Surrogacy with a friend in the UK

UK surrogacy arrangements between existing friends are pretty common. It’s not surprising that someone who knows about their friend’s difficult fertility journey or desire to be a parent as a gay or single man may offer to help them, either because they were thinking of acting as a surrogate anyway and would like to do it for someone they know, or because this is something they feel compelled to do uniquely for their friend.

Is surrogacy legal in the UK between friends?

It is legal to enter into a surrogacy arrangement in the UK and there is no requirement for you to be matched through an organisation.

As is the case for all UK surrogacy arrangements, the law is a little back to front. Under UK law, the surrogate is the legal mother initially and if she is married her husband or wife is the legal father/second parent. However, the intended parents can apply for a parental order after the birth, and this fully transfers parenthood to them and triggers the issue of a replacement birth certificate.  The legal process also does not stop the handover of the baby: the intended parents are typically present at the birth and care for their child from immediately afterwards.

As with any UK surrogacy arrangement, it is sensible to get legal advice at an early stage to understand the legal process and requirements (and most fertility clinics require this). You can find out more about how the law works for UK surrogacy from our sibling organisation NGA Law.

What are the advantages of surrogacy with an existing friend in the UK?

A foundation of friendship lays the groundwork for open communication, mutual respect, and shared understanding, which are essential elements in navigating the complexities of surrogacy. Choosing a friend or colleague for surrogacy is a decision rooted in trust, and an already-established bond. That can bring a level of comfort that is invaluable.

There is also a shortage of surrogates in the UK, so if a friend offers to act as a surrogate it can relieve intended parents of having a long and uncertain wait to find a UK surrogate.

What are the challenges of surrogacy with an existing friend in the UK?

Navigating the surrogacy

While friends may know a lot about each other already, that doesn’t mean they know a lot about the surrogacy process. If this is the first time you have been through a surrogacy journey there will be a lot to manage: arranging legal advice and counselling, creating a surrogacy agreement (which is valuable even for surrogacy teams who already know each other well), navigating the fertility treatment process, managing the special aspects of a surrogate pregnancy, dealing with the legalities, and more.

It can be tempting to skip some steps due to your existing relationship, but actually they are no less important for a smooth journey than they are in any other surrogacy process.  Make sure you access the advice and professional support you need to navigate this journey together safely and confidently.

Taking care of your existing friendship through a surrogacy journey

Your surrogacy journey will hopefully be a positive experience which binds you even closer together, but it is important to not assume that your existing friendship will carry you through all the challenges that surrogacy will bring. You should take your time and set things up in the best possible way so you minimise any risk of jeopardising what is already a precious friendship to you all.

It is important to share honest expectations at the outset and feel ready to communicate openly throughout the process. It can be helpful to get professional guidance and support to help you work through all the issues you need to consider.  You should also take your time to reflect on your wishes and expectations, understand the surrogacy process clearly so you know what to expect, and discuss details like how you plan to talk to your respective children (both immediately if either of you have children already, and also into the far long term). These are all things to consider when you are putting your surrogacy agreement together.

Personal boundaries

Surrogates are often keen for the intend parents to be present at key fertility and pregnancy appointments, scans and of course the birth. While a surrogate helping a friend may feel no different, the pre-existing and ongoing relationships may mean there are some sensitivities that you need to manage honestly. Consider how comfortable you are with each other (and your respective partners) being present at times when everyone might feel particularly vulnerable, for example during counselling sessions, gynaecological examinations and birth.  This is also something to work through when you are putting your surrogacy agreement together, but to maintain healthy communication around as the surrogacy proceeds.

Financial awkwardness

Surrogacy between friends is often considered a selfless gift, but it is still crucial not to overlook discussions around what expenses will be incurred and who will be responsible for them, so the surrogate isn’t left to absorb costs associated with the pregnancy in way which either of you feels uncomfortable about. Many intended parents want to give their friend a reciprocal thank you which is permissible in the UK. Find out more about how much a UK surrogate can receive.

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