- Surrogacy Law
Today we are talking all about Surrogacy law and for this episode I am joined by expert Bethan Carr from Penningtons Law our expert law firm in Guildford.
We discuss why having a lawyer is so important when considering surrogacy, we talk about the process and agreements and what happens if parents don’t meet the criteria for parental orders.
We also talk about how people would find a surrogate and things you should consider.
Bethan Carr www.penningtonslaw.com
Associate, Family Department Private Wealth
T: +44 (0)1483 791807 | M: +44 (0)7763527087
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[00:01:20] Carla: Hello and welcome to My Bump 2 Baby Expert podcast, where we bring experts from all over the uk to answer your questions on everything pregnancy to preschool.
[00:01:43] Carla: Hello everybody and welcome to My Bump 2 Baby’s Expert podcast. Today I am joined by Bethan Carr, an associate in the Family Department of Penningtons Manches Cooper, and today we are gonna be talking all about Surrogacy Law and all your questions surrounding that. I hope you enjoy this episode.
[00:02:07] Carla: Hello everybody and welcome to My Bump 2 Baby’s Expert podcast. Today I am joined by Bethan Carr, an associate in the family team at Penningtons ManchesCooper in Guilford. Hello, Bethan. How are
[00:02:20] Carla: you?
[00:02:21] Bethan: Hi, I’m good, thank you. How are you?
[00:02:23] Carla: It’s lovely to have you on here.
[00:02:25] Bethan: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
[00:02:27] Carla: No problem. So today we’re gonna be talking all about surrogacy, which it is becoming increasingly popular for many reasons because a lot of people do struggle to get pregnant, of course, which is, is really hard. But then also a lot of celebrities like in America and stuff are actually using surrogates to carry their children for them.
[00:02:47] Bethan: They’re, they are, it’s definitely becoming, we are seeing it more in the media, I think, um, more frequent.
[00:02:53] Carla: And it’s really, it’s really nice because it just shows that there are other ways that you can have children. So if for any reason you can’t, there are other options out there. But it is important, obviously, to discuss the law side of it and you know, all that aspect as well.
[00:03:09] Bethan: Absolutely. Absolutely. And I think people sometimes feel a little bit confused as to why you’ve kind of got to get a lawyer involved and it, it, it does often feel quite odd actually, um, when you are advising people when they’re, you know, just planning, starting their family. Um, but where, where you are perhaps, um, uh, You know, planning a, a baby via, um, via surrogacy, via adoption, via, um, you know, donor conception.
[00:03:36] Bethan: Um, anything like that. It, it is sensible just to get some legal advice. So hopefully we can go over some of those points today in respective to surrogacy.
[00:03:43] Carla: Yeah, definitely. It’s something, um, very important that we should absolutely discuss. So firstly, Bethan, would you mind telling us a little bit about you and how you got into this area of law.
[00:03:54] Bethan: Yeah, of course. Thank you for the introduction. I, I’m, I’m an associate in the, in, in the family team at, at Pennington’s Manches Cooper. And my, my kind of home office is, is Guilford, but I, where I do this area of law, I, um, I often advise people over Zoom because my clients come from kind of all over, um, all over England, but also all over the world.
[00:04:14] Bethan: So I’m, I’m, I’m a family solicitor, and I. You know, I advise people as to the whole range of kind of family or issues. So, um, divorce, financial matters and, and, and children arrangements. But I, I have a particular specialism in, in surrogacy law, and so I regularly advise, um, single people and couples who are considering surrogacy, whether that be in England and Wales or, or, or potentially overseas in terms of the legal framework for surrogacy, um, and the various steps they might need to take to ensure that they’re recognised as the legal parents in this jurisdiction following the birth of, of their baby. Um, and I’ve, I’ve been qualified for about five and a half years now, uh, and relatively unusually. I specialised in surrogacy law from the very start of my career.
[00:05:07] Bethan: And I, I trained at a, a specialist firm, um, who only really did surrogacy cases, uh, and my interest really, it came from personal reasons, really. I had a, a, a close family member who sadly struggled to, um, to have a family. And I, I, I saw the impact of that and it, it made me feel, uh, really committed to focusing my kind of, my time and my efforts on, on helping people start their families, and particularly in respective, in respective surrogacy.
[00:05:36] Carla: That’s amazing. Wow. What a journey, it’s nice when you actually, well, I say it’s nice, it’s really sad to see someone struggling to have the, a family of their own, but also when you can actually do something and, and be that voice for those people, that, that’s amazing. So that’s, that’s sort of really, really nice. So why would someone need a lawyer in circumstances where you were using a surrogate?
