure that the surrogate is the best possible candidate.

According to SAG, these are the requirements:

Friedman added: “While the minimum age of a surrogate is 18, the surrogate mother must be found to have a degree of maturity and life experience before she will be considered. We prefer not to use surrogate mothers who are in their early twenties. We generally use surrogates older than 26 years of age.”

Apart from the obvious health do’s and don’ts she also states that high blood pressure is very risky for pregnant mothers.

The legalities

The bare truth is that the surrogate has no rights and responsibilities towards any children born from the surrogacy process. But she has the right to be compensated for any loss of earnings she suffers during the process such as maternity leave, and to have her medical costs covered. In addition, the children born from the agreement have no right to maintenance from her or to inherit from her, said Friedman.

Are surrogates paid?

According to Friedman and SAG the answer is no.

But surrogates can be reimbursed for maternity wear with imposed limits, as well as for vitamins and travelling costs, she says.

But even if you have a handle on the above, signing up to grow a baby is not as simple.

Friedman shared some of the top tips …

1.Being pregnant is tough and the hormone therapy can be taxing physically and emotionally. Ensure that your partner or spouse is completely committed to supporting you emotionally through this process.

2. “When you meet your intended parents, trust your “gut feel” about them as your relationship may last two years. Be certain that you are prepared to undergo treatment and being pregnant without any financial gain. This is a purely altruistic, charitable act of kindness. Be sure you are that sort of person,” Friedman adds.

3. Set boundaries with your parents! They need to understand that this process is not about controlling you.

“Be specific about your expectations upfront in terms of contact,” Friedman explains.

4. Prepare for a caesarean section delivery as most surrogate babies are delivered by caesarean section.

5. Ensure you notify your employer and ask questions about maternity leave and what costs, if any, your employer will pay.

6. Enlist an experienced attorney in this field of law who will protect your rights and interests in an agreement with the parent.

Becoming a surrogate is a big decision but a rewarding one as you help aspiring parents to realise their dream. Just make sure you’re prepared for the journey!