Surrogacy may be one way to become a parent even if you are unable to become pregnant and carry a baby. It involves making an arrangement for a woman (the surrogate) to carry and deliver a child for another couple or person (the intended parents) who apply for a parentage order after the birth.
In Australia, surrogacy is an altruistic act and women cannot be paid to take on the role (though they can be reimbursed for reasonable costs laid out in the Surragacy ACT 2010). There are restrictions on advertising for a surrogate, so generally people rely on their own networks of friends and family to find a healthy woman who would find meaning in taking on the pregnancy.
Generally people begin the process by speaking with a fertility specialist, a surrogacy lawyer, or a counsellor specialising in this area.
Surrogacy counselling is important, both for meeting the legal and ethical requirements, and to ensure that everyone goes into such arrangements with a good understanding of the issues involved, and with appropriate support before, during and after the process. Surrogacy can carry psychological risks and it is important to consider and address these before embarking on the journey.
Counselling can also be very beneficial in building trust between the commissioning parents and the surrogate as it creates a supported, structured environment where everyone involved can discuss what is happening, learn together about the process, and work towards effective communication and problem solving together. Counselling can provide support and skills to reduce the stress associated with the surrogacy arrangement. It can be beneficial for all concerned before, during and after the pregnancy.
The Australian and New Zealand Infertility Counsellors Association (ANZICA) has published surrogacy counselling guidelines which list numerous factors to consider before entering into surrogacy, for example:
- expectations and hopes regarding the future relationship between the surrogate and the child;
- psychological impacts of handover after the birth;
- plans regarding who to tell and how;
- and wider family reactions to the surrogacy arrangement.
Thinking Long Term
It is important to give time and space to thoroughly consider the implications of surrogacy before commencing so that everyone has ample space to change their mind, each person is able to give fully informed consent, and all of the relationships involved are looked after. The process is designed to minimise risks to the child who may be born, to the surrogate mother and her partner and family, to the commissioning parent/s and their relationship as well as their family. Given that the surrogate and intended parents often have a longstanding prior connection, it is also necessary to minimise any ruptures in that relationship to ensure the best outcomes for all concerned.
You may require more than one counsellor throughout this process for different aspects of the journey eg one person might write a Surrogacy Guidance Report for the court, but another may provide your primary emotional support. It will be important to clarify why you are attending for an appointment (especially if you will be requiring any assessments or reports) to ensure that we make the best use of our session.