[00:05:57] Bethan: So the, the, the reason being is that, um, effectively where you are conceiving through kind of artificial insemination or, or, or through alternative means, it it, it’s important to just think about, am I going to be recognised as the legal parent following the birth, and am I going to have the relevant kind of rights and responsibilities that any parent has over that baby? Um, and in terms of surrogacy cases, this is particularly important because the, the position in England and Wales is that whoever, whoever gives birth to a a child is, is recognised as their legal mother. So that would be the surrogate. And if that person is married, so if the surrogate is, is married or, or if she’s in a civil partnership, Then the automatic position is that their spouse is recognised as the father or the second legal parent.
[00:06:50] Bethan: Um, and that’s the position, regardless of the biology or regardless of any agreement that anyone has, ha has entered into. So, uh, a process has to happen following the birth as a result of that whereby, um, the people who have, um, permissions the surrogacy arrangement, so we call them intended parents, they have to apply to the family court once the baby has been born in order to get something called a parental order.
[00:07:20] Bethan: Um, and the impact of that parental order is that it will extinguish the status of the surrogate, um, and her spouse and, and it will reassign parenthood to the intended parents. And so that’s, that’s really where I come in. So it’s that kind of post-birth legal process that, that triggers the need to, to have some kind of legal advice.
[00:07:42] Bethan: Uh, and, and there’s no, there is no, I should say there’s no legal requirement to, to have a lawyer involved in, in, in these kinds of arrangements. Um, but, but often people do. And I, I often say that I kind of, I bookend the, the surrogacy process. So I, I often will, um, meet with intended parents at the very start of their journey.
[00:08:03] Bethan: We’ll, when they’ve kind of just started thinking about this, they’ve perhaps decided that they need to go down the surrogacy route. They’ve started doing some research, um, and they’ve got to the point where their clinic, um, their clinic has said, okay, we’d like you to go and get some legal advice, and I’ll meet with them at that stage.
[00:08:22] Bethan: We’ll talk through what the legal position is in, in, in the UK and, and the things that they need to be aware of. And, and then they’ll go off, they’ll, they’ll find a surrogate or they, they may well have already found one, they’ll hopefully get pregnant. The surrogate will give birth, and then I come in again after the birth to help with that parental order application process.
[00:08:44] Bethan: So that’s the kind of, that, those are the kind of the stages that you would need a lawyer, um, at in terms of a surrogacy. .
[00:08:51] Carla: That makes sense because doing something like this, I mean, I imagine, you know, it’s something that you, you very much want, you’ve thought about it a lot, and it’s just making sure that you can kind of breathe a little bit of, I suppose, a bit of a relief really by, by using a lawyer and just feeling. Almost a bit, a bit safer really with, with everything, um, should anything go wrong. So with the, um, surrogacy, can people enter into a surrogacy agreement to stop them having to apply for the parental order afterwards?
[00:09:23] Bethan: They can’t, unfortunately. So well, so it is absolutely possible to enter into a surrogacy agreement, and lots and lots of people do.
[00:09:31] Bethan: I would say in my experience, about 99% of people going through a surrogacy journey will, will put some kind of document in place, which, you know, is titled a, a, a surrogacy agreement. But that agreement or, or, or anything you kind of have agreed verbally has no legal standing in England and Wales. So the law surrounding surrogacy, uh, in our jurisdiction are, they’re, they’re pretty archaic.
[00:09:57] Bethan: Um, they’re not particularly fit for purpose. Uh, and that, and there’s a piece of legislation, which it has its roots in the 1980s and, and that prohibits various things relating to surrogacy. And one element of that piece of legislation is that it makes it very clear that you can’t enter into a binding surrogacy agreement.
[00:10:17] Bethan: So you can’t kind of change the position in terms of legal parenthood, which means you can’t in turn avoid applying for that parental order. Um, but it also means there’s no kind of legal contract in terms of what you might have agreed about payments or anything like that. Um, so it really means that everyone is reliant on, on, on trust, um, when you enter, when you enter into a surrogacy agreement in the uk.
[00:10:42] Bethan: And so, you know, it’s extremely important to make sure that you do your homework, you, you understand your legal position and that you really kind of know the, the, the person that you’re agreeing to do this with. Whether you are coming at this as a surrogate or whether you are coming at it as an intended parent.
[00:10:57] Bethan: I think it’s important to do your homework on both sides.
[00:11:00] Carla: Absolutely. Yeah. So in terms of the parental order, then, how do parents obtain one of those? And also could you expand a little bit on what it is exactly?
[00:11:11] Bethan: Yeah, of course.
[00:11:12] Carla: If you don’t mind.
[00:11:13] Bethan: So, um, the parental order is, it, it’s effectively an application that the intended parents will make to the, the family court once the baby has been born in order to establish their legal parenthood once baby’s been born in a, in a surrogacy case.
[00:11:30] Bethan: Um, The, the, the parents will register the birth, but that initial birth certificate will have the surrogate’s name on as the legal mother, and if she’s married, it will have her spouse’s name on as, as the legal father. So that’s obviously not the, the, the position that we want to end up with. So the effect of the parental order is that the birth will be reregistered, so the general registry office will reregister the baby’s birth and, um, the intended parents will get a new birth certificate for the baby, which has both of their names on, as opposed to the surrogate’s details and the, the parental order gives them, both legal parenthood, but it also gives them parental responsibility.
[00:12:15] Bethan: So the ability to make, you know, those decisions that any parent makes for a child. So, you know, the ability to consent to medical treatment, schooling, um, decisions about religion, um, all those kinds of things. So that, that’s, that’s what the parental order does and it’s, and you know, it’s an incredibly important order for any, any parent who’s conceived a child via surrogacy to make sure that they can established their, their parenthood and established their status. And it’s a, it’s a kind of, it’s a specific application that you only make in surrogacy cases. It’s, it’s not a kind of multipurpose order that can be made in various different scenarios. It’s, it’s purely in respect of, of surrogacy cases.
[00:12:56] Bethan: You, you get one by applying to the court and the court being satisfied that you meet various criteria. In very brief terms, the, the, the intended parents at at least one of them must have a biological connection to the child, so they must use. . Um, if it’s a straight couple, they must use either the intended mother’s eggs or the intended father’s sperm, or they can use both.
[00:13:19] Bethan: But you know, it has to be at least one of them. If they’re applying as a couple, then they must be married in a civil partnership or what we call an enduring family relationship. Uh, they must both be over the age of 18. Um, the child’s home must be with them and they must be domiciled here. Um, and domicile is a kind of very odd legal concept, which often comes up for, for tax purposes, but it’s effectively from a parental order perspective, the way that the court establishes, they have a jurisdiction to make the order. So the intended parents have a connection with England and Wales. The, the, the other criteria are, are at, uh, that the, the surrogate, um, and her spouse must consent to the parental order being made.
[00:14:02] Bethan: So they have to give their agreement that, um, legal Parenthood can be shifted from, from them to the intended parents. And also the law says that no more than reasonable expenses should be paid to a surrogate. Um, so there are kind of, there are various tick box criteria, um, and then the latter ones that I’ve just mentioned and looked at in a bit more depth by the court.
[00:14:24] Bethan: But, but effectively, once those criteria have been established, and, and once the court is satisfied that those criteria have been. Um, and that a parental order is in the child’s best interests, then, then a parental order can be made in, in, in, in favour of the intended parents. And it usually is made about six to 12 months after the birth.
[00:14:46] Bethan: That’s kind of how long the court process is. Um, but, but yeah, that’s, that’s the kind of the, the impact and, and, and how they get one.
[00:14:55] Carla: Right. Okay, so, so you know from the hospital, this might be a bit of a strange question, but it’s just going through in my mind, they wouldn’t have to wait for this parental order to be able to have the child living with them right away, would they?
[00:15:08] Bethan: No, absolutely not. So in, in, uh, in all cases, the baby will come home from the hospital with the intended parents and they’ll be, you know, they’ll assume care of the child from birth effectively, um, and, and will be caring from them while the parental order is kind of rumbling on in the background.
[00:15:29] Bethan: And I often say to people, I often call this period of time, it, it’s just a limbo period because, they are caring for a child who they might have no kind of legal relationship with, but who is, you know, for all intensive purposes, you know, their child, you know, for, for in every other, um, in every other meaning of that word.
[00:15:50] Bethan: So, um, there is a bit of a kind of, uh, a limbo period whereby parents just have to kind of muddle through um, and it’s very kind of legally unsatisfactory , I think. And, and, and often causes a lot of concern for intended parents, understandably. Um, because, you know, I have questions from clients all the time.
[00:16:11] Bethan: You know what if there’s some medical treatment that’s needed and the doctor refuses to, you know, refuses to treat us because I’m not the legal parent. Or what if I go and register at a nursery and the nursery says, oh, you can’t do this cause you are not, you are not the legal parent. So there are a lot of concerns there, but, most of those concerns can be overcome on, on, on, on a practical level by just kind of setting things up in the right way, making sure everything’s explained to all the professionals involved.
[00:16:41] Bethan: Um, and sometimes consent is needed from the surrogate just to get things over the line while you are waiting for that parental order to be made. But in most cases, um, I have found anyway in my experience that, um, that medical professionals and healthcare providers are, are, are res, you know, are, are pragmatic and as, as helpful as they possibly can be.
[00:17:03] Carla: That’s great. Yeah. Brilliant. So, so, you know, going back to, uh, meeting a certain criteria, um, what would happen if the intended parents didn’t meet any of that criteria or some of the criteria?
[00:17:17] Bethan: Yeah, so I mean, and, and this is happening kind of more and more frequently actually, and there’s, there’s a, there’s a huge amount of, of case laws, so cases that have gone before the court, um, that have been published where people perhaps have fallen just slightly outside of the, the, the criteria I mentioned. And the, the reason for that is that because the law is, is so old , um, in this area, you know, we are, we are working with laws which were hobbled together more than 40 years ago. In, in, in some areas when surrogacy kind of wasn’t as frequent. Um, and, and because of that, the courts try to be as, as flexible as possible. And the judges, they’ve, they’ve described themselves as kind of doing, you know, judicial gymnastics to try and stretch and flex the criteria wherever they possibly can to make it fit. Um, you know, and this is something that you will see as, as part of your role.
[00:18:14] Bethan: You know, no one family is the same, no one’s person, you know. No circumstances is the, the same, and the law doesn’t always fit into the, the various circumstances that, that it’s kind of greeted with with these applications. So the court does its best and one example I can give you is that one of the criteria is that you must apply for a parental order within six months.
[00:18:38] Bethan: So before your baby is six months old, you must have submitted your application for the parental order. Um, but there has, relatively recently, towards the end of last year, there was a parental order that was made for an adult, an adult child, I suppose you’d call him. Yeah. Um, and, and, and that had come about because the, um, he had been born through surrogacy, um, I think from memory he’d been born through surrogacy in, in the US and in the US you, surrogacy is, is very different.
[00:19:09] Bethan: So you will enter into a kind of a, a, a binding contract. There are, um, there’s a, a, a court process that often happens before the birth and the intended parents are recognised. Rebirth as the legal parents of their, of their child, and they’ll have a, a US birth certificate with their names on. Now, the, these particular intended parents, they had a US birth certificate with their names on, and they didn’t realize that they had, that, that wasn’t recognised in England.
[00:19:39] Bethan: So there’s no kind of international recognition of parenthood. So the moment they came back to the UK that US birth certificate that they had, was not recognised because the child had been born through surrogacy. Um, but this kind of wasn’t discovered for, for, for many years. And they then became aware of it and kind of thought, oh gosh, you know, what should we, what, what should we do?
[00:20:04] Bethan: And they, they, they worked with a lawyer, um, and they applied for a parental order making it very clear that they knew they were outside that criteria, but they were asking the court to, to use their discretion in the, in the way that the court can, in some cases, to, to make a parental order regardless and and the court did. The court managed to, um, to, to flex the law to, to, to the extent that that a parental order could be made. A lot of people would perhaps ask, well, why, why, why bother if, if that child is an, is an adult? You know, what, what’s the impact of a parental order not being made? But legal parenthood kind of lasts throughout your lifetime.
[00:20:48] Bethan: You know, your parents would always be, your parents, they will, you, you will be defined within their will as, as their child, and you will inherit from them. You get your nationality from your parents. And all of those are, are kind of threads of legal parenthood. Um, and, and it’s very much a a, a status, a status thing legal parenthood, you know, That your, your parents are your parents legally. So the, the, the importance of that came through in that case. And I thought it was a, it was a particularly interesting one to show kind of how the law does its best where people don’t necessarily meet the criteria. Um, but there are of course some cases where, people don’t meet the criteria and the court kind of can’t just completely throw out the
[00:21:35] Bethan: the legislation and decide to do what, what, what they want. And so, you know, in those kinds of cases, alternatives can be looked at. You know, we, we, we would always look at things like an adoption order if, if a parental order wasn’t possible. But that’s kind of it. It doesn’t always fit in a surrogacy context um, an adoption order. . Uh, and, and so it’s not always possible. Um, and so our kind of backup option is something called the child arrangements order. Um, and that effectively is, is an order that is often made in cases where, for example, parents can’t agree on the arrangements for their children after they’ve separated.
[00:22:11] Bethan: And it will, it will regulate who a child lives with and who a child spends time with. Um, and so that can be made in cases where people perhaps don’t quite meet the criteria, but it doesn’t change legal parenthood. So that child would always be left in a situation where their surrogate is recognised as their legal mother.
[00:22:31] Bethan: Um, and they might not have a kind of legal relationship with their, you know, intended parents. So it’s, it’s kind of not, not ideal. Um, and, and, you know, an acknowledgement of that. We, we, we are working very hard to try and get the law changed and we’ve been kind of working on it for many years now. Um, and the law commission is looking at it at the moment.
[00:22:56] Bethan: They first announced they were going to be looking at surrogacy, um, in 2017. Um, and we’ve still not got the kind of final report from them. Um, And we’re, we’re hoping we’re going to get it in kind of the spring of this year. So spring 2023. Um, but that date keeps kind of being, being pushed back. But the the impact of that, those reforms, once they happen, will be that there is a, a, a new process for surrogacy whereby intended parents and surrogates. As long as they have, they’ve completed various steps before the baby has been born. There will be a legal position whereby the intended parents are recognised the legal parents at birth.
[00:23:38] Bethan: So that is hopefully where the law is going.
[00:23:42] Carla: And there’s so much though, isn’t there when you think about it, because all of that, I mean especially, I was just thinking about situations where, you know, the surrogacy starts and then those parents, by the time the parental order might be kind of nearly done. They, they could have separated. The first year of a baby’s life is, is a very stressful year with no sleep and things like that. So, so there’s so much to consider, isn’t there really?
[00:24:08] Bethan: Yes. There’s a, there’s a huge amount to consider and actually that, that’s exact circumstances. One of the cases that has come before the court where the court still could make a parental order even though the intended parents had separated.
[00:24:20] Bethan: But you are absolutely right. You know, there is so many things can happen. Um, and actually the fact that at the moment we establish parenthood six to 12 months after a baby has been born. Is unsatisfactory, because, for, for that reason, you know, you just don’t know what’s going to happen. And actually what we need to do is we need to have a situation where we’re establishing parenthood at birth. And then, you know, the, the, the position is at least clear in terms of who, who, who are the legal parents.
[00:24:51] Carla: Yeah, of course. Because also things like, sorry to throw this into the mix, but if someone passed away, either the parent who ca, the surrogate parent that carried the baby, I imagine then, you know, their inheritance might end up being passed to that child that actually.
[00:25:10] Carla: So, so there’s a lot of things and the other way around as well, if those parents passed away, what would happen to the child? So it, there’s a lot of things to consider there, which I can see why people do get a lawyer on this to be honest.
[00:25:25] Bethan: Yeah, there’s a lot, there’s a lot to think about. Will’s is a big one. You know, we always say to people, make sure that you’ve got a will in place for exactly those reasons you’ve just identified.
[00:25:34] Carla: Yeah, yeah, of course. So do you as a lawyer often see cases going wrong? Around this or?
[00:25:44] Bethan: I, do you know, I, um, this is often a question that I get asked in a first meeting with clients. They’ll say, you know, do you see lots of cases going wrong? Um, and I think the reason that this, this question comes up so much, I think it’s a reason why clients, you know, intend parents are understandably so worried about this, is because when we see surrogacy in the media, I feel like we either see it from the perspective of here’s a celebrity who’s been through a surrogacy journey and it feels unachievable from that perspective cause only rich and famous people can do it.
[00:26:17] Bethan: Or we see it from the perspective of here’s a case where everything’s gone wrong. Um, and I always say to people, neither of those, neither of those stories that you see in the media are true. Um, the majority of my clients are normal people, you know, they’re not celebrities, they’re not super wealthy, and they are, are still being able to have a child in this way.
[00:26:41] Carla: That is so nice to hear because there’s a lot of people struggling and, uh, you, you know, straight away, what did I say when we came on? It was like, oh, a lot of celebrities are doing it. Yeah. But yeah.
[00:26:51] Bethan: Absolutely, and I think, I think people often, you know when, when people kind of are in the very early stages, so I have a, I have an Instagram page under the handle, the surrogacy solicitor, and I put that together because I was very conscious that while lots of people will come and see a lawyer, there are lots of people who perhaps have small questions or they’re just doing their initial research and they just kind of, they want to just get a feel for the area. And so I put this page together to try and put some of the more freq kind of frequently asked questions and kind of background information on that. And the question I get a lot from people is, you know, I didn’t really even think that this, I don’t really know if this is even something I can do because I’m not, you know, I’m not a celebrity and I’m not really wealthy.
[00:27:36] Bethan: And my answer to that is always, you know, you absolutely don’t have to be, there are, there is a huge surrogacy community, um, in the UK and you know, yeah, I’m sure there are some very wealthy people doing this, but absolutely. I would say the majority of people are just normal every day. People, you know, like , so, so there’s absolutely no, you know, no, no kind of requirement from that perspective.
[00:28:01] Bethan: I mean, fertility treatment is expensive and that is obviously part of going through surrogacy, but, but I think. You know, factoring that in. It’s, it’s definitely something that is achievable. And, and then from the other side of things in terms of, you know, are, um, are we going to be one of these cases that we see in the media about everything going wrong?
[00:28:20] Bethan: And my answer to that is that it’s so rare when things go wrong. Um, you do see it sensationalised in the media, but, that’s because that’s an exciting story for the media to publish. You know, the majority of cases where everything has gone smoothly, you know, they’re boring from the media’s perspective, you know, they, we don’t wanna hear about, or everyone’s just, you know, you know, happy and everything’s fine.
[00:28:43] Carla: That’s it. They want, they want those clicks, don’t they? And that’s what it’s all about. So I completely understand what you mean. Yeah. And I imagine a lot of people that go into surrogacy, they’re in there because they’ve really, really thought through, they’ve discussed it, they’ve weighed up the pros and cons and, and all of that side of things.
[00:29:02] Carla: It’s not just a decision that you just think, right, it’s lunchtime. What can I do today? Okay, let’s, let’s just get a surrogate. It’s, it’s something that you think of for a long, long time, isn’t it?
[00:29:11] Bethan: Absolutely. And I mean, I have, uh, a lot of my clients kind of come to me and they’ve been thinking about this for, for years, you know, and they, and they’ve not quite got to the point of, of, of progressing it.
[00:29:22] Bethan: You know, I, I help a lot of, a lot of straight couples who’ve had perhaps, you know, years of, um, of fertility struggles and surrogacies always kind of been on the radar, but not something that they have wanted to do. So they’ve wanted to try every possible opportunity of them being able to carry themselves.
[00:29:39] Bethan: And so they, you know, people will do research from, from the very start. And a lot of the time people come to me and they’ve, they’ve, they’ve got a huge amount of information already, but it’s, it’s personalising it to them and making sure that they know, you know, for that particular circumstances, this is what the situation is.
[00:29:55] Bethan: Um, but absolutely it’s not something that people go into kind of rashley. Um, .
[00:30:00] Carla: Yeah. It’s, I mean, I imagine as, as this kind of grows, I get, I guess more and more people will be looking at surrogacy because a lot of people do experience birth trauma and things like that, and, and they don’t wanna go through that again.
[00:30:14] Carla: Like, I had, um, a smear test and I had abnormal cells and I had to have some burnt away, and they cut away some of my cervix, and now I’ve got a short cervix. And if I was to consider another child, uh, cause I couldn’t have the stitch cuz it was so short, that could be something that I would consider, even though I could potentially carry my own child.
[00:30:32] Carla: Yeah. The the, um, you know, the risks and, and you know, the thoughts of something going wrong again, um, yeah. Are quite a worry.
[00:30:40] Bethan: Oh, no, absolutely. I mean, I, I, I, I would, I say the majority of my clients are people who are kind of having their first child, but I get a huge number of people now who are, you know, they’ve, they’ve perhaps carried their first child themselves, but for, you know, various reasons.
[00:30:56] Bethan: Um, they’re not able to carry a second, or, you know, the risks are too high and, and actually then they’re looking to surrogacy to kind of expand their family. So there are various reasons why you would come to it. Yeah, and it’s, it, we just need a better legal framework so it’s easier for people.
[00:31:12] Carla: Yeah, no, that, that does make sense. Can you tell us then, if someone is considering this, how. And what is the best and safest way to actually find a surrogate?
[00:31:22] Bethan: Yeah, so there’s it’s a, it’s a big question and it really, really depends. So, um, often people will use kind of family members or, or friends. Um, the, one of the pieces of advice I often give to people who are at the very early stages who perhaps haven’t kind of shared with people yet that this is something they’re thinking of. Um, I often say try if you can and, and talk about it as much as you can because you just don’t know who might offer and who might come forward. Um, I had a, a couple once who I advised and the, um, the intended father said to me, I have spoken about this to absolutely everybody I know I’ve spoken about it with my hairdresser.
[00:32:03] Bethan: I’ve spoken about it with the lady at the local shop. I’ve spoken about it with, you know, any, anyone you could think of. He had spoken about it and his hairdresser’s cousin. Had heard about it and come forward and said, you know, this is something I’ve been thinking about. I’d really like to do it.
[00:32:17] Carla: Oh, do you know that sent shivers down my spine? That, that’s so lovely.
[00:32:22] Bethan: You know, it was amazing. And he was the first person who actually I thought, do you know you’ve, you’ve fair, fair play.
[00:32:29] Carla: Yeah. Wow.
[00:32:31] Bethan: You’ve really, you’ve really gone out and kind of just every opportunity and, you know, that’s, of course that’s not for everybody. Um, and you know, there are lots of people who, there are no kind of family members or, or, or friends who are in a position to do this.
[00:32:45] Bethan: You know, it’s a big undertaking. So there are, you know, there are a number of other places you can look. So there are, there are a number of surrogacy agencies in the uk. Um, they’re called, um, not-for-profit organisations. I mean that, that’s kind of a good place to start. I always say, um, cause they have a huge amount of information on their respective websites about.
[00:33:05] Bethan: They all work in kind of slightly different ways. So, um, for example, one of them is called Surrogacy uk, and they have, um, they kind of run events that intended parents and surrogates go to, and they, you know, you, you try and connect with the surrogate, um, at events and, and hopefully you will match, and then you can progress with a, with a journey together.
[00:33:28] Bethan: And then there are agencies such as, um, for example, brilliant Beginnings. There’s another one. Um, and they have a bit more of a kind of managed process. So they will have surrogates and they will have intended parents on, on their books, and they will match people who they think will kind of fit together.
[00:33:44] Bethan: Um, and, and there, you know, there are a number of others as well, and they, again, they will work in their own different ways. Um, and, and it’s very much a personal decision. It’s, it’s how you want to approach this, how you feel comfortable. So, um, I often say first thing to do is get in touch with, with the surrogacy organisations, have a conversation with them, do some research and see, see what, how you feel most comfortable doing this.
[00:34:08] Bethan: And there are also lots and lots of online groups. So platforms such as Facebook. Um, most of the surrogacy agencies will have a kind of Facebook page. There are also some independent Facebook pages, um, and. People will go on there to both kind of get information, but there are also people who will match on, on sites like Facebook and, um, and, and find a surrogate in that way.
[00:34:33] Bethan: So it, it, it, it really, really depends. And I, I, that the advice I always give to people, um, and I think this is often really tricky advice because, there is a shortage of surrogates in the uk. Um, the reason for that is because there are restrictions. That piece of legislation I mentioned earlier, um, that was put in place in the eighties, that restricts anyone’s ability to kind of advertise for a surrogate or to advertise their services as a surrogate.
[00:35:00] Bethan: And so because of that, there’s a shortage where people kind of don’t really know that this is something they might be able to do. So they, you know, they, they don’t step forward as a, as a result. Um, and so, you know, it, it, it can be difficult and so people can then kind of jump at their first opportunity to be matched with the surrogate.
[00:35:19] Bethan: But I think where you are working with someone who is, you know, a, a, a stranger at first, it’s always important to, you know, do your homework, make sure you take your time to get to know them and listen to any red flags. And if it’s not right, it’s not right. And, and you should kind of, you know, keep your options open.
[00:35:37] Bethan: So, um, there are, there are various different ways, and I mean, those. The ways that you might find a surrogate in, in England, um, lots of intended parents will, will look overseas as well, and simply because it, it can be quicker to find a surrogate overseas.
[00:35:54] Carla: Yeah, no, that makes sense. So, so in terms of destinations then where people would look in terms of surrogacy, where, where are the main destinations then at the moment?
[00:36:05] Bethan: So the, I, I’d say the main destinations. Are, are the US and, and Canada. Um, I’d say they’re kind of the big, the big two at the moment in terms of where people go. Um, Surrogacy in the US is, is very well established. I mean, it is very much a, a, you know, a commercial destination to go for surrogacy. Um, and, and of course there’s then a cost associated with that.
[00:36:31] Bethan: So it, it is, it can be prohibitive for some people. Canada is also a really good option. Um, they’re kind of very well set up. Often at a, at a slightly lower cost than America, which is obviously a better benefit. Ukraine was a, was previously a, a main destination, but kind of for obvious reasons. You know, in terms of the conflict there, that’s no longer possible and I, I have seen kind of more so recently, some cases in Georgia, um, which is obviously close by to to to to Ukraine. Um, it seems that some of the, some of the organisations who are working in Ukraine have, have, have set up in Georgia. So, so that’s, that, that’s another option. Um, but you know, kind of understandable kind of warnings that come, come with, yeah.
[00:37:20] Bethan: And there, I mean, there are, there are some newer destinations as well. So there are places like Mexico City and Columbia that are, that are popping up in terms of, um, in terms of surrogacy. But I, I always give a kind of word of warning to intend parents who were looking overseas, who are perhaps, you know, have found a newer destination for surrogacy, because where it’s not as well established, there are risks associated with that in that it, for example, surrogacy popped up for a little while in, in places like Thailand and Nepal, and they kind of popped up in a, in a gap in the law effectively.
[00:37:55] Bethan: So it, there was nothing that prohibited it. So it kind of popped up as a, as a little industry for a little while. But then the government kind of got wind of it and closed it down and, and that did make it very difficult for people who were, you know, had an, an agreement in progress at the time. So, um, where you do have newer destinations there, you know, there’s absolutely nothing, you know, stopping you from going ahead with those destinations.
[00:38:20] Bethan: But it’s just always worth, you know, getting some legal advice in that jurisdiction. Getting some legal advice here and just, you know, making sure it’s all pieced together.
[00:38:28] Carla: Yeah. And also, I mean if you’re going to work with your lawyer, which obviously it makes sense too, I guess the earlier the better really so that you can guide them through the whole process, cuz you will know it won’t you?
[00:38:40] Bethan: Absolutely. I mean, that’s the thing I always say to people is that the earlier you can come and see a lawyer, the better because what you, I mean, The kind of the cases where you always do a little kind of internal sigh is where somebody comes to you and perhaps they’re already pregnant, and then there’s this kind of novel issue that you’ve then got to try and unpick legally.
[00:39:01] Bethan: Um, and you and you often think, oh, I wish, you know, I wish, I wish they’d just come to me a little bit earlier, you know, just before we’d had that established pregnancy so that we could have just done our, you know kind of got everything, got our ducks in a row with an early point.
[00:39:15] Carla: Yeah. Yeah, that does make sense. So, so you can obviously help a lot of people on Instagram as well. So, so can you share a bit more about, um, where obviously we’ve, you’ve told us about the UK surrogacy organizations, but can you give us your link to where people can find you on Instagram and anything else that you think is a good place for people to go?
[00:39:37] Bethan: Yeah, of course. So, um, yeah, as I said, lot, lots of resources in terms of the UK organisations, but my, so my Instagram is under, I’m on Instagram as the surrogacy solicitor. Um, so I’m on there and I, um, I need to share more, but I try and share as much as I can in terms of, um, in terms of information. And it’s a, it’s one of my projects for 2023 to, to try and share even more.
[00:40:02] Carla: Oh, amazing.
[00:40:02] Bethan: On there. Um, but there’s also, um, there is a, there is a really good, um, document actually on the government website about surrogacy, um, which again, it’s a good place to start in terms of some kind of background information. So, um, that, that’s probably your, your the, the first place to go.
[00:40:19] Carla: That’s great. So, Bethan, what we’ll do is we’ll put all the links, including your social media link at the bottom of this podcast, but if anyone has any questions, I do really recommend reaching out to Bethan anyway. Um, is there a telephone number that people can catch you on?
[00:40:34] Bethan: Yeah, there is. So my, um, probably the best number for me is.
[00:40:38] Bethan: 0 1 4 8 3 7 9 1 8 0 7. And that’s my, that’s my direct dial. So that gets straight through to me. Um, or if I’m not available, my pa Um, and then we can, um, we can, yeah, hopefully answer any questions, um, that anyone has.
[00:40:54] Carla: That’s brilliant. Well, thank you so much. I am, I feel like I asked you a lot of questions there, so thank you so much for, for answering all those.
[00:41:02] Bethan: My pleasure. Thank you.
[00:41:05] Carla: Thank you for listening to today’s My Bump 2 Baby expert podcast. If there is a subject you would like more information about, please send your request in to [email protected].